Weekly wrap: Trump’s ‘open mind’ and Arctic weather chaos

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Donald Trump is backtracking on climate commitments made by the Obama administration (Pic: Flickr/Michael Vadon)


Donald Trump has an “open mind” on climate change. That was the top line to come out of his meeting with New York Times journalists on Tuesday.

It is a crack in the US president-elect’s fossil-friendly rhetoric for climate advocates to get their fingernails into.

A closer read of the transcript shows the fingerprints of contrarians who have got in there first, though. Trump gives equal weight to a half-remembered reference to the 2009 “climategate” emails (“in Geneva or wherever”) and tens of thousands of climate science studies.

Perhaps most bizarrely, he invokes his physicist uncle, who while by all accounts was highly intelligent, died in 1985. “He had feelings on this subject.”

However open his mind might be, it is Trump’s executive order-signing hand you want to watch. In a video address, he reiterated his commitment to undoing Barack Obama’s climate policies, promising to “cancel job-killing restrictions” on coal and shale energy production in his first 100 days.

Meanwhile, the Arctic is facing some seriously weird weather, with temperatures 20C higher than normal for the time of year.

“People are worried and disturbed,” polar scientist Kim Holmen told Karl Mathiesen from Longyearbyen in Svalbard.

Rapid ice melt could trigger “tipping points” that speed up global warming and have knock-on effects around the world, warned a study on Friday.

A chart of global sea ice has been doing the rounds of social media, showing a shocking decline since previous Novembers.

Scientists hastened to clarify that it reflected separate, unrelated trends at the north and south poles, so it might not be quite as scary as it looks. But the long term trend is clear.

As Reading University’s Ed Hawkins tweeted: “Arctic sea ice decline is erratic, like a ball bouncing down a bumpy hill: sometimes fast, sometimes slow, but it will reach the bottom.”

A week after COP22 finished in Marrakech, Ed King reflected on the declining relevance of the technical climate talks. While envoys bicker over the fine details, it is time to focuse on where the real action is happening, he argued.

Amid all the uncertainty over US action, the world’s biggest emitter is getting on with things. This analysis of China’s huge carbon market plans from China Dialogue is worth a read.

Canada and Finland revealed plans to quit coal by 2030. It’s not the toughest target for two countries that get less than 10% of their electricity from the black stuff, but an easy win for the climate.

Quick hits

UK to keep carbon price steady through Brexit
EU needs clean transport drive to meet climate goals: IDDRI
Six bright ideas lighting up Africa from the grassroots
UN plans early warning network as climate risks soar

Read more on: Climate politics