In response to President Donald Trump’s recent statements and actions denying climate change, over 2,300 faculty members from public California universities have signed an open letter urging the president to “maintain and increase our country’s commitment to taking action on climate change.” Just over three weeks into office, Trump and his administration have made it clear that they do not intend to pursue actions against climate change.
This letter was published in response to Trump indicating that he will pull back from and cancel the 2015 Paris Climate Accord (PCA), an agreement signed by the United States and 194 other countries. The accord is a global action plan with a long-term goal of maintaining the increase in global average temperature to well below two degrees by drastically reducing carbon emissions. The open letter, written by Aaron Parson, an associate professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley, warns Trump about the seriousness of human-driven climate change because “Earth’s climate is entering a state that has not been experienced in human history,” the letter reads. If the president chooses to keep “Continuing to produce greenhouse gases at current rates, it will have catastrophic, unstoppable consequences for our environment, our economy, and our country.”
This letter was also written in response to Trump’s campaign promise to scale back the reach of the the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), cut money spent on climate change aid to developing nations and slash clean energy funding, all of which have been reflected in several recent actions as president. Further, the White House page on climate change was removed from online following his inauguration and some of his top cabinet nominations for energy positions have openly denied climate change. The nominations include Rex Tillerson for Secretary of State, the former CEO of the world’s largest fossil fuel company, Exxon Mobile, and Scott Pruitt as head of the EPA, the Oklahoma attorney general who has taken part in 14 lawsuits aimed at blocking EPA regulations.
George Bekker, UCR assistant professor of physics and astronomy, coordinated with colleagues from Berkeley and other UCs to spearhead this letter. As Bekker states, the reason thousands of faculty members signed the letter is because, “The evidence for human-driven climate change is very well-established and recognized by climate scientists and scientists worldwide, so America should continue playing a leading role in combating climate change.” When asked about why the letter focuses on maintaining membership in the PCA, Bekker answered “It (the PCA) is currently the best vehicle for global cooperation for combating climate change.” The PCA works to reduce greenhouse emissions and fossil fuel wastes, and this change would promote future “replacement of industries that rely heavily on fossil fuels with industries that are more forward looking and positive in a global climate change,” Bekker states.
While waiting for a response from the Trump administration, Bekker hopes that this open letter will “add to the growing sentiment towards climate change. We want the position to be clear not to just the administration but to everyone that global climate change is a real concern, and needs to addressed urgently. If the president does not acknowledge that, then we want others such as lawmakers and other people in positions of authority to understand it.”