Trump's Disastrous Climate Move Will Isolate US From the Rest of the World
(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Now that Donald Trump has, once again, done the unthinkable—this time withdrawing the US from the historic international climate accord signed in Paris in 2015—everyone wants to know, what will this mean? Responses range anywhere from “very little’ to ‘this is it, we’re done.”
Most likely, the answer will fall somewhere in between, and probably, or at least hopefully, closer to the “very little” end. Not that the climate crisis is anything but dire. Indeed, it might already be too late to stave off at least some of the horrendous consequences involving millions of lives that have been foretold, such as coastal cities being inundated around the world. Any step that isn’t moving quickly away from emitting greenhouse gases, or indeed, any delay in doing so, will undermine any and all attempts to escape those relentlessly-approaching horrors.
While it’s difficult to find anything good in this decision that Bill McKibben aptly, if bluntly, called “stupid and reckless,” there might be a few consolations. While the move will certainly bring the world closer to the brink of climate disaster, it will also likely bring the Trump regime closer to its end as well. That’s because not only will this withdrawal from the Paris accord isolate the US from the rest of theworld (there’s already talk in Europe of changing the G7 to a new G6, designed to “push out the populists”), but here in the US, it will also isolate Trump and his dwindling number of followers, as he moves to a more and more extreme position of nationalistic isolation. Recent polls show that 69% of Americans from every state supported remaining in the Paris accord.
For all of its jingoistic talk, this action, to the extent that it actually amounts to anything substantive, will likely harm the US, including Trump voters as much as anyone.
Let’s take a look at how Trump framed the announcement in the hope that this could shed some light on his thinking. First, he started out by mentioning the casino attack in Manila by a lone gunman, calling it an act of terrorism, keeping up his steady drumbeat of fear, and highlighting his obsession of this issue to the exclusion of all others. This, despite the fact that Philippine authorities have ruled out terrorism as a motive behind the crime.
Next, he switched to the economy, making it clear that his motive for withdrawing would be an economic one. What followed was a series of misrepresentations about economic growth and jobs. He boasted that the economy, which was not doing that badly, at least according to traditional indicators like GDP growth, was “starting to come back and very, very rapidly.” In fact, the Commerce Department reported GDP growth in the first quarter of 1.2%, significantly less that the 1.55% average during the Obama years. and the “more than a million private sector jobs,” he claimed was actually 697,000.
From there, he went on to declare that, “as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”
Citing a study by National Economic Research Associates (NERA), he described impacts ranging from 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025 to double digit downturns by 2040 in industries ranging from paper, to cement, steel, and, of course, coal. Even natural gas will drop by 31%. First question, who is the NERA?
You won’t be surprised to learn that they are an advocacy organization disguised as an independent think tank. Their history reaches back to reports defending the tobacco industry, claiming no link between cigarette advertising and smoking levels, to strong ties with the oil industry. They have received funding from ExxonMobil, the American Petroleum Institute and foundations associated with the Koch Brothers.
The problem with analyses like this one, which starts with the conclusions they want to reach and work their way backwards, is that they are insulting to American business. They assume that if some regulation (that their clients oppose) requires businesses to change the way they operate, in this case, where they get their energy from—they will simply roll over and die to the extent that their existing process is blocked by the proposed regulation. Absolutely no credit is given for any kind of creativity that might find an alternative that could turn out to be superior, as has often proven to be the case. Just as one example, how many times has the demise of the auto industry been predicted every time fuel economy standards were raised?
The president went on to complain about what a rotten deal this was for America, whining that China and India were given more time to meet their targets than we were. Never mind that the US has been burning fossil fuels far longer and has put far more carbon into the atmosphere than anyone else ever will. We also have nowhere near the poverty levels of these country or anywhere near as many people with no access to electricity. But then, according to Trumpian logic, why would we want to consider their perspective? One thing we know about Donald Trump is that anything that doesn’t favor him is considered unfair. The fact is that both India and China are on track to hit their targets much earlier than they had originally committed to, but Trump either didn’t know this or chose to ignore it. Trump said "We're getting out but we'll start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair. And if we can, that's great. And if we can't, that's fine."
He then dramatically produced a statistic that asserted that only two weeks of China’s emissions in 2025 would wipe out all of the reductions we would achieve based on our target. That year was conveniently picked because that is when China’s emissions are expected to peak before declining. But the emission numbers this is based on were wrong overstating Chinese emissions by as much as 370%.
But by far, the most striking thing about Trump’s speech is what he didn’t say. Trump did not once actually mention climate change or the risks that we have all come to see are associated with it. This is like someone complaining about how a surgery cost $10,000 without mentioning the fact that the surgery saved his life.
When Trump said, “This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States," let’s be clear. He wasn’t talking about the Paris accord. He was talking about his decision to withdraw from it. It’s probably safe to say that he had no idea why 193 countries chose to commit to act together to help each other, especially those most vulnerable, rather than out of blind self-interest. That’s because such a concept is apparently beyond his comprehension.
The accord will live on. Three states: California, Washington and New York, who collectively account for over 20% of US GDP, have asserted that they will maintain their commitment to the goals of the accord, as has the US Conference of Mayors, which represents over 1,400 US Cities. Leaders of many major corporations including Ford and GM, GE, and numerous others have affirmed their commitment as well.
By appointing a slew of oilmen to his cabinet and then looking only within his own echo chamber, Trump is rapidly losing touch with the whole world, save a few with vested interests.
The outcry from leaders around the world has been unified in strongly condemning Trump’s decision.
California governor Jerry Brown is heading to China to forge an agreement with the Chinese government, “that will counteract the misguided Republican efforts in Washington.”
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, "While the U.S. decision is disheartening, we remain inspired by the growing momentum around the world to combat climate change and transition to clean growth economies."
Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron said in a rare joint statement the agreement cannot be renegotiated and urged their allies to hasten efforts to combat climate change. They pledged to do more to help developing countries adapt.
The accord will live on. The world will move forward on this, without us. US firms will likely miss out on a great deal of clean energy business and might even face boycotts as some government leaders might ban imports from countries not participating in the accord. Jobs will most likely be lost rather than gained. America will recede from its leadership role in the world, to be replaced by China, the EU, India, and Russia.
But what is most sad about this is the grave disappointment so many Americans feel today, after seeing our country fall so far from the esteemed position we once held in the world.
In a way, America had long been seen by many other countries as the kind, competent, successful and generous older brother, who was respectful of those around him and was looked up to by most, many of whom aspired to be like him. Suddenly, as of yesterday, or perhaps as of November 8, 2016, that older brother has fallen in with a bunch of bad actors, who convinced him that being competent and tough was all that mattered and that being kind is for losers. What does a younger brother do under such a circumstance? I happen to know from personal experience—he goes his own way, while hoping that as they both get older, the brother he once so admired will get wiser and reclaim some of those noble qualities that once made him so special.
I know that I speak for a great many, both here and around the world when I say that I hope that America, and in particular the voting public, will soon outgrow this adolescent, “me first” phase, and return to being the great country it has been for so long.