Donald Trump and global warming: hot air from a hothead

If Trump did not accept the environmental argument for the Paris agreement, he should have recognised the economic one

 

The scene immediately in advance of US president Donal Trump announcing the US was pulling out of the Paris Agreement on curbing global warming was grotesque. A jazz band was playing on the White House lawn; a warm-up for the main act. What followed was a crass declaration of a return to business as usual for the US “with its love of big cars, big houses and blasting air-conditioners”. This is, as the New York Times noted, the country that has contributed more than any other to the atmospheric carbon dioxide that is scorching the planet.

The basis for pulling out of the international accord was fake, to borrow an over-used word from Trump’s vocabulary and was delivered with his usual brand of bombast. His insistence that adhering to the pact would cost the US economy nearly $3 trillion (€2.67 trillion) over several decades and 2.7 million jobs had a familiar air about it; a line trotted out by hard-right conservatives and lobbyists who have his ear.

Trump’s simplistic case for leaving a pact signed by 195 countries in 2015 can be dismantled in a five-minute fact check. A more reliable indicator, from a variety of sources, suggests the withdrawal of the US will add up to 3 billion tonnes of extra CO2 to the atmosphere every year, raising global temperature by between 0.1 and 0.3 degrees by the end of the century.

The notion the pact was somehow imposed unfairly on the world’s second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases does not add up and the fact it took decades to fashion means re-negotiation for a major polluting economy is impossible. With his obsession with the coal miner’s lot, Trump has ignored fundamental upheaval in global energy markets, reflected in the growing viability of renewable energy as many countries are rapidly embracing associated clean technologies.

Blanket condemnation of the US, which has delivered a great many of the technological advances that better serve humankind, serves no useful purpose. Fortunately, some pioneering states and cities such as New York are already trailblazers in moving to counter the worst effects of climate change. It is equally reassuring that major economies including the EU, China and India have moved quickly to fill the vacuum left by Trump, and are likely to hit reduction targets ahead of schedule – there lies a lesson for Ireland as it risks being classified as a laggard.

If Trump did not accept the environmental argument for the Paris agreement, as a businessman he should have recognised the economic case. He has ignored the words of UN special envoy for cities and climate change Michael Bloomberg who has sought to lower the temperature on climate change debate and advised, “cooler heads can produce a cooler world”. By his actions, Trump can be classified among “the hotheads”.

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