Friday 22 September 2017

US role as global leader looks over - and we will miss it more than most

'Having a climate change denier in the White House is frankly embarrassing.' Photo: Reuters
'Having a climate change denier in the White House is frankly embarrassing.' Photo: Reuters
David McWilliams

David McWilliams

Years ago, a mate of mine, the son of a hard-working Jewish butcher from Brooklyn, managed to get into Harvard. This was a huge undertaking for this average family without the financial resources to pay Ivy League fees. But they managed, as families tend to do. They saved, scrimped and borrowed so eventually the son emerged from one of America's finest universities with brilliant results. He hasn't looked back since.

Two decades later in New York, when we were chatting to his dad, discussing the sacrifices parents have to make to send their kids to top US universities, the old man looked at me and chuckled: "If you think Harvard is expensive, try ignorance!"

Ignorance is expensive and Donald Trump is testament to this. By pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord yesterday, he is signalling to the world that the United States - for so long the world's pre-eminent home of scientific enquiry - is rejecting science. For the country that sent the first man to the moon, this is shameful. American universities produce far more Nobel Prize winners for science than the rest of the world combined - what does this say to them?

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