Well, we did it. Climate change denial has finally paid off for the country, and now nobody wants to work with us.
At the recent G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, nineteen of the twenty leaders could agree on all points made in the “communiqué.” The only exception: Donald Trump, who couldn’t agree on the summit’s declarations to fight climate change.
Why fight something that doesn’t even exist, right? Or at least, that seems to be how Trump’s mind works.
The move comes just a month after the president pulled out of the infamous Paris Agreement, placing the U.S. among Syria, Nicaragua, and Uzbekistan as the only countries not part of the pact. You know how the adage goes: Always follow Uzbekistan’s lead—or something like that.
In addition to his international climate blunders, Trump’s rooted the country in 19th century, blast-and-burn mentality by “reviving” coal—though it’s difficult to revive what’s been dead/dying for decades. He’s almost made it cool for coal mines to dump their waste into rivers; and he’s pretty much opened the country to fracking, even in Yellowstone. Trump’s also appointed climate-change deniers to head the EPA and Department of Energy; he’s removed the word “science” from the EPA’s mission statement; and, in full Orwellian nightmare, he’s tried to purge government agencies of any mention of human caused climate change—essentially a modern-day book burning.
Trump isn’t just trying to isolate the United States. He’s trying to turn the nation into a backwoods hermit, who has no contact with the rest of the world, no concept of the rest of the world.
Can the United States afford to be a climate loner? Withdrawing from this global wave of climate change cooperation risks diplomatic relations.
Chris Uhlmann, the political editor of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, described Trump’s presence at the G20 as an, “uneasy, lonely, awkward figure at this gathering and you got the strong sense that some of the leaders are trying to find the best way to work around him.”
“We learned that Donald Trump has pressed fast-forward on the decline of the United States as a global leader. He managed to isolate his nation, to confuse and alienate his allies and to diminish America.”
Perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but, with the rest of the world assessing each other’s contributions to stabilizing climate change, Trump’s rejection of common science will affect how the international community interacts with this administration—whether it be over science or trade or whatever. That is: They won’t.
“Adoption of the plan, along with the declaration by all other leaders that the Paris Agreement is ‘irreversible,’ shows that President Trump’s ‘fossil fuels forever’ agenda is failing to get any traction, no matter how hard he tries to cling to it,” wrote the Union of Concerned Scientists in a statement.
“President Trump may have forced inclusion of language in the communiqué on access to and use of fossil fuels by threatening to block the whole text if he didn’t get his way, but that will do nothing to slow the accelerating shift away from polluting fossil fuels towards a global economy powered by clean, renewable energy.”
Those are the key words: Economy powered by renewable energy. It’s already happening, and, economically, it’s stupid not to join the action.
China alone is poised to spend some $360 billion on renewable energy by 2020, an investment that will create 13 million jobs. Meanwhile, Trump’s coal revival will still employ fewer people than Arby’s. If anything, the world needs more curly fries than coal miners.
India laid out an electricity plan that includes no coal plants for at least the next decade, and the country is eyeing another 1 million jobs in the green sector by 2022. All the while, coal jobs have fallen by 36-percent.
“The country is supposed to be at the heart of coal plant growth, but it’s interesting to see the tide go against what we often hear about China and India—that they’re going to keep building coal plants—when actually, they’re both stalling production,” said Christine Shearer, a senior researcher at CoalSwarm and lead author of a report that noticed India’s departure from coal told CityLab.
Hell, even in the U.S. renewable energy is one of the fastest growing job markets, having increased by 18-percent from 2015 to 2016 and it’s expected to increase another 11-percent in 2017, according to the Environmental and Energy Study Institute.
Economists project the global clean energy economy to reach a $6 trillion market by 2030, and even big business—Republicans love big business—want in on the action.
Back in January, more than 600 businesses and investors—including DuPont, General Mills, HP, and many others—that hold over $22 trillion in assets wrote a letter demanding the president to support low carbon policies and alternative energy.
“It is imperative that the public and private sectors work closely together to get the signaling and incentives right to shift the trillions of capital required across the global economy. This includes creating the policy frameworks to support investment in low carbon assets now and into the future, to evolve the financial frameworks required to improve the availability, reliability and comparability of climate-related information, and to ensure the utilization of tools and metrics that effectively incorporate the risks and opportunities into financial assessments.
Investors are willing and ready to work with governments to facilitate the changes that are needed to improve the pricing of climate-related financial impacts, and to mobilize the capital flows that are required to underpin a strong and resilient financial system.”
It’d be economically irresponsible to ignore this. Though if anybody’s familiar with economic irresponsibility, it’s a man who’s started a failed university, failed airline, failed casinos, failed steak, and even a failed brand of vodka. #winning
It’d also be economically irresponsible to ignore the states—many of which conservative leaning—taking advantage of Paris Agreement initiatives.
Iowa, for example, depends on green energy, Thirty-seven percent of the state’s energy comes from wind farms, and, currently, there’s $4 billion in investments for new wind projects. Florida just signed a bill that provides tax breaks for residential and solar installations. Brian Sandoval, the Republican governor of Nevada, just last week, signed a bill that encouraged solar investment in the state. Even Virginia, a traditional “coal state,” has more solar jobs than coal jobs now, and, according to the Solar Foundation, the industry grew by roughly 65-percent over the last year.
At the end of the day, whether the U.S. can afford to be isolated diplomatically or economically doesn’t matter. Climate change isn’t an issue to be fought individually. It’s a planetary.
“Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus, with a temperature of two-hundred-and-fifty degrees, and raining sulphuric acid,” said Stephen Hawking to the BBC.
“By denying the evidence for climate change, and pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement, Donald Trump will cause avoidable environmental damage to our beautiful planet, endangering the natural world, for us and our children.”
Can the U.S. afford to be a climate loner? Trump thinks he can. The U.S. can’t.
Top photo by The White House, CC0
Tom Burson is a travel writer, part-time hitchhiker, and he’s currently trying to imitate Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? but with more sunscreen and jorts.