UK scientists urge May to press Trump on climate change | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 16.01.2017
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UK scientists urge May to press Trump on climate change

Scores of UK climate scientists have urged Prime Minister Theresa May to press US President-elect Donald Trump to take climate change seriously. In the past, Trump has dismissed man-made global warming as a hoax.

The letter,signed by more than 100 top climate scientists, called on the British prime minister to use her influence to steer Trump away from a climate-skeptic policy agenda.

Signatories drew May's attention to statements by Trump and several of his appointees casting doubt on the evidence for climate change risks.

"We urge you, as prime minister, to use the United Kingdom's special relationship with the United States, as well as international fora such as the G7 and G20, to press President-Elect Trump and his administration to acknowledge the scientific evidence about the risks of climate change," the letter read.

Großbritannien Premierministerin Theresa May (picture-alliance/AA/K. Green)

May is likely to meet Trump not long after he is inagurated as president

May was asked to press Trump to support the 196-nation Paris climate treaty, which vows to hold global the average annual global temperature increase to below 2 degrees Celsius (1.8 F). The treaty also includes provisions for poor countries that are struggling to cope with the impact of rising temperatures.

Support for US colleagues

In addition, the researchers urged May to respond "decisively" to any cuts that might be made to climate research in the US.

"We stand ready to support and assist our counterparts in the United States, as collaborators, co-authors and colleagues, in resisting any political attempts to prevent, hamper or interfere with vital research on climate change," the letter read.

"We believe that the United Kingdom could now have a great opportunity to work alongside the United States in strengthening the evidence base, supporting the development of innovative technologies and leading international cooperation to manage the risks of climate change," the scientists wrote.

Praise for 'Iron Lady'

As part of their pitch to May, the scientists underlined that Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher had been the first world leader to publicly acknowledge the risks of climate change. They also praised Thatcher - who was a member of May's own Conservative Party - for establishing the Hadley Center, an internationally renowned climate change research hub that is part of Britain's national weather service, the Met Office.

USA Scott Pruitt, republikanischer Politiker (picture-alliance/AP Photo/C. Owen)

Pruitt has been picked to head an agency he has clashed with in court on several occasions

The UK is home to a number of the world's leading institutions for the study of global warming, including the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research and the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford. Senior representatives from both institutions were among the signatories.

The incoming Trump administration has signaled that it aims to revitalize the coal industry and possibly withdraw from global climate accords.

'Chinese-invented hoax' 

Trump has already said he plans to cut NASA's climate change program. As far back as 2012, Trump tweeted that global warming was "a hoax" and that it was "created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing noncompetitive." While he appeared to soften his stance in the wake of the November 8 election, the property magnate has made several appointments that would indicate he maintains a skeptical stance.

In December, he appointed Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, a longstanding and vocal denier of climate change science, to lead the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Speaking to several European newspapers in recent weeks, Trump said he was "very much" looking forward to meeting the UK prime minster. The president-elect, whose mother hails from Scotland, has ruffled feathers within the British administration because of his close friendship with the Brexiteer and former UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage.

In November, Trump said Farage should be appointed Britain's ambassador to Washington, a suggestion that was swiftly ruled out by May's office.

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