Beaufort Today -

What do we do about climate change now?

The newspaper landed with its usual thud on my front porch. As I bent over to pick it up, I saw the headline: “McMaster Backs Trump’s Exit from Climate Accord.”

I remembered a radio interview from the day before with businessman Richard Branson about President Trump’s action. He said, “When the leaders won’t lead, the people will have to just get on with saving the planet; we have no choice.”

Therein lies the solution to the most important issue on the planet.

To date, 195 countries have signed the agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The two that haven’t are Nicaragua, which thinks the agreement is too weak, and Syria. With Trump’s decision, Syria has a partner: the United States.

There are some who deny that climate change is real. The White House has refused to say if Trump believes it is real. Climate change deniers point to a few scientists and studies that question if it is a hoax.

The overwhelming evidence from thousands of legitimate scientists from all over the world is clear: Climate change is real and anyone who denies that is simply wrong.

Some will continue to be climate change deniers no matter what. There is still a Flat Earth Society.

Setting aside the science, let’s look at the politics. According to a recent study from Yale University, Americans across the board believe we should participate in the Paris agreement.

Among all registered voters, 69 percent agree. Republicans agree by 51 to 26 percent. Even Trump voters agree 47 to 28 percent. South Carolina is not too far off from national opinions.

So what are we to do now?

Let’s continue with Branson’s words. We the people must get on with it and that is exactly what is happening.

No state has been more aggressive than California in its moves toward clean energy. It has launched an initiative to essentially ignore Trump’s decision and move ahead with clean energy initiatives.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the governors of New York and Washington are coming together with Canada and Mexico to develop common strategies to support the Paris Accord. Several other states have indicated they will sign on and many others certainly will follow.

Additionally, 211 mayors representing 54 million Americans have signed a commitment to support the accord’s provisions. I’m very proud to say the national effort was led by Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, who is co-chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Benjamin has been joined by Mayors John Tecklenburg of Charleston and Terence Roberts of Anderson. Other mayors are sure to join.

This is in addition to the 20 states and District of Columbia that have adopted their own greenhouse gas targets, some more stringent than the Paris Accord.

Corporate America is acting as well. Two members of Trump’s economic advisory board, Tesla’s Elon Musk and Bob Iger of Disney, have resigned in protest.

Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, had never used Twitter before but addressed the exit in his first tweet: “Today’s decision is a setback for the environment and for the U.S.’s leadership position in the world.”

Twenty-five companies, including Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft, bought full-page ads in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and others in support of the Paris Accord. All told, 100-plus major corporate leaders publicly opposed the decision.

More than 80 university presidents across the country have signed on their support of the agreement. So much for Trump’s claim of “junk science.”

My personal favorite was the response from France’s newly-elected President Emmanuel Macron. He ended a recent speech by directly addressing the American people, in English no less. He said we must all work together “to make the planet great again.”

What of us in South Carolina? The good news is we have begun to take concrete action at the state and local levels. But a whole lot more needs to be done.

My favorite example is a news story about the tiny Colleton County town of Cottageville, which has installed enough solar panels that it is set to become the first municipality in the state to switch completely to renewable energy.

Back to Gov. McMaster. When asked about his views on Trump’s actions, he expressed his full support by saying, “I’m with Trump. We’ll be fine. We’re getting better and better.”

The great irony is that McMaster made these comments as he left a meeting with Charleston area officials on how the region can deal with hurricane season. Data shows that climate change is one of the principle reasons the hurricanes that endanger South Carolina are getting stronger and more frequent.

The bottom line is that it’s up to us to protect the 32,020 square miles of turf that God has given us to call home. Just don’t expect to get any help from Trump or McMaster.

But I’ll bet Mayor Tim Grimsley in Cottageville would be happy to give you some ideas.

Phil Noble has a technology firm in Charleston and writes a weekly column for the S.C. Press Association. Contact him at phil@philnoble.com.

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