‘This won’t kill the Paris process, but it will severely weaken it’
Photograph by Yann Caradec
From Environment 360:
With so little to guide predictions, the reality of a Trump presidency has become a national Rorschach test. Conservatives and the anti-establishment imagine an ascendant Trump will set a path for a more competitive national economy, smaller government, and a stronger defense. The left predicts a horror show of policy reversals and seediness. This Rorschach test is now playing out as the country grapples with what all this means for climate and energy.
One thing is clear: The Trump administration will inflict more harm on global cooperation around climate than any prior president. After the successful Paris agreement last year, that cooperation was finally poised to make progress with decisive U.S. leadership. I doubt that a Trump presidency will kill the Paris process — too many other countries are too invested in its success. But it will shift the intellectual and political leadership of the process from the United States to other countries, most notably China.
Domestic policy is much harder to parse. Don’t expect any climate change initiatives by a Trump administration, which means that efforts started under Obama to understand and prepare for the impacts of climate change will be put on hold — to the country’s detriment. But on emissions, national policy is almost synonymous with energy policy, since most warming emissions come from the energy sector. Trump won’t adopt any new policies to control emissions, but a huge effort already is under way. Despite claims of trashing regulations, rolling back the Clean Power Plan, and a big shift toward fossil fuels, four years of Trump will actually have very little impact on national energy investment patterns and policy that are already largely grounded. That’s because the energy sector is slow to change, most policies are enshrined in law and difficult to unseat, and the very thought of a Trump administration overseeing national energy policy will inevitably shift more of the action to the states.
For people who want to see America engaged in serious global cooperation and a continued decarbonization of the U.S. energy system, the likely chaos of the Trump administration — as it moves from the bombast of campaign yelling and tweeting to the much harder task of running a government — will require new political strategies. Activists and politicians who care about climate issues should alter their thinking to making those new strategies a reality.