James Thebaut, president of The Chronicles Group, stresses the need for immediate action by the U.S. on global climate change — but does the country still have credibility on an international stage?
“We’re evolving into a whole new era on the planet,” says Thebaut. “Hopefully, the new administration will recognize these realities.” The Trump Administration failed to do so, he adds, with government-employed climate scientists forced to use “weasel words” in their reports in order to avoid specific mention of “climate change” or “global warming.” The climate crisis “transcends political ideology,” he says.
Having withdrawn from the Paris Accords under President Trump, the United States’ credibility as an advocate of action on the environment is “shaky,” Thebaut says, underscoring the importance of international cooperation toward mitigating the impacts of climate change. Large countries with big populations, such as China and India, face a particular challenge in that regard. Whether the U.S. can regain its leading role in promoting efforts to improve the environment remains to be seen. “The past is the past,” he says. “We have a new administration and focus, and that’s where we’re going to be.”
There’s a critical need for both new technologies and revamped infrastructure around the world, he says. Government environmental policies, such as the fire-suppression program that has rendered California’s forests so vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires, must be reexamined. Existing watersheds aren’t sufficient to handle disasters on the scale of the state’s recent spate of fires.
Supply chains, which emit huge volumes of carbon and other pollutants, also must be reimagined on a global scale. “We design on a piecemeal basis,” Thebaut says. “We don’t think about the bigger picture. We have to plan to rebuild the world, the whole infrastructure.”
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