Tomorrow, as the world looks on with varying degrees of trepidation, Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th president of the United States of America.
With Republican majorities in Congress and the House of Representatives, he has the scope to fulfil many of the sweeping changes he promised during the presidential election campaign, with potentially profound impacts on US foreign policy, trade, immigration, and civil rights.
However, his most dramatic and long term influence may well be in the field of climate change.
President-elect Trump is a climate change denier. He does not accept that climate change is a real phenomenon (back in 2012 he infamously tweeted, “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive”).
Of course, just because Trump doesn’t accept the scientific evidence doesn’t mean it is not real. On Monday of this week the World Meteorological Organisation confirmed that 2016 is likely to be the hottest year ever recorded. The previous five year period, 2011-2015 was the hottest five-year period on record. Unfortunately for Trump, and the rest of the world, melting polar ice caps, rising sea levels, drought and freak weather conditions do not respond to denial, rhetoric, bluff and bluster.
During the presidential election campaign Trump said he intends to dismantle the USA’s Environmental Protection Agency and disinvest in renewable energy. On a global level, he promised to pull out of the historic Paris Climate Change Agreement and to remove all federal funding from climate change research.
So, assuming he follows through on these pre-election promises, what are the potential environmental consequences of a Trump presidency?
At the very least, four or even eight years of a Trump presidency will mean a gap in international cooperation over climate change at a critical period when we simply cannot afford to lose any more time or momentum.
If he does withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement (or simply ignores the USA’s obligations under that agreement) it would have a major impact on global warming because the US, as the world’s second biggest polluter, is responsible for 13% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Therefore, even if every other country that signed the Paris Agreement follows through with their pledges, without the buy-in from the USA many of the agreement’s targets will not be met.
All need not be not lost, however.
Mr. Trump cannot stop other countries from doing the right thing. Some, like China (currently the world’s biggest polluter), now seem to be committed to genuine change. Soon, over 20 percent of China’s power generation will come from renewable energy and that country has also introduced tight restrictions on pollution from coal and heavy industry.
So we must encourage the other key global players, like China and the European Union, to stay on the agreed path, to adhere to and build upon the historic Paris agreement.
If Trump follows through on his campaign rhetoric I would like to see those countries which stay faithful to the Paris agreement banding together to introduce collective trade tariffs on any US goods that are connected with avoidable greenhouse gas emissions. Such a measure would reflect the principle “the polluter pays” and would also discourage any other countries from following the USA’s disastrous lead.
On to the recipe, which uses one of winter’s great vegetable heroes: the leek, a vegetable that quite literally holds its ground whatever the winter weather throws at it.
Here it combines with saffron, farro and cannellini beans to create a very satisfying and hearty dish. Farro is an ancient, highly nutritious form of wheat which also happens to be much less glutinous than modern wheat. It is fairly widely available, but if you can’t source it use pearl barley in its place.
This lovely, comforting dish is great served with some steamed greens and garlicky crostini or plain crusty bread.
saffron braised leek with cannellini and farro
1 onion, chopped
3 leeks, sliced
60 g farro
2 stick celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
400 g can organic chopped tomatoes
400 g can organic cannellini beans (flageolot, borlotti or similar beans would be fine), rinsed and drained
400 ml vegetable stock
½ tsp saffron strands
½ tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp sea salt
2 bay leaves
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped, for garnish
1. Place the saffron strands in a small bowl and add 2 tbsp hot water. Leave to steep for 10 minutes.
2. Pour the oil into a large casserole dish with a lid and place over a medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cook, stirring for five minutes or until soft and translucent. Add the leeks, celery and garlic and cook for a further 3 minutes, stirring. Add the tomatoes, stock, bay leaves, saffron (along with its soaking liquid), smoked paprika and sea salt. Stir occasionally and bring to a simmer.
3. Lower the heat and place the lid on the casserole dish. Cook for 35 minutes or until the farro is soft but still has a little bite and the vegetables are tender. Add the drained cannellini beans, stir and cook for a further five minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Scatter with the chopped parsley.