ECOPINION: Hope for environmentalism in the Trump Era
By ION Contributor Based off of Trump’s colorful campaign, it is easy to assume that he would be a foe to most green efforts. He is a well known climate denier, and has threatened to pull out of the Paris Agreement. He has also instituted Myron Ebell—another climate denier—as head of his EPA transition team. Despite all the cynicism that abounds in this political climate, it is important to note that President Trump is not creating the country anew. He is setting his presidential foot in a world that is already moving towards a more sustainable future. Trump may change policy, but hopefully not the direction of our culture.
Proof of this can be found in the ratification of the Paris Agreement in October 2016. For the first time ever, most of the countries in the world have agreed to take part in a coordinated effort to keep global temperature rise to less than 1.5 degrees. The agreement was particularly notable as both China and the United States—major GHG emitters—signed on. Despite the fact that the Paris Agreement is non-binding, all major GHG emitters have signed on (unlike in the case of the Kyoto Protocol of 1997), creating an environment where global peer pressure will hopefully compel countries to comply. If the United States pulls out, other countries will not have incentive to curb their own emissions. Therefore, upon Trump’s election, countries and companies have reacted, putting pressure on the Trump administration to stay in the agreement. For example, Sarkozy (not in the running anymore in the French presidential election) threatened to put a carbon tax on all U.S. goods if Trump backs out, and 365 American companies wrote a collective letter to the administration, urging them to stick with the climate deal. This last fact is particularly hopeful, as Trump is a huge promoter of American business. Indeed, despite Trump’s threats to pull out of the agreement during his campaign, in a recent interview, he claims to have an “open mind” to the Paris Agreement. If American companies believe that it is to their advantage that the Paris Agreement is passed, Trump is much more likely to be swayed. Despite the promises that President Trump has made to coal miners, the coal industry is declining while green energy is growing, potentially creating jobs. Wind energy, for example, requires considerable infrastructure. And companies like Clean Line Energy Partners are in the process of building it, creating welding jobs and steel manufacturing jobs in various states as they build vast transmission lines connecting wind farms to cities. Trump has already pitched a plan that allocates one trillion dollars to infrastructure, one of his biggest priorities. Producing resources for cars, wind turbines, etc., creating transmission lines for wind energy, and building more wind farms could be an opportunity for him. No one seems to be particularly hopeful in the media. It is true that Trump is not the most promising of candidates for a sustainable future. We cannot deny the fact that we are in a rather dire situation. Global temperatures are rising at alarming rates and if things do not start changing now, there will be devastating consequences. The fact that the president of the United States of America is climate-denier is worrisome to say the least. However, the green movement is not constrained to this country. Even if Trump’s presidency confirms our worst fears, with the development of technology and heightened awareness for the environment, the world will nevertheless move forward. Perhaps it is time for the world to turn to the other major players—China and India—to set an example.
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