Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to Former Irish President and UN Apparatchik Mary Robinson, President Trump’s refusal to hand over loads of money for clean energy research is hurting people’s feelings.
Mary Robinson on climate change: ‘Feeling “This is too big for me” is no use to anybody’
The former president of Ireland has a new raison d’être: saving the planet. Yet, despite the dire warnings of this week’s IPCC report, she is surprisingly upbeat.
by Rory Carroll
Sat 13 Oct 2018
On the morning that the world’s leading climate scientists warn that the planet has until 2030 to avert a global warming catastrophe, Mary Robinson appears suitably sombre. She wears black shoes, black trousers and a black sweater and perches at the end of a long table at her climate justice foundation, headquartered in an austere, imposing Georgian building opposite Trinity College Dublin. The only dash of brightness is a multicoloured brooch on her lapel. “It symbolises the sustainable development goals,” she says. “It’s the one good emblem that the United Nations has produced, so I like to wear it.”
There seems little reason for cheer on this Monday. The landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has just warned that urgent, unprecedented changes are needed to keep global warming to a maximum of 1.5C; even half a degree beyond this will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Donald Trump, rejecter of the Paris climate agreement, is riding high on the back of Brett Kavanaugh’s elevation to the US supreme court. Britain and the EU are consumed by Brexit. Brazil is on course to elect a president who wants to open the Amazon to agribusiness. Closer to home, the Irish government is flunking its climate policy goals. Now, climate scientists warn that the clock ticks ever closer to midnight.
“Governments are not responding at all adequately to the stark reality that the IPCC is pointing to: that we have about 11 years to make really significant change,” says Robinson, sitting ramrod straight, all business. “This report is extraordinarily important, because it’s telling us that 2 degrees is not safe. It’s beyond safe. Therefore, we have to work much, much harder to stay at 1.5 degrees. I’ve seen what 1 degree is doing in more vulnerable countries … villages are having to move, there’s slippage, there’s seawater incursion.”
So, while the Trump administration withholds leadership and money from the global effort for clean energy – “That’s where it hurts” – the US may yet meet Paris emissions targets, thanks to efforts by We Are Still In, a coalition of mayors, governors, tribal leaders, colleges, businesses, faith groups and investors that is continuing to follow the terms of the agreement. The movement to divestment from fossil fuels is also making progress. “They’ve now moved to trillions being divested. That’s very significant.”
Just a few hundred billion per year would put a smile back on Mary Robinson’s face. Perhaps she would dress in happy colors, rather than “sustainable development goal” sombre black.
You do care, don’t you?