As I pointed out before the election, Donald Trump’s campaign was so full of irony it could have filled a gold-plated plastic slurpee cup — something Trump may well own. Of course, now that he’s “President-Elect” Donald Trump (with nearly 3 million fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, sprinkling more irony into the cup), the craziness has continued.
From a strictly American perspective, the looming economic, environmental, and social decline is depressing as hell, but there are some counterintuitive ways that Trump’s extremism could eventually land us in a net win on climate and cleantech matters (and that’s not accounting for potential global economic collapse at some point in the coming decade once Donald’s latest cons come to light).
Three ways we could get a net win on the climate (in my humble and optimistic opinion) are by Trump extremism stimulating an unprecedented amount of civic activism, greater city leadership, and much more consumer activism (stop funding oil, gas, and coal billionaires!).
However, there are also international factors at play.
Just after the election, I highlighted what I still think is a giant likelihood. China has the potential to greatly boost its reputation in the world — especially relative to its foil, the United States — by showing up as the adult in the room while other global leaders watch Trump’s moves in horror. The more Donald moves forward with his insane (there could be literal insanity at play here) “shake things up” approach to US society and international politics, the more political leaders in other countries are going to side with China on key global topics that require the leadership of major economies.
International politics isn’t about just two or three players, of course, but there’s no denying that the US has had abnormally large influence over international politics and the global economy for a long time … but that China has become a more and more powerful leader. In some respects, China has become more powerful — but now Trump is essentially hoisting the country into the king’s chair. The good news there for all of humanity could be that China accepts the climate science consensus, is keen on strong climate action, and would likely shift the world in that direction more quickly if it had more influence and the US has less.
Back to Trump: In case you missed it, Trump is skipping his daily intelligence briefings. He’s reportedly not fond of reading at all — some people who have shadowed him closely don’t think he’s read a single book not “written” by him in his adult life (well, that’s what the actual author of The Art of the Deal believes). Trump is packing his cabinet and advisor team with science deniers (in particular, global warming deniers). All of this is setting him up for one massive assault on global intelligence after another. Maybe that worked against rural voters and disenfranchised Rust Belt voters in the US of A, but don’t expect that to work on international global leaders — just like it didn’t work on Democratic and Republican elites … until the latter group gave up a moral backbone in favor of a “team win.”
Every misstep Trump makes — whether it’s denying the Earth revolves around the Sun, denying President Obama was born in the US, denying that Russia interfered with the US presidential election, or denying that global warming is one of the greatest threats humanity faces — is an opportunity for China to say, “Hey, what’s going on here, I thought the USA had its house in order? What happened? Can we trust the US any longer? Can we listen to the US on anything at this point if it is going to elect a science-denying, politically unaware, unstable, and perhaps legitimately insane con man?”
Day 1 hasn’t started yet and Trump’s imposition on China’s decades-long “One China” policy has hit the top of Google News.
The world’s political leaders basically know that Russia had a big hand in getting Donald J Trump elected, that Russia very obviously interfered in the US democratic process — successfully — and that Trump is already making moves to set up a much friendlier relationship with Russia and destabilize Europe and the global economy in the process.
California, the largest economic player in the United States, is already speaking up in opposition to Trump’s extremist approach to climate science and energy. How hard would it be for China to convince political leaders to rely on its stability over the USA’s when the largest state in the country won’t stand for the federal government’s “flat Earth” approach?
How absurd do world leaders think the US is when its incoming president, Secretary of State, head of NASA, head of the EPA, and head of the Department of Energy are pollution-pushing global warming deniers who are trying to slow the fastest-growing jobs and fastest-growing industry (cleantech) in their country and the world?
— Gil Friend (@gfriend) December 13, 2016
All of this comes after a campaign full of comments that many feared could lead to a global trade war and instability. The question remains. The concern grows.
All of this ties back to climate and cleantech in a clear way that I highlighted on November 17 (bouncing off of earlier insights by more insightful people with a deeper understanding of international politics).
In recent weeks, we’ve received word that Trump’s science-denying pick to head NASA wants to cut all climate science research — despite NASA being one of the leading organizations studying the world’s climate. The reason? “NASA has politicized the science.” Um, no. …
And now Trump has nominated the CEO of ExxonMobil (Rex Tillerson) — who has super strong ties to Russia — to be Secretary of State. He has nominated indicted (felony charges for abuse of power) former Texas governor and science denier Rick Perry to head the Department of Energy. And he has nominated a science denier who once sued the EPA to run the EPA.
Climate scientists on the other side of the world — and anyone paying any attention to this critical topic — are shocked and appalled. World leaders concerned about this great crisis are not feeling much love for the USA right now. If China steps it up and gets stronger in its climate policies and international activism, it looks more and more responsible and mature at the same time that the United States looks like a spoiled rich kid conspiracy theorist who’s possibly losing his mind and has serious entitlement issues. That carries weight outside of climate negotiations.
Any global leaders peering in on the US and noticing that Donald Trump’s team seems to be initiating a cleantech and climate witch hunt must further question the stability and ongoing leadership potential of the United States.
What does this mean practically for the US (and China) in our global society? Well, we’ll see, but here are some things to consider:
- If the US isn’t seen as a stable or reliable global trade partner, more partnerships could revolve around or be directed by China. (This is already happening as a result of the death of the Trans Pacific Partnership.)
- If the US is seen to have a “flat Earth” approach to global warming and climate change — something that many countries see as the most pressing and dangerous issue facing our world — nearly 200 other countries could decide to simply “work around” the US, which could mean deciding as a group to implement a carbon tax on US products or boycotting US products altogether.
- If the US is seen to have jumped off into a looney bin and given its soul over to conspiracy theorists who don’t understand the scientific method, the country could simply have less and less influence on countless topics as other world leaders lose trust in our democracy (we already rank 20th for that) and put more trust in other major powers — China, for example.
- On the positive side, China could use that influence to more strongly and quickly steer the world toward climate action — something that the US will hold back as long as Republicans have any control over the federal government. It would be ironic on several levels. But irony seems to trail Donald J Trump around like the paparazzi trail movie stars — a topic for my next article.
And we haven’t even gotten started yet. …
— Gil Friend (@gfriend) December 13, 2016
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