Britain Has Failed Climate Science By Not Standing Up to Trump

It is largely expected that Donald Trump will withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement this Thursday evening and thus—as Motherboard reported earlier this week—throw the US into a new age of diplomatic isolationism.

But the US isn’t entirely alone, as Trump’s wishy-washy take on the future of our planet has yet to draw any criticism from one of the main signatories of the climate agreement: the United Kingdom. Britain’s climate scientists aren’t happy with the government’s resounding silence.

You’d be forgiven for assuming that vocal Climate Accord supporter, and one-half of the US/UK “special relationship”, Prime Minister Theresa May, would be the first to condemn Trump’s withdrawal, but you’d be wrong.

Today, on the campaign trail one week before Britain’s snap election, she told reporters: “It’s up to the President of the United States to decide what position the United States is going to take on this matter.”

Professor Piers Forster, director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate at the University of Leeds, told Motherboard in an email that it’s imperative British scientists support embattled US colleagues and the NASA and NOAA satellite missions, which aid in monitoring the Earth’s environmental changes.

“The May government has been conspicuously silent. We wrote to them at the start of the year about the threat Trump posed to climate science, urging the UK to do more, but never got a reply,” he told Motherboard. “For a decade more the UK’s climate policy has had strong cross party support but I feel the current government is the weakest ever on climate policy.”

Forster said that politics cannot change the fact that the world is warming, and that Trump is ultimately embarking on a battle he can’t win.

Chris Brierley, from the University College London’s Geography department, had a similar message. Brierley was critical of Trump’s expected withdrawal from the agreement told Motherboard over the phone that will affect British scientists too.

“It affects the rest of the world full stop,” he added. “I hope it doesn’t come to pass.”

Brierley argued that now is the time for Britain to stand up for climate science.

“I think it opens up a really obvious opportunity for Britain to demonstrate its commitment to playing a role on the global stage by really committing to leadership and climate action,” he said.

Forster added that it was also encouraging to see Europe and China stepping up to fill the leadership void and reaffirm their commitment to Paris.

But by not utterly condemning Trump’s possible withdrawal, how can May be expected to be a world leader in climate change?

The Prime Minister’s office was not immediately available for comment. A spokesperson for the Labour Party told Motherboard it will not be commenting on something that has not happened yet.

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