My grandfather was a gentle-man, whom everyone called “Boss Jim”, a successful farmer, rancher, and chiclero, who never spent his time procrastinating about the supernatural, or wondering about things beyond his control. Yet one night while he lay dreaming, something or someone came a-calling, and prompted him to start muttering in his sleep, saying “ghost? ghost?” and then shouting: “Oh hell, ghost!” Startled from his sleep he awoke my grandmother, who was a practical woman, brooked no-nonsense, and was called “Miss Night” for her jet-black tresses that flowed down her shoulders, reminding everyone of the phrase “Black-as-midnight”. She was no gentle-woman though and brooked no nonsense from her husband or any of her five surviving children. It was not uncommon for women in rural Belize, then known as British Honduras, to have many children, and lose one or two in or around childbirth. And a primary ambition of youth growing into adulthood in colonial British Honduras was the urge to migrate to the United States of America, then simply called “America”. America and Great Britain were, and still are, inseparable friends, and neither us or them, could have imagined a Donald Trump ever assuming the presidency of that northern country, with his policy of “America first”, which in effect translates as “America alone”; misrepresenting the words of the Statue-of-Liberty which say: “give me your tired, your poor, your hungry, yearning to be free.” Donald Trump cares not a whit for the fortunes of others. And even though no American bank will advance him credit, in his son’s own words: “they receive all they need from Eastern European sources”; namely Russia. Through Deutsche Bank. The assets of Russian oligarchs support his questionable endeavors and give them access to American markets, in which to launder their dirty money. “It is no wonder”, the press says, “that he never questions, or objects to, (Russian President) Vladimir Putin’s adventures on the global stage”.
Speaking recently, someone said pointedly that “Trump seems to suck all the oxygen from any room he enters into”, in which statement I agree wholeheartedly, and wish we could shift our deliberations to other subjects, which are crying out for attention. Such as “Global Warming”, which is not a new topic, but it generally does not receive the attention it deserves. In February, twenty-twelve, Valeria Espinoza posted a blog on Belize hosting a workshop for scientists from the region who were studying the effects of climate change on small island states. Though Belize is not considered a “Small Island State”, we do have many small islands that are affected equally with our mainland by global warming. The purpose of that workshop was for scientists to share their findings on the effects of the global phenomenon, and how it was impacting small economies like Belize’s. While Belize, in nineteen ninety-two, became a signatory to the United Nations convention on climate change, and as a party to that convention, the country reports on steps taken to implement necessary controls of greenhouse gas emissions. However, the country has stated that it does not want to follow in the unsustainable footsteps of the developed countries in their use of fossil fuels, and in the way they utilize their land resources. So, we are saying, “Hey America, yes, we want to aspire to your ultimate goals, but we’ll do it with a much greater understanding of what is required”. And, “it is generally accepted that the major industrialized nations like yourself, are the culprits of the phenomenon — this global phenomenon called climate change.” In fact, Belize is contributing less than one-thousandth of a percentage point to global emissions of greenhouse gases, and is in fact, absorbing more than we emit. “So we are one of the good guys in the convention; but unfortunately, we are one of those countries that are suffering the most from climate change. Being a low-lying state, we face problems of erosion and sea-level rise. Climate change is warming our seas, and affecting our coral reefs. It has caused pine bark infestation that is decimated our pine ridge forests. And it is producing outbreaks of dengue in the country, so in fact, we are facing the worst part of climate change, though we are not doing anything to contribute to it. So, we might say, the international community has a moral obligation to assist Belize in overcoming climate change.” The United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change was entered into force on March twenty-first, nineteen ninety-four.
Here is a simple definition of global warming: And yes Mr, Trump, it is really happening. Over the past fifty years, the average global temperature has increased at the fastest rate in recorded history. And experts say the trend is accelerating: All but one of the hottest years in NASA’s a hundred and thirty-four-year record have occurred since the year two thousand. Climate change deniers, like Donald Trump and his scientific cronies, have argued that there was been a pause or a slowdown. in rising global temperatures, but several studies, including a twenty-fifteen paper published in the journal “Science”, have disproved this claim, and scientists say that unless we curb global warming emissions, average US temperatures could rise by up to ten degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. In the United States, the burning of fossil fuels to produce electricity is the largest single source of heat-trapping air-pollutants, producing about two billion tons of CO2 every year. Coal-burning power plants are by far the biggest polluters and the second-largest source of carbon pollution is the transportation sector, generating between one and two-thirds billion tons of CO2 emissions each year. Curbing dangerous climate change requires deep cuts in emissions, as well as applying alternatives to fossil fuel in industries worldwide. Hey, America, the good news is that thanks in part to new energy-efficient technology, and the use of cleaner fuels, we have started a turnaround in CO2 emissions in the United States, actually decreasing from twenty-0-five to twenty-fourteen. And scientists continue to develop new ways to modernize power plants, generate cleaner electricity, and burn less gasoline while we are driving. The challenge, to be sure, is to put these innovations to good use and have them adopted universally.
Scientists agree that the Earth’s rising temperatures are fueling longer, more intensive, heat waves, droughts; heavier, unscheduled rainfall; and more destructive hurricanes. In twenty-fifteen for example, scientists said that an ongoing drought in California — the worst water shortage in that state in twelve hundred years — had been intensified by over twenty percent by global warming. They say that the odds of similar droughts occurring in the future had doubled over the past century. And in twenty-sixteen, the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, announced that it is now possible to state confidently that certain weather events, like soaring heat waves, can be attributed directly to climate change. Ocean temperatures on the Earth are also getting warmer. This means that tropical storms, like those that frequent Belize, can accumulate more energy. So global warming could turn a category three storm into a more dangerous category four. In fact, scientists have found that the frequency of North Atlantic hurricanes has been increasing since the early eighties. As is the number of storms that reach categories four and five. In twenty-O-five, hurricane Katrina, the costliest hurricane in American history, hit New Orleans, and the second most expensive, Hurricane Sandy, hit the East Coast in twenty-twelve. The impact of global warming is being felt across the globe. Extreme heatwaves have caused tens of thousands of deaths around the world in recent years, and at our current pace, some experts say, will cause sea-levels to rise several meters over the coming fifty to a hundred years. Each year, scientists learn more about the consequences of global warming, and many agree that environmental, economic, and health concerns are likely to increase if current trends continue.
Melting glaciers, early snow melt, and severe drought will cause more dramatic water shortages and increase the risk of wildfires in Western America. Rising sea levels will lead to coastal flooding on the Eastern Seaboard, especially in Florida, Belize, and in other low-lying areas such as the Gulf-Of-Mexico, and some Caribbean Islands, including Bermuda and The Bahamas. Forests, farms, and agricultural projects will face troubling new challenges, heat waves, heavy downpours, and increased flooding: All catastrophic factors that will damage, destroy, or displace agricultural projects, fisheries, and industry. Destruction of habitats, such as coral reefs and Alpine meadows, could drive many plant and animal species to extinction. Allergies, asthma, and infectious disease outbreaks could become more frequent due to increased growth of pollen-producing plants, higher levels of air pollution, and the spread of contagions, and conditions favorable to pathogens and disease-carrying mosquitoes. In recent years, China has taken the lead in global warming pollution, by producing about twenty-eight percent of CO2 emissions. And Donald Trump’s United States comes in second. Despite only having just four percent of the Earth’s population, it produces an astonishing sixteen percent of all global emissions, as much as the European Union and India combined. The United States has taken tentative steps to reduce global warming. But in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, it needs to do a lot more — together with other countries — to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, and to start using cleaner energy alternatives.
In twenty-fifteen, the US Environmental Protection Agency pledged to reduce by nearly a third, CO2 emissions from power plants, by twenty-thirty through its ‘Clean Power Plan’ initiative. But under the Trump administration, the EPA proposed repealing this plan to curb climate change. And similarly, while under the Obama administration, the US Department Of Transportation, DOT, proposed CO2 pollution and fuel economy standards intended to cut emissions into the twenty-twenties, but under the Trump administration, the DOT is working to roll back those clean vehicle safeguards that protect the climate and our health. Fortunately, state and industry leaders recognize that clean transportation must remain a priority if we are to address climate change and protect public health. Regional efforts are helping to boost the electric car market, which saw a substantial increase in sales between twenty-sixteen and seventeen, and Wind Power employment grew by thirty-two percent, while solar-power jobs increased by twenty-five percent. Globally, at the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Paris, a hundred and ninety-five countries, including the United States, at the time, agreed on pollution emission reduction provisions, with a goal of preventing the average global temperature from rising more than one-and-a-half degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial age average. As scientists believe we must remain below a two-degree increase to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts.
And while in twenty-seventeen, President Trump announced that his country was withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement to eliminate “harmful and unnecessary policies, such as the Climate Action Plan”, the American people are forging ahead without him. Through initiatives like the US Climate Alliance and the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, America is still participating. And Climate Mayors, state, business, and local political leaders have pledged to honor and uphold the goals of the Paris Agreement. More than twenty-five cities in seventeen states, with populations totaling more than five million, have adopted resolutions that will enable them to produce a hundred percent of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar power. Additionally, a new initiative from former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has registered in Alabama to run for the presidency in upcoming elections, gives the urban sector of this movement a boost. He is asking mayors from the most populous cities in the country to share their plans for making their buildings and transportation systems run more cleanly and efficiently. The twenty cities that show the greatest potential for curbing dangerous CO2 pollution that’s driving climate change will share in a technical assistance fund provided by his philanthropies and partners. Individual efforts at curbing climate change can be achieved by making conserving energy a part of the daily routine. When shopping for refrigerators, washers, and dryers in America, or throughout the English-speaking Caribbean, choosing products with the US government’s “Energy Star” label that meet a higher standard for energy efficiency than the minimum federal requirements, can make an appreciable difference if a sufficient number of residents undertake to look for cars with the highest gas mileage and lowest emissions.
Howard A. Frankson — Belize