The President Trump Factor: What it means for world climate change

The man who called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to damage the US economy is soon to take control of the most powerful nation on Earth. Sound scary? Many in America and around the world think so.

While angry liberals took the streets in the aftermath of the US election results, green advocates took a sharp intake of breath and pondered the future. Will President Trump pull back from the Climate Change agreement? Are fossil fuels back on the agenda? What is going to happen to Obama’s Clean Power Plan? Should we all just give up now?

Before you start tearing out your hair and prophesying the end of the world as we know it, Donald Trump hasn’t been big on any particular policy during his campaign, let alone the country’s current green agenda. He’s not a guy given to firm ideologies (except perhaps a Wall Street greed is good one) and is just as likely to embrace climate change in the future as deny its existence – it all depends on what suits him and whether there’s a benefit in it.

After all, he’s promised to build a wall on the Mexican border and no one really thinks he’s going to do that, not even his most ardent supporters.

Do we? While there’s no doubt the status quo has been given a big kick up the backside in recent days, the real truth is that no one knows what is going to happen. It’s the uncertainty that is killing us and many are looking on the dark side rather than hoping for a better future.

What Trump Actually Said on Climate Change

Yes, in a Tweet in 2012, Donald Trump wrote:

“The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”


Trump later rolled back on this by saying it was a joke, complaining that China is not really keen on the climate change agenda (strange, because they are one of the leading developers of solar power at the moment).

Like most things Trump, the rhetoric is a little confused. It changes from day to day, sometimes from minute to minute.

Obama sanctioned the climate change agreement last November and signed the US up on his own rather than going through Congress. That means Trump, if he wishes, is well within his right to repeal the decision immediately when he gets into office. Will he? You wouldn’t put money on it but then no one gave him a chance of winning the nomination and the presidency. Is he a smart operator? Well, you wouldn’t put money on that either. When Obama wished President Elect Trump every success, you had the sneaking feeling that the fingers behind his back were crossed.

Republican Dominance and Climate Change

A big factor may not be Trump at all but the fact that the Republican party has control of both the presidency and the House. They have, in the past, been more climate change sceptic than democratic advocates. The good news is that the number of conservatives who believe the climate is changing is increasing, and something needs to be done, up to almost 50% in recent times according to a Centre for Climate Change Communication survey. That could be the saving grace for green activists and businesses across the country, if not the world.

What if Trump Cancels America’s Climate Change Agreement?

If it does happen, you can expect some pretty big fireworks. There was a lot of haggling involved in getting everyone on board for the agreement in the first place, many of them doing it at the expense of their own industrial developments and more than a little begrudgingly. Bringing down carbon emissions is a big challenge, particularly for countries such as India and China. While regions such as Europe will probably continue to do their best to develop clean energy and cut CO2, others might see a US withdrawal from the agreement as a chance to renege on their climate change obligations.

Growth the Key

What may be more important to Trump is the potential for growth in the renewables industry and the number of jobs it can deliver. It was a central part of his appeal that he was going to create jobs and boost the US economy. If solar and wind power can show that they provide an avenue to do this, then development could see more profitable times ahead.

According to the LA Times, Trump’s environmental policy is more likely to be influenced by market realities than ideological notions:

“The challenge Trump faces is that increasingly the economics in the energy sector favor renewable technologies such as solar and wind, which are reducing costs quickly. Increased fracking has produced natural gas at prices that are cheaper than coal. And a worldwide oil glut has reduced petroleum profits to the point where reducing regulation and opening federal lands to drilling is unlikely to bring a drilling boom.”

In other words, gas and renewables may be the more profitable sectors for the new leader of the free world. The best that can be said at the moment, however, is that we don’t really know what Trump’s presidency is going to deliver.

This may indeed be a bad time for climate change advocates. Trump could reverse the climate change agreement. He could start a decline in renewables that has a huge impact across the world and damages all our attempts to reduce carbon emissions and get access to cleaner energy. Just as likely, he may invest in a growing and increasingly economically viable sector like renewables and subsequently stay on board with other countries and the global reduction of emissions.

We’ll all just have to wait and see.



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