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Theresa May must take President Trump to task over climate change, scientists say

A letter signed by 250 academics calls on the Prime Minister to use the state visit to push a climate change message

In brief

  • They say Trump’s position ‘is putting at risk lives and livelihoods’
  • President has stopped many of America’s policies fighting climate change

Theresa May must confront President Donald Trump about his reckless, life-endangering approach to climate change during his state visit this week, according to hundreds of leading academics.

Some 250 scientists from UK research institutions condemn President Trump’s climate scepticism, in particular his obstruction of the 2015 global Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5C.

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“President Trump’s refusal to accept and address global climate change is putting at risk lives and livelihoods of current and future generations in the UK,” said Bob Ward, director of policy for the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, who co-ordinated the letter.

A country in danger

The letter praises the leading international role the UK has taken on climate change in recent years, including its bid to host the 2020 UN climate change summit.

But the country is in danger of losing its credibility on climate change if it does not take this opportunity to lobby President Trump to change his actions, said the academics, which include

Professor Chris Rapley, the leading climate scientist best known for staging a series of performances about climate change, involving himself, at the Royal Court Theatre in London.

“Honouring President Trump with a State Visit is incompatible with the UK’s leadership on climate change while he is still undermining United States domestic and international efforts to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases,” the letter said.

President Trump’s administration is abandoning many of the policies and measures introduced by Barack Obama predecessor. This has led to a 2.7 per cent rise in energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by the US in a single year, at a time when they need to be sharply reduced, the letter says.

The letter also condemns President Trump for “removing large amounts of information about climate change from the websites of the White House, Government Departments and federal agencies.”

What Mrs May should say

The state visit is due to begin on Monday, when he will be greeted at Buckingham Palace by the Queen. Speaking ahead of the event, the Prime Minister said: “This is a significant week for the special relationship. Our relationship has underpinned countries’ security and prosperity for many years – and will continue to do so for generations to come.”

“So I look forward to welcoming President Trump to the UK and to building on the strong and enduring ties between our countries,” she said.

Other signatories to the letter include University College London Professor Hugh Montgomery, a former guest on Desert Island Discs who discovered the first fitness gene and one of the world’s top climate scientists, Emeritus Professor Joanna Haigh, of Imperial College London.

The experts argue that Mrs May should use the state visit, scheduled just days before she is due to resign as leader of the Conservative Party, to “robustly challenge” Mr Trump about his approach to climate change.

She should highlight three main ways in which the President should take action: to accept the scientific evidence of the threat of man-made climate change, to support policies in the US to reduce greenhouse gases to zero by the middle of the century, and to collaborate with international efforts to combat climate change, including by ending US opposition to the Paris Agreement, they say.

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