A second Trump administration wouldn’t just let energy companies run wild, it would encourage other countries to abandon the fight to cut emissions. Let’s say Donald Trump wins the election in 2020. There’s no doubt some climate advocates will try to put an optimistic spin on it—just like they di…
Another term for Donald Trump would be bad, very bad, for the global climate. Geoff Dembicki argues on Vice that it would be a disaster, that with increases in US carbon emissions and without American leadership in the Paris Agreement process, other countries either wouldn’t honor their commitments to reduce emissions or would wihdraw from the accord as did Trump. While that scenario is entirely possible, it is by no means a certainty. Dembicki overstates his case. He assumes that the fossil fuel companies, abetted by President Trump, will continue to maximize production and profits, and do little or nothing to curtail emissions. This is unlikely to occur.
The fossil fuel industry is increasingly being forced to acknowledge the risks and damage their products cause. Their operating environment has changed dramatically in the last two years. Public sentiment is turning against them. School children are rallying and protesting for their futures. Investors are shunning their stocks, which are down markedly. Pension funds and university endowments are divesting their holdings. Banks, other lending institutions, asset managers, and insurance firms have begun restricting their deals with the industry. Demand for oil is weak, and may soon reach peak. Renewable energy sources are encroaching on energy from fossil fuels. Electric vehicles will hit the road in force in 2020 and beyond. Industry efforts to respond to the pressures building up on them have so far been tentative, best characterized as window dressing. Lenders, stockholders, and the general public will continue to press for more significant responses.
In the US, emissions are down, not up, partly because natural gas is replacing coal, a process that will continue, and partly because wind and solar keep growing their share of the energy market. As for US leadership, domestically States and corporations are stepping in to fill the void left by the Federal abdication. Internationally, the EU has agreed to declare a climate emergency, and set forth targets to reduce emissions to net-zero by 2050. Boris Johnson’s new UK government has likewise put out a plan to zero out carbon emissions by 2050. Whether Europe’s example motivates other nations to raise their targets at the next UN Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November, and more importantly, to meet those targets, remain to be seen. With the moral suasion provided by Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General and by Pope Francis, as well as by the increasingly inescapable evidence of negative climate consequences in countries both rich and poor, one can be optimistic about the outcome of COP26 and about weathering the global climate crisis whoever is President of the US.