If there was a striking theme in the Trump Asian trip, it was a clearly less muscular policy towards China.
U.S. naval patrols to reinforce freedom of navigation rights in the South China Sea were always provocative and appear to have ceased. The U.S. has also withdrawn from the Trans Pacific Partnership and now been led by Japan into what is clearly a trade bulwark against China. It was also opposed by many in the U.S. who considered it a corporate boondoggle.
While the president has been on his trip, another conference arguably of greater importance to the human race has been ongoing in Germany. The climate change 23rd Conference of the Parties (COP23) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ran November 6-17 at UNFCCC headquarters in Bonn. Approximately 19,000 participants, plus many journalists and other interested people attended.
It has been two years since the Paris Climate Accord, yet as the UN World Meteorological Organization's flagship Greenhouse Gas Bulletin released October 30, 2017, revealed that average world CO2 levels surged to a modern new high of 403.3 ppm in 2016. The Paris Agreement called for limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, an endeavor that has little chance of success because it turns out emissions are not being reduced enough to achieve this target. Participating countries have to do more to reduce emissions than is presently required of them, and their emission targets have to be revised. So reports the UN Environment Program in its latest (October 31, 2017) Emissions Gap Report.
Consequently, at COP23 local and regional leaders have responded and signed the Bonn-Fiji Commitment for faster climate action to help deliver the Paris Accords. Such efforts are increasingly urgent. The challenge for the Conference attendees, both state and non-state participants, including many automobile companies, is to cut back on fossil-fuel use. Hence their interest in electric cars for example.
There were demonstrations outside meeting venues, exhorting participants to be firmer in their recommendations because of the emissions gap. No global-warming deniers among them; these were notable only in their absence.
So what can one say to deniers? It's best to keep it short and simple.1. Increasing CO2 levels are the main cause of climate change.
2. Just about every major international scientific academy endorses it, including the US National Academy of Sciences.
3. Measurement of delta13C, a carbon isotope, presents 'smoking gun' evidence of human agency. This is because carbon in CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels has a unique signature through increasingly negative delta13C. Plants have less of the 13C isotope of carbon than that in the atmosphere so that the burning of fossil fuels reduces the isotope in the atmosphere. It is measured as negative delta13C. The more negative the delta13C, as atmospheric CO2 increases, the higher the proportion of carbon from fossil fuels. Since 1980, delta13C has been on a consistent negative slope from -7.5 per mil to a -8.3 per mil in 2012 imputing human hands. Before the Industrial Revolution, it was -6.5 per mil. Put another way, our fingerprints are all over this crime scene.
The Paris Accord now embraces every country except the US, which signed under Obama but was withdrawn by Trump. At COP23, there are over 25,000 people with delegates from almost all countries, world leaders including the UN Secretary General, climate scientists, corporate representatives, NGOs, etc. One has to ask President Trump and the deniers, can all these distinguished persons, and all the evidence, be wrong? If not, how beholden are they to the fossil-fuel lobby?