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MARRAKECH, Morocco – The world is reeling from Donald Trump’s election. With each passing day, news of his potential Cabinet and other senior appointments emerges, defining a far-right-wing administration that few could have imagined possible just weeks ago. Protests across the United States continue, day after day, night after night, and have spread internationally. School administrators are making counselors available to deal with the confusion overwhelming their students, especially immigrant children who fear they or their parents may well be targeted as part of Trump’s promised roundup and deportation of 3 million undocumented people.
Nowhere is the immediate and potentially devastating impact of Trump’s capture of the presidency felt more clearly than at the United Nations climate change summit here in Marrakech. Four years ago, Donald Trump famously tweeted, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” That was Donald Trump the reality-TV star, the leader of the birther movement that sought to delegitimize President Barack Obama by accusing him of being born in Kenya. Now, in the year 2016, predicted this week by the World Meteorological Organization to be the hottest year in history, Trump the climate denier is about to assume the presidency of the United States.
One year after the nations of the world reached the historic, if limited, Paris Agreement on climate change, this meeting in Morocco was to be “Action COP” (for Conference of the Parties to the agreement). This is where the global community would put its collective shoulder to the wheel to implement a complex array of strategies to “de-carbonize” the world economy, to break our addiction to fossil fuels, in time – hopefully – to limit the increase in the planet’s average temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius, or, failing that, to cap the rise to 2 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 to 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). United States cooperation or, more importantly, leadership is essential if we are to combat catastrophic climate disruption. Yet last May at the Williston Basin Petroleum Conference in Bismarck, North Dakota, Trump declared, “We’re going to cancel the Paris climate agreement.”
Where better to deny climate change and trumpet fossil fuels than Bismarck, the capital of North Dakota and the de facto capital of the Bakken shale formation, the area from the Dakotas to southern Canada with vast reservoirs of oil, which is most typically extracted through fracking. Bismarck is only about 30 miles north of the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, where, just one month before Trump spoke in Bismarck, a resistance camp was established to oppose construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline would carry over half a million barrels of Bakken crude oil per day from North Dakota to Illinois, where it would connect to another pipeline for transfer to the Gulf of Mexico for export.
The resisters, who call themselves water protectors, not protesters, fear the pipeline will inevitably rupture where it crosses under the Missouri River, polluting the fresh-water supply on which they and many millions of people downriver depend. That small camp in April grew to several camps with thousands of protectors, including delegations from over 200 tribes – the largest gathering of tribes in decades. In September, “Democracy Now!” filmed Dakota Access Pipeline security guards unleashing attack dogs on Native Americans. The video went viral, attracting over 15 million views. Networks across the world broadcast it. The Obama administration issued an order delaying, though not yet stopping, Dakota Access Pipeline’s permission to tunnel under the Missouri River. Obama should deny it now. Kelcy Warren, the CEO of Energy Transfer Partners (the parent company of Dakota Access Pipeline), told CBS that under Trump, “It’s 100 percent ... that the easement gets granted and the pipeline gets built.”
The movement to defeat the Dakota Access Pipeline has gone global, as has the opposition to the presidency of Donald Trump. There are daily expressions of solidarity with Standing Rock here at the U.N. climate summit, while discussions abound about the grim implications of a Trump administration on the climate.
Years ago on the “Democracy Now!” news hour, after wrapping up an interview with a Guyanese woman in order to shift to an interview on the U.S. presidential election, she interrupted, “I will be staying on the program for that discussion.” When asked why, she said, “Because people from all over the world should be able to vote for president of the United States.” She made a profound point: The United States is the world’s most powerful country. It has an enormous impact on the world. Donald Trump clinched the necessary Electoral College votes to win, but he clearly lost the national popular vote. Had the world’s population been able to vote, Trump would have lost resoundingly. Fortunately, the fate of the planet is not in the hands of one man. It’s up to movements everywhere to save it.