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Military, business, environmental leaders urge Trump to take climate change seriously

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    An artwork entitled 'One Heart One Tree' by artist Naziha Mestaoui is displayed on the Eiffel tower ahead of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference in Paris.

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A month ago, author-activist Bill McKibben told a University of Toledo audience it’s “not hyperbole to say Ohio might play a significant role in the geological future of the planet” and that the outcome of the presidential campaign “could affect [Earth’s climate] for tens of thousands of years.”

Now, with Republican Donald Trump winning the White House and world leaders gathered in Morocco for annual United Nations climate talks, speculation abounds over what the Trump presidency will mean for climate change — especially here in the Great Lakes region, which has one of the most impacted ecosystems.

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Questions were raised Wednesday not just by environmentalists, but also members of the military, business, and religious communities.

Mr. Trump has vowed to do away with President Obama’s controversial Clean Power Plan, a set of tough new rules on coal-fired power plants.

He has called climate change “a hoax,” and vowed to pull the United States out of last December’s landmark Paris Agreement, which brought together nearly 200 countries on a historic plan to address climate change.

Salaheddine Mezouar, president of COP22, the UN’s 22nd Conference of Parties now meeting in Morocco, issued a statement urging Mr. Trump to keep America in the Paris Agreement, signed at COP21.

“The climate change question concerns the preservation of our livelihood, dignity, and the only planet on which we all live,” the statement read.

The Trump campaign declined requests for comment.

Jon Stainbrook, Lucas County GOP chairman, said that while Mr. Trump’s goal is to streamline regs he “doesn’t want harm to come to his family or anyone else’s.”

Retired U.S. Marine Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, chief executive of the American Security Project, said he hopes Mr. Trump was just “pandering for votes” when he talked about reopening coal mines.

“We know climate change is contributing to instability all over the world and it’s getting worse,” he said. “It’s getting much worse.”

Brigadier General Cheney said he expects senior military officials to impress upon Mr. Trump the seriousness of climate change from a national security standpoint.

“I’ve got to believe there are enough folks on the national security side that we can make a dent in this,” Brigadier General Cheney said.

Nigel Topping, chief executive of London-based We Mean Business, a coalition that works with some of the world’s top businesses and investors on climate change issues, said General Motors, Microsoft, Apple, and Amazon are investing in a clean economy because it makes business sense.

He noted Tesla’s success making electric vehicles.

“Yes, this is a time of uncertainty,” Mr. Topping said. “But I’m comfortable a number of international businesses are already committed to a zero carbon economy.”

Andrew Steer, World Resources Institute president and chief executive, said the “evidence is overwhelming” that today’s businesses improve their bottom line when they operate cleaner and more efficiently.

“We’re hoping over time the evidence will become more clear to the incoming administration,” Mr. Steer said, adding that his institute is “hoping and praying” Mr. Trump keeps the United States in the Paris Agreement.

Under former President George W. Bush’s administration, the United States declined to join the previous climate deal, the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. 

That greatly reduced the accord’s impact. But Mr. Obama made climate change a priority, and was instrumental in making the Paris accord come together.

“We wouldn’t have the remarkable Paris deal if it wasn’t for the United States leadership,” he said.

Mindy Lubber, Ceres president, a group that promotes environmentally sensible business and investor policies, said it’s now cheaper to cut carbon emissions and use clean energy.

“If there’s anything clear, it’s that economics matter and that science matters, as well,” she said. “The world will move forward, with or without us.”

Contact Tom Henry at: thenry@theblade.com, 419-724-6079, or via Twitter @ecowriterohio.

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