With a climate change denying White House and cabinet taking shape, there's not much environmentalists are excited about these days. But a new report from Politico indicates that our ever-warming planet might have an unlikely defender: Ivanka Trump.
Future First Daughter Ivanka Trump.Flickr
A source told the publication that the future First Daughter plans to "speak out" about climate change and make it one of her "signature issues." As Politico reports:
"Ivanka wants to make climate change—which her father has called a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese—one of her signature issues, a source close to her told Politico. The source said Ivanka is in the early stages of exploring how to use her spotlight to speak out on the issue."
Donald Trump's election stands to overturn President Obama's environmental legacy—just when the environment desperately needs a well-positioned champion. The president-elect plans to renege the Paris climate deal, axe the Clean Power Plan and other environmental regulations, and embrace the Right's "drill, baby, drill" ethos.
#Alaska Sees Astounding Rise in Temperature as 'Drill, Baby, Drill' Planned for Arctic via @EcoWatch https://t.co/PsbS4LVEZY #climatechange— Dan Zukowski (@Dan Zukowski)1479243359.0
Not only that, Trump has climate change denier Myron Ebell leading his transition team at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and his latest cabinet picks, including Elaine Chao for secretary of transportation and frack-happy Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin as the frontrunner for the Interior secretary position, is just more good news for the fossil fuel industry.
"The issues she's talking about are ones she's always talked about," the source elaborated to Politico. "These are totally consistent with what she's developed with her brand. She is playing a critical role in being able to have issues that moderate and liberal women care about—and creating a bridge to the other side."
So does that mean Ivanka actually wants to act on climate change? Once upon a time, the Trump family actually believed in climate science and urged "aggressive" action.
Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump & his other adult children signed a letter in 2009 demanding action on climate change… https://t.co/nJCvIo0Nan— Cameron Russell (@Cameron Russell)1479738514.0
Or, as New York Magazine surmised, does Ivanka just sense climate change as another branding opportunity? After all, she once hawked "sustainable bridal jewelry made from conflict-free diamonds and recycled platinum and gold" with prices ranging from $3,500 to $130,000, according to Ecouterre.
"As a young luxury brand I believe we have the opportunity and the responsibility to look into the multitude of ways we can build ourselves into a truly socially engaged and responsible company," she told WWD in 2011 about the jewelry line.
There are many reasons why going green is good for business and for the planet, but claiming to have environmental, health or safety standards is different than actually living by them. Otherwise that's just greenwashing. Let's not forget that items from Ivanka's top-selling clothing line are manufactured in China and Vietnam, countries under the spotlight for poor working conditions and human rights abuse, as the Independent noted.
In response to Politico's story, Greenpeace spokesperson Travis Nichols said, "It's absolutely necessary for someone to talk climate sense to Trump, but talking a good game [...] isn't the same as taking action."
We fear that Donald Trump's presidential reign could be a disaster for the planet. As Nichols explained, "Trump's transition team and cabinet of millionaires remain among the worst climate denying fossil fuel industry shills we've seen from the Republican party, and Trump himself hasn't laid out any concrete plans to deal with this massive global problem."
2,300 Scientists to #Trump: We’re Watching You via @EcoWatch https://t.co/cc4X5ZmiXH @sierraclub @ClimateReality @350 @ScienceNews @NRDC— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1480600889.0
"From the start of Trump's presidential run we've seen his team use Ivanka to soften her father's most egregious positions, and there's no reason to think this isn't part of the same plan," Nichols continued. "Even if Trump can afford to protect his family from climate change, the rest of America cannot afford that luxury. Trump will have to take direct, executive climate action before anyone should think of him as any different from the climate disasters like Myron Ebell he surrounds himself with."
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The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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