Skip to main content

Guest Blog: Newton’s Third Law and Existential Climate Change

Prof. Geoffrey Lipman is founder of the SUNX –Strong Universal Network, it supports community climate resilience through Impact -Travel, (pro /cons measured and managed, green growth at the core and 2050 future proofed). Our X brand shows both the eXistential reality of climate change and the eXchange of innovation and learning through the SUN “Centres, Connections and Community” system.
He was Assistant Secretary General and Spokesperson of UNWTO, the World Tourism Organization and he is Chair of the Advisory Board of the Christel DeHaan Tourism & Travel Research Institute.
Whatever combination of forces led to Donald Trump becoming President of the United States - and for at least the next 4 years, control of nearly a quarter of the global economy, with his finger on the nuclear button - remains a frightening mystery to most of us. Now he has that control and is showing his disruptive leadership style he would do well to remember Newton’s third law “To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.
Already many of his Executive Order initiatives have begun to demonstrate this reality - starting with his initial quasi ban on Muslims from 7 countries and the instant, outrage, demonstrations, and court challenges. Or his “Day One - Repeal Obamacare” followed by the realization that you can’t without a replacement and that needs Congress to build as well as knock down. His “Great Wall of Mexico” and Fix Sanctuary Cities mantra – both producing predictable defiance and deepening opposition. And on and on….
And you can’t play reality TV games by threatening to unilaterally impose tariffs or border taxes in a fit of pique and overturn delicate trade arrangements crafted to bring balanced benefits to all parties. You do so at the peril of retaliation and adding hidden costs to US consumers. Yes it would be putting America first for Apple to build i-phones entirely in the USA – it would just make them prohibitively expensive, reduce sales massively and put Chinese factories out of work. So, what then if China, already stung by currency accusations, and threats to its one China policy, decides to encourage its travellers to shun the USA. Chinese tourists are an important US export - the negative impact would pretty soon hit the US economy “bigly.”
Donald Trump is a man who is inclined to toss out an outrageous idea, “double-down” on his positions while offering a glimmer of hope that he’ll change his mind, based on his “Art of the Deal” tactics. What he doesn’t seem to get is that you can’t bully or play legal games with sovereign state partners for long, the way you did as a businessman with small companies, a pseudo university, and loopholes in the tax code.  Or unravel decades of partnership obligations with a smart one liner, the stroke of a pen and a barrage of 140 character tweets.
Most importantly, Donald Trump would also do well to remember there is a real elephant in the room - climate change - that it’s existential and it doesn’t have a twitter account. He has already signalled his disdain for the Paris Treaty and placed shackles on the Environment Protection Agency in his first week in office, in addition to nominating a climate change sceptic as Administrator. And at the same time opening dormant pipelines and pledging to give big oil a new state supported lease of drilling life.
All this, while the science and the experts make it clear that Sandy type storms, Louisiana type floods, Kansas type tornados and California style droughts will only get more intense, more frequent and more costly. And it will hit everyone, everywhere - inside the US and with similar patterns around the world.

These realities won’t change because Donald Trump threatens to tear up the one deal that every country on earth supports as the best chance for a survivable future.  It’s time to “walk-back” the thoughtless anti-Paris rhetoric and get on board with the rest of humanity.


  1. Thanks for this.
    I fear that any optimism derives from applying Newton’s third law of motion: for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Unfortunately that applies only in the field of physics; in the complex, human, system world the law is more like: for every action there is a reaction of unknown magnitude and in any direction.
    Perhaps Newton’s three laws for systems motion should be:
    1. A system will never be at rest or in a state of uniform process, episodic change will always happen, driven by internal and external forces.
    2. The magnitude of system change is completely undetermined by the scale of the system or the forces acting on it.
    3. For every action on (or in) a system there is a reaction of unknown magnitude and in any direction, usually the most unexpected.

    I guess what I mean is: don't expect a reaction to Trumpism to be one that returns things to 'normal' there is no normal.

    Ian, Schumacher Institute


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Guest Blog Mike Barry: 5 things we learnt on Marks and Spencer Plan A journey over last 12 months

Guest Blog by Mike Barry:  Director of Sustainable Business (Plan A) at Marks and Spencer

It’s that time of year, publication of our annual sustainability (Plan A) report. After the harum scarum dash to gather, collate, assure, sign-off and publish a wealth of data we can breathe (for a moment!) and reflect on what it all means.
Here are some quick insights into what we’ve learnt at M&S in the last 12 months on our Plan A journey.
1. Succession – Nine years is a long time in the world of sustainable business. How many corporate plans have come and gone since we launched Plan A in 2007? Too many! The continuity offered by having a single multi-year plan has been incredibly important. It’s allowed us to take long term decisions in a very short term turbulent retail marketplace. It’s allowed us to build the skills and capabilities in our business units to integrate Plan A into their ways of working. It’s allowed us to pick our battles, knowing that occasionally we’ve just got to let a …

Bokova out? Georgieva in for next UN Secretary General

The rumors that have been circulating for the last month have now proven to be true. The Bulgarian government has withdrawn support from Irina Bokova as their candidate for UN Secretary General and replaced her with Kristalina Georgieva, the European commissioner for budget and human resources.
There is some evidence that the right of center parties in European capitals have been behind this with some articles appearing in the last few weeks against Bokova. The Guardian reported on the 26th: “one of her (Kristalina’s) staff members was hacked and emails purporting to be from one of her top aides were sent out to the rest of her office, instructing them to attack Bokova”There is no question that Kristalina has the cv and record to be a very good UN Secretary General. She is a strong supporter of sustainable development issues she will pick up the SDGs and climate agendas with ease. She is dynamic and very personable and was very active around last week’s UN General Assembly High Level se…

Rest in Peace Tania Valerie Raguz 'one of our own'

Photo by IISD/ENB 
It is with deep sadness that I heard of the passing of Tania Valerie Raguz.

Many of us will have worked with her at United Nations meetings over the past ten years when she was the First Secretary of the Mission of Croatia to the UN.

Tania Valerie Raguz was on the Bureau for Rio+20 and a Vice-Chair Of the Bureau of the seventeenth session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) and  most recently she had joined the world of NGOs working as the Public Affairs Advisor for the World Animal Protection previously know as World Society for the Protection of Animals. WAP had been very active around Rio+20 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and she helped their work particularly around the SDGs.

Tania played her role in helping to frame the agenda that we are all committed to delivering on. CSD17 was one of the more successful CSD and without Rio+20 there would be no Sustainable Development Goals.

Photo by IISD/ENB I will miss her positive energy, laught…