What’s next on climate change?

Tammy Alexander, Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

After the recent U.S. presidential election, many advocates working to address climate change are wondering what the next year will bring. Last year, the Obama administration signed the historic Paris Agreement committing the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to provide funding to help vulnerable communities around the world mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change.

In contrast, during his campaign, president-elect Donald Trump questioned whether climate change is real, promised to pull the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement and pledged to expand U.S. oil, coal, and natural gas extraction, including on federal lands.

Since the election, however, Trump has pulled back from some of this rhetoric and indicated an openness to keep the U.S. in the Paris Agreement, stating, “I’m looking at it very closely,” and “I have an open mind to it.” He has also stated that clean air and clean water will be important priorities for his administration and that he thinks federal lands should stay in federal hands (as opposed to being turned over to state control).

There is much uncertainty about a Trump administration’s policies on climate change, and environmental policy more generally. Even if the new administration and Congress roll back some climate-related policies, however, efforts to address climate change will continue.bwhi1apicaaamlo-jpg_large

As it turns out, just as rising temperatures due to climate change have an inertia that is difficult to reverse, so do efforts to address climate change. The U.S., individual states, corporations and countries around the world have taken many actions that now have their own inertia to keep moving forward.

Recent climate talks in Morocco demonstrated the resiliency of the Paris Agreement regardless of future U.S. actions. China plans to triple its solar energy capacity and may have already seen its emissions peak – 15 years ahead of its goal for the Paris Agreement. Other countries are also making impressive progress and committing to do more.

In the U.S., many individual states have already acted to reduce emissions and these efforts will continue. The top five states for wind power capacity are Texas, California, Iowa, Oklahoma and Illinois. Three states – Iowa, South Dakota, and Kansas – already generate more than 20 percent of their power from wind. Solar energy is booming, too, with residential, commercial, and public installations all on the rise and more than 200,000 solar-related jobs in the U.S.

Sill, much uncertainty remains and it will ultimately be up to each of us to keep U.S. policymakers committed to addressing climate change. Being good stewards of God’s earth means taking individual responsibility to conserve energy, water and resources. It also means advocating to protect our beautiful home for current and future generations.


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Photo: NASA/Reid Wiseman