Speaking in Sydney, US senator says he is ‘afraid about what the world is going to look like for our children’
May 30, 2017 — The death of the Great Barrier Reef is one of the “great tragedies of our lives”, US senator John McCain has said, arguing America should uphold its commitment to the Paris climate agreement, or accede to it with minor modifications.
Speaking in Sydney on Tuesday night, the veteran politician and former Republican party presidential candidate said climate change was undeniably real and that it was incumbent upon world leaders to act now to halt and reverse global warming.
“I think that climate change is real. I think that one of the great tragedies of our lives is the Great Barrier Reef dying [and] the environmental consequences of that,” he said.
The position of the world’s second-largest carbon emitter on the Paris climate change agreement is uncertain and a subject of global speculation. US commitment to reducing emissions or otherwise could have significant ramifications for other countries upholding their promised reductions.
Donald Trump has said he will announce this week whether the US will uphold the Paris carbon reduction commitments it agreed to in 2015, under his predecessor Barack Obama.
McCain said he wanted to see America remain in the Paris accord. “I would like to see us … either accept the agreements as were made by the Obama administration or suggest modifications which would make it palatable for us and acceptable to us to join.
“If we don’t address this issue, I am very much afraid about what the world is going to look like for our children and grandchildren.”
Climate change caused unprecedented back-to-back mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017 on the Great Barrier Reef, killing almost half of its coral.
The federal and Queensland’s governments’ two-year-old plan to protect the reef until 2050 is reportedly already redundant because the impacts of climate change are far more severe than predicted.
Recent surveys have found bleaching is significantly worse than predicted, with more than 70% of shallow-water coral north of Port Douglas killed last year.
McCain was in Australia as a guest of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney. In a wide-ranging speech he conceded that the Trump administration was mired in scandal, but urged America’s allies to stand by the US as it navigated troubled times.
He said America’s reputation had suffered in the early months of Trump’s presidency as scandals over ties to Russia, nepotism, FBI investigations and foundering relations with other world leaders have rocked the administration with crippling consistency.
“We are going through a rough period,” McCain said. “We really are, and for me to tell you that we aren’t, politically, is not fair. But we’ve gone through other troubled times. I can remember Watergate scandal and how it brought down a president. I’m not suggesting that’s going to happen to this president, but we are in a scandal, and every few drops another shoe drops from this centipede, and we’ve got to get through that.”
McCain said observers of the US must look beyond the president.
“Our foreign friends always tend to focus on the person in the White House. But America is far bigger than that. America is our courts of justice. America is our state and local governments. America is our Congress.”