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In a year with record-breaking global temperatures and a worrying concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere, U.S. voters have elected a president who has said he does not believe in climate change or trust science.
Republican President-elect Donald Trump has said he is "not a believer" in climate change, and that it is "a myth and a fraud."
Trump also said during his campaign that he would shrink or eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because its regulations obstruct private companies from operating effectively. He has also vowed to promote oil and gas and the nuclear power industry.
Trump also declared in May in North Dakota that if elected he would try to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, signed in December of last year, because “it's bad for U.S. businesses.”
Ratified only last week by about half the 195 countries that signed it, the Agreement is the most comprehensive global consensus on the fight against climate change.
It aims to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a "global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels."
To achieve that goal, the Paris Agreement requires all member countries to start cutting their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. But each country sets its own emission targets, and no sanctions are required for those who fail to meet their goals.
During the 22nd session of the Conference of Parties (COP22), a U.N. conference in Morocco that began Tuesday, participants will seek more urgent proposals on climate change.
“If we don't adopt additional measures, starting now, we will wind up crying in the face of an avoidable human tragedy,” said Erik Solheim, director of the U.N. Environment Programme, which publishes an annual report on global climate issues.
Former Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa, now the top U.N. official on climate change, has said that it would be difficult to renegotiate the Paris Agreement, as Trump has proposed.
A U.S. withdrawal from the Agreement could have a significant impact around the world. The United States and China are the two largest sources of greenhouse gases.
Unlike Trump, the Obama administration has led the negotiations for the Paris Agreement and promoted the U.S. development of renewable energy over fossil fuels and carbon.
Three hundred seventy-six scientisits -- including 30 Nobel laureates -- have already tried to persuade Trump to change his stance with a letter citing evidence that climate change is real and that urgent actions are required.
The letter also warned that “the consequences of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement … would be severe and long lasting.”
“Fossil fuels powered the Industrial Revolution. But the burning of oil, coal, and gas also caused most of the historical increase in atmospheric levels of heat-trapping greenhouse gases,” it added. “The basic science of how greenhouse gases trap heat is clear, and has been for over a century.”
Robert Corell, a Miami-based oceanographer and climate change scientist, said Trump's election by a wide margin of the electorate signals that scientists need to try in new ways to reach people with the message of climate change.
"There is a sector of society that sees the world in ways that we scientists are unfamiliar with," he said. "We need to do a better job of understanding that culture to better communicate climate change in order to build adaptive capacity in places that are being impacted already. We need to help people better understand things like sea level rise and extreme weather events that challenge them sociologically and even more economically."
President-elect Trump also will have to reevaluate the stalled Keystone XL pipeline and Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
The British newspaper The Guardian has reported that Trump's financial disclosures showed he invested between $500,000 and $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners, which operates the Dakota pipeline. He also invested $500,000 to $1 million in Phillips 66, which will have a 25 percent stake in the pipeline if competed.
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