Trump’s Contribution To Climate Change Policies

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Originally published on The Lenz Blog.
By Karl-Friedrich Lenz

Trump has been elected president. Most people expect this to be bad news for climate policy.

But Trump has already contributed strongly to the effort. The Paris Agreement has come into force on November 4th, with 193 countries having signed and 103 ratified at the time of this writing.

If Trump gets out, the United States will join Great countries like Iraq, Syria, Nicaragua and Uzbekistan, which are part of the minority not yet on board.

The fact that the Paris Agreement came into force so fast is not unrelated to the timing of this election. Everyone knew that there was an outside chance of Trump winning. So it made sense to have the Agreement come into force before the election.

So Trump can already claim some credit for the sense of urgency that lead to this very swift result.

Once in office, he may actually get out of the Paris Agreement and try hard to have more coal burned in Great America.

That, on its own, will be bad news for the climate.

But it will still be useful as an excellent example on how not to run things. The massive majority of states that are still on board may point at Great America policy as a model to avoid.

And it will give everyone else (including solid blue States like New York and California, which have a strong economic power base) strong motivation to double their efforts. For example, Obama’s most important executive policy is the Clean Power Plan. It requires States to reduce their emissions.

If repealed, a State like Oklahoma may go ahead with a reckless fossil fuel burning policy. But nothing would prevent a responsible State like California to reduce their emissions anyway.

And they would have a great extra incentive to do so. One is to keep the damage to the climate from the Trump presidency in check.

The other one would be just political. Show the Republicans that they don’t rule everything in Great America just yet.

And for everyone else on the planet this presidency may turn out to be a welcome wake-up call. The urgency of dealing with this problem just went up a couple of notches.

I personally found my interest in energy and global warming policy because I watched the Fukushima explosions from a rather close range. That was a wake-up call for me.

If Trump’s election is a similar wake-up call for the world, which increases the sense of urgency, that may well be worth burning some more coal in Great America for the next couple of years.

As for me, this also increases the urgency of discussing Phaseout Profit Theory. The general idea is that fossil fuel lobbyists need to come on board for the solution. That becomes more important with the Republican party holding Congress and the Presidency.

Update: Five minutes after posting this, I see an article at Reuters that describes new volunteers flocking to because they see the Trump election as a “wake-up call”. “Trump threat fires up U.S. climate activists, draws in more” is the title. That’s exactly what I was expecting, and it’s already happening.

Update 2: Statement of California governor Brown:

But as Californians, we will also stay true to our basic principles. We will protect the precious rights of our people and continue to confront the existential threat of our time – devastating climate change.

He doesn’t need a legal obligation under the Clean Power Plan to address that threat. Which means as far as California is concerned, getting rid of the Clean Power Plan will be without any practical consequence.

Reprinted with permission.

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