Earth’s climate is now changing faster than at any point in the history of modern civilization, primarily as a result of human activities.
KATOWICE, Poland —President Trump’s top White House adviser on energy and climate stood before the crowd of some 200 people on Monday and tried to burnish the image of coal, the fossil fuel that powered the industrial revolution — and is now a major culprit behind the climate crisis world leaders are meeting here to address.
“We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability,” said Wells Griffith, Trump’s adviser.
Mocking laughter echoed through the conference room. A woman yelled, “These false solutions are a joke!” And dozens of people erupted into chants of protest.
The quieter half is the work of career State Department officials who continue to offer constructive contributions to the Paris climate agreement that President Trump loves to loathe.
Which facet of the American presence proves more influential in Poland could have a big impact on whether this year’s climate summit, now in its second week, ends in success or failure.
Because greenhouse gases do not pay attention to national borders, a global front on climate action is crucial. The summit provides the only venue for countries to coordinate their push to curb ongoing global warming.
“This week is going to be telling,” said Helen Mountford, vice president of climate and economics at the World Resources Institute.
Monday’s presentation came after a weekend in which the U.S. delegation undercut the talks by joining with major oil producers Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in blocking full endorsement of a critical U.N. climate report. The report, by some of the world’s leading scientists, found that the world has barely a decade to cut carbon emissions by nearly half to avoid catastrophic warming.
But the United States balked at a proposal to formally “welcome” the finding, setting off a dispute that, while semantic in nature, carried ominous portents that the United States could become an obstacle to progress in Katowice.
“The worrying issue is the signal that it sends,” Mountford said.
A State Department official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the ongoing sensitivity of the talks, said negotiators “faithfully serve the administration and do their best to defend U.S. economic and other interests.”
The planned U.S. exit from the Paris accord in 2020 has left a lingering question here about which countries will commit to ramping up their ambition in the years ahead and who can serve as a unifying force if the world is serious about making the changes necessary to address climate change.
The Trump Administration showed up to pitch fossil fuels. In a closely watched event Monday on the sidelines of official negotiations, U.S. officials touted natural gas and argued in support of coal’s place in the electricity mix.
“It is important to the overall climate discussion that we consider what’s realistic and pragmatic,” P. Wells Griffith, special assistant to the president for international energy and environment, told the crowd “Energy innovation and fossil fuels will continue to play a leading role.”
May as well, the Gulf is still trying to recover from the last BP oil spill. Most of the Gulf is a dead zone.