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editorial

A recent confluence of events underscored the pace at which climate change is exacting a toll on this planet, and the extent to which the current leadership in Washington is undermining efforts to do something about it.

Earlier this week, it emerged that the sea ice off the northern coast of Greenland – the thickest, strongest and oldest in the world – has broken apart for the first time since climatologists began keeping records. It’s the sort of data point that alarms experts, who have theorized that Greenland’s patch of ice would be among the last to melt. It should equally frighten the rest of us, given potential consequences that include rising sea levels.

And yet almost exactly as the ice melt was being reported for the first time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced details of the latest effort by Donald Trump’s administration to all but encourage climate change: a rollback of rules put in place during Barack Obama’s presidency to limit pollution from coal-fired power plants.

It’s unclear exactly how much impact the policy change will have, since coal usage is in decline due to the availability of cheaper (and lower-emitting) energy sources. But Mr. Trump has also ordered his administration to prepare a bailout plan aimed at subsidizing coal jobs. Every bit of success he has in propping up the industry will lead to more carbon emissions.

From a Canadian perspective, Mr. Trump’s climate change denialism is maddening. It creates a temptation for governments in this country to throw up their hands: If our neighbours won’t do their part to curb their much larger share of global emissions, why bother doing ours?

But while competitiveness concerns relative to the United States can’t be completely discarded in setting environmental policies that come at an economic cost, the news from Greenland underscores why Canada mustn’t slow its efforts to lower emissions.

The existential global challenge posed by climate change is becoming increasingly impossible for all but the most blinkered to ignore. Mr. Trump should not dictate how Canada or other countries try to meet it.​