This coming Friday, Donald Trump will become the American president. If you understand the ramifications of that for the global climate, we are facing a terrifying prospect. He’s called climate change a hoax invented by the Chinese, that it’s bullshit and asked “Where the hell is global warming?” at a rally on a cold day. The string of do-nothing and know-nothing could go on for pages. And there’s no irony to be lost on the fact that he’s “diabolically” tried to use climate change to insure his own golf courses. Yes. Your head should be hurting right now. What promises he’s made, however unspecific, should frighten any person concerned about energy, environment, climate and justice. So what are his promises and what can we do?
Here’s what’s on the table from press sources.
His 100-day platform says the following.
* FIFTH, I will lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars’ worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.
* SIXTH, lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward
* SEVENTH, cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure…
American Energy & Infrastructure Act. Leverages public-private partnerships, and private investments through tax incentives, to spur $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over 10 years. It is revenue neutral.
This provides a little bit of insight into what he’s said before.
Trump’s said for some time that he would pull the U.S. from the Paris Agreement. That was the2015 international climate change agreement with the goal to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, a point at which we have good reason to suspect climate-related disasters will get much worse. It became law this year.
How quickly Trump can or will do that is up for debate. He can pull out in in four years. Or, as Think Progress reports, he can cancel the United States’s membership in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change with an executive order. The first option is bad. The second would destroy global faith in the United States as a good-faith actor and make us something of a rogue nation for sustainable development. Not that our track record before Obama was very good anyway. But my god, it would even upset Exxon Mobil. Since when have I been on the same team as them? Since never. But here we are.
— Suzanne McCarron (@SuzanneMcCarron) November 10, 2016
He’s also said he’ll rip up the Clean Power Plan and support massive coal and natural gas development. No matter how incoherent his ideas that we can double down on both, the mere spirit behind it is alarming. The cost to our air, water, other species and communities will be more expensive than the short-term profits from the power we derive from them. Both negative externalities from pollution in the near-term and the long-term social costs of carbon will make life much more difficult. Communities of color and poor people will suffer now from chemicals, particulates and displacement. In the coming decades life will become more difficult for everyone, but especially the poor and people living in drought- or storm-prone nations and communities. With recent research out of the Potsdam Institute suggesting the climate is more sensitive to CO2 at higher temperatures, the threat could be even worse.
Trump has basically declared that he is in favor of displacing and disaffecting millions of people. Trump is the embodiment of the term “threat multiplier,” the term the Department of Defense uses to characterize climate change. He is an open international security threat on top of the threats the United States usually poses.
Trump has appointed Myron Ebell to head his EPA transition team. This is like putting David Duke in charge of the civil rights division of the Department of Justice. You can bet that the EPA will be seriously dysfunctional for the next four years. Career bureaucrats in the EPA will make the Trump administration’s life hell, but you can bet that the administration will be weeding people out and congress will be de- or underfunding a lot of work.
Are we on the left are just making a Rorschach Test of our fears as David Victor writes at Yale e360? Could be. Maybe there’s actually little that Trump can do to halt what’s under way. The declining cost of wind and solar, the boom in the solar market worldwide, the conversion of coal to natural gas domestically and abroad, the investment by cities in energy efficiency and the work to make the grid smarter. That’s all happening and it will continue. But the signal from the top of the most powerful nation in the world carries a lot of weight, can build momentum and do plenty of damage.
Now, perhaps, India and China will move faster and secure the front of global climate leadership with the European Union and force our hands. Imagine if they all put border-adjustable prices on carbon. They would, through trade, force the United States to act. Yes international community, I’m asking you to drag us along. Easy to ask but hard to do I know.
Most of us don’t work at that level. So what am I going to do? What can you do? As a local elected official I promise the following: I will do everything I possibly can to make the pathway to a zero carbon economy where I can. My understanding of the carbon budget, the dangerous impacts on people and the ecosystems and the threat now preparing to take over the federal government means that I have to. I have good reason to believe the board of supervisors with whom I work have the will and we have the staff to take this on. If you’re an elected official, please do the same. If you already have, thank you!
If you aren’t an elected official it’s time to join common cause. Hook up with NextGen Climate, Citizen’s Climate Lobby, RepublicEn, Natural Resources Defense Council and your local branch of the Sierra Club, Interfaith Power and Light and get ready to lobby every government official and business you can, pass local ordinances, get in the streets and rally and help really great lawyers sue the pants off the pending EPA. If you have local and state-level groups of anti-fracktivists and climate warriors like we do in Pennsylvania, build the bridge between the national and the local. And it’s time to bring your churches, your schools, the places you shop on board. If you have the gumption, join those who are carrying out civil disobedience like the Energy Justice Shale Initiative and the folks fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline. The lunch counter defense of people is happening in extraction communities today. The fight for rights now extends well beyond the traditional lines of identity politics. We must transcend them.
The only thing necessary for evil to win is for good men and women to do nothing. That’s not an option. This day we fight.