Trump’s climate policies are full of hot air

Yossi Mekelberg
Yossi Mekelberg

Yossi Mekelberg

By : Yossi Mekelberg

:: President Donald Trump’s theater of the absurd is continuing to produce reckless policies that make a mockery of the US and put Americans and the world in harm’s way. This week, it was the turn of climate change to fall victim to his capricious and careless so-called decision-making.

In an act of sabotage against global efforts to literally save the planet from human-driven climate change, Trump announced that the US was withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement. Since the US is the world’s second-biggest polluter, accounting for nearly a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions, this is a real blow to containing and reversing economic activity that causes lasting harm to the environment.

This irresponsible act encapsulates Trump’s decision-making on some of the most crucial issues before him. It is devoid of reality, demonstrates ignorance regarding the facts and the consequences of its impact, and smacks of populist isolationism. Debate and decision based on facts and evidence, or any coherent set of arguments, have been discarded altogether.

On a topic where scientific evidence is paramount, Trump’s ignorance is not only painful but worse, dangerous. Between his climate change denial and lack of understanding of the benefits of transforming our economies to rely on cleaner and renewable sources of energy, he damages his own country and the rest of the world.

Climate change is a reality, which if not addressed with a sense of urgency will end in environmental and political disasters. It is unsurprising that one of the first expressions of disappointment to the US decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement came from Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama. He reminded Trump of the vulnerability of islands and coastal areas to climate change, from floods to complete disappearance.

Almost the entire scientific community, with rare and insignificant exceptions, agrees that temperatures are dangerously rising globally, and without concerted worldwide efforts consequences could become irreversible.

Trump — in his oversimplified, populist obliviousness — used out-of-date arguments to justify his decision. He claims that the terms of the agreement are unfair to the US, and that he will negotiate a better deal for his country than his predecessor. This is a familiar theme but an easily refuted argument. In fact, the international community was extremely accommodating to US needs and demands.

He might gain a few rounds of applause from old-fashioned sectors in the American industry, but he undermines a part of the US economy that has been thriving for more than a century on technological innovations.

Yossi Mekelberg

It was Barack’s Obama administration that was the driving force behind reaching a deal that would take into consideration the economic climate of the US, not only the environmental one. Obama was one of the first to react to the decision to withdraw from the agreement, releasing a statement that the US should lead in setting “the world on a low-carbon course and protect the world we leave to our children.”

To the fallacy that climate change does not exist, Trump is adding another: That acting unilaterally in discarding greenhouse gas emission targets is good for US interests. Politically, it leaves the US in the company of only Nicaragua and Syria in not signing the Paris agreement, not necessarily company that the most powerful country in the world would like to keep on any issue.

Economically and technologically, it leaves the US lagging. The discourse in energy is fast moving toward clean and renewable technology. Coal, which Trump supporters, is the worst polluter, and its use has long been declining. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar generate electricity without harmful environmental impacts. It is predicted that by 2050, they could produce affordable and reliable electricity to meet 80 percent of US demand.

Trump might gain a few rounds of applause from old-fashioned sectors in the American industry, but he undermines a part of the US economy that has been thriving for more than a century on technological innovations. The response from many states, cities, corporations and investors nationwide was very negative to his abandonment of the Paris agreement.

They see the future in cooperating with the world on cutting-edge innovation in renewable energy while decreasing its cost. There are potentially huge economic gains to renewable energy, which would reduce health care and disaster relief costs, not to mention the long-term political costs associated with fossil fuels. Renewable energy is where future job creation and wealth generation lies, and turning our backs on it comes with an immeasurable price.

It was encouraging to witness the unified international response to Trump’s announcement, leaving the US isolated. The message from Europe, for instance, is that the deal is irreversible and cannot be renegotiated “since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies.”

French President Emmanuel Macron, in a witty jibe at Trump’s hollow slogans, made a call to “make the planet great again.” It highlighted how Trump is dragging the US into the margins of world politics and influence, even though he has only been in power a few months.

Yossi Mekelberg is professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, where he is head of the International Relations and Social Sciences Program. He is also an associate fellow of the MENA Program at Chatham House. He is a regular contributor to the international written and electronic media.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in the Column section are their own and do not reflect RiyadhVision’s point-of-view.

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