Trump Against The World — Withdrawal From Paris Threatens Both Global Security and Economic Competitiveness

Energy. It’s the foundation for any modern economic system.

But if the extraction and use of that energy generates harm in the form of serious negative health impacts and ultimate environmental destruction, then it is accurate to say that continuing such energy use is unsustainable. That, ultimately, economies dependent on energy in the form of oil, gas, and coal will fail even as the world suffers the broadening calamities of an ever-worsening climate. Even the U.S. military is concerned about the ever-worsening situation — calling climate change a global threat multiplier.

For decades, a slow progress has been made toward accessing sustainable forms of energy like wind, solar, and electrified transportation. Such a transition away from fossil fuels and toward these new energy sources was accurately seen by many experts as the best way to ensure that humankind avoided the worst destabilizing impacts of emissions-driven climate change while also retaining access to the benefits provided by modern technological systems. And since at least the 1980s a political struggle has been underway between the agencies supporting a renewable energy transition and those opposing it. Related to this struggle are the various global climate summits and emissions reduction agreements. For it is abundantly clear to anyone following the issue that if the nations of the world do not curtail and ultimately halt the burning of fossil fuels, then, sooner or later, a catastrophic climate state will be reached.

The Paris Climate Summit — A Breakthrough Global Consensus

In December of 2015, as the global climate situation continued to worsen and the cost of renewable energy systems plummeted, 195 nations signed a landmark climate agreement in Paris. The agreement aimed to dramatically reduce global carbon emissions even as it set aside funding to begin to prepare for the already-worsening impacts of human-caused climate change. Under the non-binding agreement, these nations pledged to reduce carbon emissions enough to take the world off a very dangerous business-as-usual emissions pathway. If nations honestly met their pledges under the first phase of the agreement, the amount of warming during the 21st Century could be reduced from a rather catastrophic 4.5 degrees Celsius to a still very damaging 3.3 degrees Celsisus.

(Parties of the Paris Climate Summit are shown in orange, signatories are shown in green and light blue. Those not involved in the summit are in purple. Trump’s withdrawal from the accord is contrary to majority sentiment both at home and abroad. Image source:  L. Tak.)

This initial reduction pathway was not ideal. It was, however, quite substantial. A longer-term pledge was made to try to keep global temperatures below 2 C (and even less than 1.5 C) — a goal that assumed far more aggressive emissions cuts in the years to come. But what the initial Paris pledges did achieve was to firmly set the world on a course in which fossil fuel dominance of energy systems (and their related harmful emissions) would likely become a thing of the past by or before mid century even as serious economic and political muscle pushed forward the emerging clean-technology revolution.

This first phase of carbon emissions reductions would be achieved by primarily shifting away from coal burning and relying more on natural gas, but also by starting to fast-track renewable energy adoption. India and China, in a critical measure, committed to de-emphasize coal plants as a basis for future economic development and instead turned more toward wind and solar energy adoption.

Developed and less developed nations alike pledged billions of dollars for a Green Climate Fund that would help the poorest countries in the world both move away from fossil fuel burning and adapt to already emerging climate impacts. Meanwhile, business leaders began to see some major opportunities coming through the development of less harmful industries.

(Trump’s withdrawal from the climate summit could sabotage key emerging U.S. industries such as electrical vehicle production from places like Tesla’s Gigafactory. Image source: Tesla.)

In all of this process and negotiation, the U.S. took a leading role. And for good reason. For a number of the key industries and technologies that would enable these emissions reductions were emergent in the United States. And U.S. citizens and industry both stood to benefit from the clean energy revolution and energy independence that would inevitably follow. But these new industries depended in part on policy support and direction provided by communities, states and nations both at home and around the world. Industries that would ultimately provide hundreds of thousands of jobs and, more importantly, create a far more virtuous and advanced economic system than that presently supported by old and dirty oil, gas, and coal.

Trump’s Withdrawal From Paris Meets With Stiff Resistance at Home and Abroad

This week, by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Summit, President Trump intentionally threw a monkey wrench into this potential for American leadership during the 21st Century. The U.S. is now one of just three countries not to join the agreement. Nicaragua abstained because that vulnerable country saw the agreement as not going far enough (viewing non-binding provisions as lacking force). Syria failed to sign due to ongoing internal strife. The U.S. signed the agreement under a far-wiser Obama administration. Under Trump, the nation has no excuse or substantive reason to withdraw. And despite much false talk coming from the Administration about how ‘Paris hurts America,’ Trump’s move amounts to little more than clinging to a sinking economic ship while leaving the door wide open for other countries (such as China, India, Japan, or European nations) to take the lead on clean energy. Because, to be clear, coal’s fortunes are plummeting even as renewable energy’s become rosier and rosier. And this is a systemic issue that Trump has little power to change.

It’s worth noting that a substantial coalition of cities and states within the U.S. are pledging to go ahead with Paris implementation despite Trump’s failure. For according to recent news reports, governors from California, Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut and Rhode Island have joined to continue working toward the targets of the global climate accord. Meanwhile the European Union is seeking ways to work with both these governors and with major businesses such as 3M, Bank of America, Campbell Soup, Cargill, Citigroup, Coca-Cola, Corning, Dow Chemical, DuPont, General Electric, Goldman Sachs, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Pacific Gas and Electric, Procter & Gamble, Tesla, Virgin Group and the Walt Disney Company, to assist the U.S. in hitting its emissions targets, even without Trump-based federal support.

This coalition of the hopeful and willing is further joined by 211 U.S. cities which alone represent 54 million American citizens. Meanwhile Trump’s approval rating at home has plummeted due to his withdrawal from the agreement even as recent polling data shows that nearly 6 out of 10 Americans support the Paris Climate Agreement and oppose scrapping it. In the end, when it comes to Paris and climate change it appears that it’s Trump against both the larger U.S. and the rest of the world.

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37 Comments

  1. Keith Antonysen

     /  June 5, 2017

    Trump receives continual ridicule from many countries. At the same time he causes much anguish. He makes Australia’s worst Prime Minister Tony Abbott almost look good.

    In relation to a climate emergency, studies are becoming more worrying as indicated by todaysguestis’s reference when corresponding to “Record Heat Predicted for Fort McMurray Wednesday as Fire Danger Spikes”:

    http://www.newsweek.com/hundreds-craters-methane-explosions-seafloor-arctic-norway-russia-619068

    Satellite photos displaying fracturing of sea ice all the way to the North Pole, sea ice volume being at record levels, Larson C about to abort a 5,000 kilometer square section, and Taiwan having received 600 ml of rainfall in 12 hours; would suggest lunacy on the part of those who deny climate change.

    Reply
    • Matt

       /  June 6, 2017

      ” He makes Australia’s worst Prime Minister Tony Abbott almost look good.”
      Steady up there Keith….. 🙂 Abbott is a cruel sexist, racist and climate denying individual. He also is holding the reins of the current Liberal government.
      The only difference between Australia and the USA at present is that we are quite good at pretending we care while at the same time pushing at full steam to endorse the largest coal mine in the southern hemisphere (which if all bunt would put the earth’s temps above 2C by itself).
      Our government is well and truly a snouts in the fossil fuel trough government, just the same as the USA, unfortunately….

      Reply
  2. Robert, you have as usual done a magnificent job writing this piece. You have also shown more restraint than I could have. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Mark in New England

       /  June 6, 2017

      Yes, excellent piece Robert. My first thought was how devoid of emotion your article is! My post would have been R-rated for language.

      Reply
    • I’ve had to keep a check on my emotions for some time now. For me, it’s counter-productive to just rage.

      Reply
  3. Allan Barr

     /  June 6, 2017

    Its good to see you stressing the positive economic aspects of the vital transformation into renewables Robert. Thanks for all you do and the ever interesting point of view you bring to the table.

    Reply
    • I came across a clever promo for a gigafactory in Portugal:

      Reply
      • Tigertown

         /  June 6, 2017

        I don’t see how anyone can say solar is an eyesore after seeing these designs. I wonder if they have broken ground yet on this one or is it just a proposed plan?

        Reply
  4. Abel Adamski

     /  June 6, 2017

    For some explanation for how come we are in this position
    (However IMO, I suspect a major reason for the hatred of Obama and his policies and achievements which has been distorted and expanded to encompass any Liberal approaches or policies to be based pure and simple on Racism, the fact that Obama is a man of colour. But no one will publicly admit to that. They do not have the guts or integrity to do so

    How G.O.P. Leaders Came to View Climate Change as Fake Science

    Once the Republicans were champions of addressing AGW with McCain at the forefront. But then the money came into play

    Reply
  5. Abel Adamski

     /  June 6, 2017

    Another from the NYT giving more in depth information on where India is now at and headed.

    India, Once a Coal Goliath, Is Fast Turning Green

    “The train has left the station. Mr. Trump has come too late” to slow the transition to renewable energy, said Ajay Mathur, director general of the Energy Resources Institute, a New Delhi policy center closely associated with the government. “By the time the coal-fired plants come up to full capacity because of increasing demand, the price of renewables will be lower than the price of coal.”

    Based on December data from the Central Electric Authority, Mr. Mathur’s institute reported in March that India might be able to meet its additional power needs in the future with renewable energy.

    It based that prediction on the remarkable drop in the cost of solar power. In approving proposals for new solar power plants, the Indian government seeks bids from prospective builders who compete to pledge the lowest price at which they anticipate selling power.

    Five years ago, the lowest bid came in at 7 rupees, or 11 cents, per kilowatt-hour. In early May, the lowest bidder came in at less than half of that price, or 2.44 rupees per kilowatt-hour, a little under 4 cents, experts here say.

    The latest bid makes solar power less expensive than coal, which sells for about 3 rupees per kilowatt-hour.

    Reply
  6. @whut

     /  June 6, 2017

    This recent research on ENSO analysis looks very promising http://contextearth.com/2017/06/03/enso-forcing-validation-via-lod-data/. I presented earlier results at last December’s AGU, and will submit the new analysis this year as well. It essentially simplifies the modeling of ENSO, perhaps eliminating the need for GCMs (which don’t work very well anyways). Think in terms of ocean tidal analysis.

    Reply
  7. wili

     /  June 6, 2017

    Here’s the always entertaining and informative John Oliver’s takedown of the Drumpf’s speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9_rf-33RSg

    Reply
  8. Trump seems to be becoming increasingly marginalised. Hopefully, this will end in his impeachment. It’ll be interesting to see how this affects efforts to mitigate, though.

    By the way, technically, solar and wind are not sustainable energies since their infrastructure is not sustainable. Same goes for electric vehicles. But they are a hell of a lot better than what we have, perhaps as a step towards sustainability.

    Reply
  9. Spike

     /  June 6, 2017

    I agree with what you say Robert – Trump may have miscalculated by spurring on those who want to take action and I have been heartened by the response of the American mayors, businesses and people. The decision is so monumentally bizarre given the absence of any compulsion on the US to act that it appears childlike, egotistical, mere posturing, and plain irrational. In the UK his attacks on the Mayor of London have gone down very badly, likewise his crass behavior when in Europe, and this confirms his utter unsuitability for any office. For more on the subject this is a good read:

    https://www.businessgreen.com/bg/blog-post/3011321/has-donald-trump-just-fast-tracked-the-start-of-the-next-era-of-climate-action

    Reply
  10. DJ

     /  June 6, 2017

    Echoing other comments here, thankfully initiatives at the state and municipal level demonstrate that there are in fact educated, scientifically literate and ethically responsible people in the United States, although they don’t seem well represented at the Federal level currently.

    Reply
  11. Suzanne

     /  June 6, 2017

    Thank you Robert for this post, which gives me (and others) the energy to continue the fight. We cannot allow the ignorant, destructive actions of Trump or his Regime…to derail our efforts to fight for what is right. IMO…giving up…is just as bad as denial. Trump’s actions are deplorable, and it would be easy to fall into the “pit of despair”…but by doing that…he wins..which, for me, is totally unconscionable and unacceptable.

    Reply
  12. Abel Adamski

     /  June 7, 2017

    https://climatecrocks.com/2017/06/05/joseph-goebells-on-meth-gop-goes-full-big-lie/

    A very concerning progression
    A must read, too much to even precis

    Reply
    • Abel Adamski

       /  June 7, 2017

      Then in the comments, add trashing of the first amendment

      Note no mention in MSM

      http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/05/anti-trump-protesters-facing-decades-bars-170522063956218.html

      Anti-Trump protester: ‘Is this my last free birthday?’
      More than 200 anti-Trump protesters are facing felony charges that could land some in prison for 70 to 80 years.

      When Olivia Alsip travelled to the capital to protest against the inauguration of right-wing US President Donald Trump, she didn’t imagine she would end the day behind bars and later face up to 80 years in prison.

      Thousands of people journeyed from across the US to Washington, DC, to protest on the first day of Trump’s presidency, January 20.

      During the swearing-in, Alsip was among the more than 230 protesters arrested when officers from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) blocked off a large area and hauled off nearly everyone.

      “I am wondering if my 24th birthday next week will be my last as a free person,” she says by telephone from Chicago. “I’ve never in my life had such a painful and stressful experience. There are no words to convey the severity of this.”
      Portland in shock and grief after ‘hateful’ stabbings

      “Our experience in police custody [that day] was totally dehumanising. We were kettled, treated like animals and denied basic human rights and dignity,” she recollects. “People were forced to urinate on the streets and denied water and food.”

      The arrests came after Black Bloc anarchists and anti-fascists clashed with police. Officers fired rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters.

      Anti-Trump chants were occasionally drowned out by the thuds of sound grenades and smoke bombs.

      Left behind was broken glass from the windows of cafes, restaurants and banks. Declarations of resistance marked the walls and pavements: “Make racists afraid again,” and “F*ck Trump”.

      Images of a limousine in flames later made it onto television screens and the front pages of news websites around the world.

      On January 21, most of the 230 protesters and bystanders arrested the day before were charged with felony rioting, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years and a $25,000 fine.

      But on April 27, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia returned a superseding indictment which added additional charges for some 212 defendants, three of whom had not previously been charged.

      With new felony charges including urging to riot, conspiracy to riot and destruction of property, many of the defendants are facing up to 80 years in prison. Many other defendants, among them journalists, are facing more than 70 years.

      2pm is my first court case since getting indicted. I’m facing 80 years in prison for an anti trump protest along with 200 other people.
      — Dylan Petrohilos 🏴 (@dpetrohilos) May 19, 2017

      Reply
  13. Abel Adamski

     /  June 7, 2017

    The bad guys are screaming about freedom of speech for themselves

    Reply
  14. Abel Adamski

     /  June 7, 2017

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/watergate-pales-compared-with-trump-says-former-us-intelligence-chief-20170607-gwmb0g.html

    Watergate ‘pales’ compared with Donald Trump, says former US intelligence chief

    The infamous Watergate scandal “pales” in comparison to the allegations about the Trump administration’s links to Russia, former United States intelligence chief James Clapper has said in an explosive set of remarks in Canberra.

    Mr Clapper, who served as Director of National Intelligence under Barack Obama and in senior roles with Republican leaders as well, also said he would “understand” if US allies such as Australia withheld intelligence from American counterparts because of Mr Trump’s demonstrated lack of discretion with such sensitive secrets.
    .
    .
    Mr Clapper said that while he had great faith in the strength of US institutions – which he described as being under “assault” from the Trump administration – he said his confidence was not unlimited.

    “So the question is: How long can these assaults go on and the institutions not be irrevocably damaged? I honestly can’t say.”

    Reply
  15. Shawn Redmond

     /  June 7, 2017

    …..and while the politicians fiddle, Rome burns……………
    https://www.wunderground.com/cat6/historic-heat-wave-sweeps-asia-middle-east-and-europe

    The last week of May 2017 and first week of June brought one the most extraordinary heatwaves in world history to Asia, the Middle East and Europe. The mercury shot up to an astonishing 53.5°C (128.3°F) at Turbat, Pakistan on May 28, making it Earth’s hottest temperature ever recorded in the month of May—and one of Earth’s top-five hottest reliably-measured temperatures on record, for any month. Both Pakistan and Oman tied their all-time national heat records for any month during the heat wave, and all-time national heat records for the month of May were set in Iran, Norway and Austria. International weather records expert Maximiliano Herrera details the great heat wave in this guest post.

    Reply
  16. Abel Adamski

     /  June 7, 2017

    Shock Horror
    Australia’s premier Financial Publication

    http://www.afr.com/news/politics/world/donald-trumps-paris-retreat-makes-the-us-a-rogue-superpower-20170606-gwm0k0

    Donald Trump’s Paris retreat makes the US a rogue superpower

    The US is a rogue superpower. Its decision last week to renounce participation in the climate agreement reached in Paris in December 2015 underlined this reality. The question is how to respond.

    Denial of man-made global warming is an article of faith for many Republicans: Donald Trump’s hostility to action is no idiosyncrasy. But clever lobbying reinforces disbelief. The debate parallels those on the dangers of lead and tobacco. In those cases, too, lobbies exploited every uncertainty. The arguments for action on climate are quite as strong as on lead and tobacco. But obfuscation has again been effective.

    Reply
  17. Abel Adamski

     /  June 7, 2017

    http://edition.cnn.com/2017/06/07/asia/xi-brown-meeting-climate-china/

    Xi’s meeting with California governor: A message to Trump on climate?

    Beijing (CNN)China’s government and its top officials don’t do things by accident.
    President Xi Jingping’s schedule is tightly controlled, his statements meticulously scripted, and his public appearances neatly choreographed.
    So his high-profile meeting Tuesday with California Gov. Jerry Brown, which was splashed across state-run newspapers the next morning, was significant for several reasons — not the least of which was its timing.

    Xi and his government were not unaware of the governor’s views or his intense rhetoric. And yet, they went ahead with a one-on-one meeting, making sure it got positive reviews in state-controlled media.
    China has not explicitly criticized the US decision to leave the agreement. But Xi’s meeting with Brown could easily be interpreted as a thinly veiled message to the Trump administration: China believes climate change is a problem and doesn’t think the US is doing enough to solve it.

    On its face, it might not seem odd that Xi would meet with Brown. California is, on its own, the sixth-largest economy in the world. Xi’s father also knew the governor.
    But the fact remains that China’s president rarely meets with officials below the top cabinet level.
    RELATED: How climate activist Ma Jun went from China’s enemy to ally
    It can be seen as beneath the president to take meetings with lower-level officials. China’s government is also wary of meetings with representatives of non-nation states, given its sensitivities over sovereignty issues in places like Tibet and Taiwan.
    Xi’s decision to meet with Brown in spite of all that, and in such a public way, could signal how serious China is about fighting climate change.

    Reply
  18. Reply
    • Thanks, David. Pretty amazing how much attention it’s getting now. It’s like a dam broke.

      Reply
      • …just as some anticipated.

        Reply
        • Of course we would need to consider the value of opposition of forces to Trump. But the previous notion that electing him would be beneficial to the climate cause by attracting attention was similar to arguing the positive value of shooting oneself in the foot. I would much rather have Hillary now than Trump. We would not be in this situation where the U.S. is withdrawing from Paris.

          In any case such arguments basically amount to misplaced political histrionics at best and at worst are very counter productive as we see today.

  19. Jacque

     /  June 8, 2017

    New post on Sam Carana’s Arctic blogspot: http://arctic-news.blogspot.com/:

    High Waves Set To Batter Arctic Ocean

    “…these storms come as Arctic sea ice thickness is at record low…Strong winds over the Arctic Ocean can cause high waves and these waves can break up the sea ice, mix warmer water all the way down to the seafloor, and destabilize hydrates that can contain huge amounts of methane…”

    Reply

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