Will Donald Trump Derail Climate Change Action?
“Keep Calm And Carry On.” That’s the advice Fortune has for people in the US who are worried about what a Trump presidency might mean for the country’s efforts to deal with climate change. You have every reason to be concerned. Trump has selected Myron Ebell — identified at the COP21 summit in Paris last December as one of the seven “climate change criminals” for his extreme stance on global warming. Want to hear some of the the things the new head of the EPA has to say? Okay. Are you sitting down?
He claims “a lot of third, fourth, and fifth rate scientists have gotten a long ways” by embracing climate change. He mocks climate leaders like Al Gore and calls the movement spearheaded by him the “forces of darkness” because “they want to turn off the lights all over the world.” He called Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical on climate change “scientifically ill informed, economically illiterate, intellectually incoherent, and morally obtuse.” Then he added, “It is also theologically suspect and large parts of it are leftist drivel.” Not exactly a warm and fuzzy guy.
Should be fun times at the EPA these next four (long) years. But Fortune counsels that all is not lost. Renewables like wind and solar should keep on keeping on. Why? Because they are price competitive with fossil fuels and nuclear. Fortune points out that both are growing steadily and creating green energy jobs in California, Texas, and Iowa. It is useful to note the Texas and Iowa are states that went heavily for The Trumpeter.
Ebell and his peers care not one whit for the fate of mankind. Their sole focus is on making money and if your grandchildren suffer from asthma or life threatening disease due to environmental hazards, that is quite alright with Myron. Corporate profits are his only concern. If he had the courage to call for the end of government subsidies to fossil fuel companies, environmentalists could actually warm up to Smilin’ Myron.
Industries like utility scale solar and wind, which have been growing dramatically and lowering costs for some time, will likely keep charging ahead under a Trump administration. Those sectors are already competitive on cost and have been creating jobs in states like California, Texas, and Iowa. One area where Fortune expects clean technology to suffer under Trump is funding for research and development into the clean energy technologies of the future.
Fortune also worries that the best people currently at the US Department of Energy will flee the department if it is run by anther right wing ideologue like Ebell. One name that has surfaced is Harold Hamm, described as a “fracking billionaire” by Mother Jones magazine. The previous two Energy Secretaries have been former science professors who recruited leaders from universities and industries. Hamm has put pressure on University of Oklahoma to fire scientists there who are investigating the link between fracking and earthquakes.
Perhaps the biggest downside of Trump, the blowhard in chief, is the hit the United States will take within the world community if it reneges on its commitments made at the Paris climate change summit last December. Before the election, China’s special representative for climate change, Xie Zhenhua, told Salon that “a wise leader — especially a political leader — ought to know that all his policies should conform to the trends of global development.” Trump, so far, has shown no sign of being anything close to a wise leader.
Fortune concludes that the search for solutions to climate change will suffer the most under Trump’s bombastic stewardship but it expects “wind and solar to keep on chugging.” Small comfort but better than none at all.