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Donald Trump changes the climate game

In withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, Donald Trump has set in motion a number of powerful forces


 

This won’t be a popular thing to say, but what the heck: a lot of what Donald Trump said on Thursday about measures to contain carbon emissions is true.

Virtue isn’t free. Climate action imposes certain costs today against a hope of staved-off catastrophe in the future. Many of those costs are borne in areas of heavy industry or natural-resource extraction. Even Alberta’s NDP government puts the cost of its own climate plan at 0.3 to 0.4 per cent of GDP by 2022, though it argues the cost would be more than offset by oil exports through pipelines the climate plan made palatable. Even if cost across a society is low, or there’s a net benefit across a society, the cost to some segments of the society is real.

Those costs are so scary to democratically elected governments that it’s not at all clear they can meet reasonable reduction targets with measures currently in place. Jean Chrétien barely tried, Paul Martin was not in office long enough to be judged on the matter, and the super-virtuous government of Justin Trudeau adapted Stephen Harper’s carbon targets, just to be on the safe side, and is not currently on course to meet them. Check back later, the Prime Minister says. France had to abandon one carbon-tax plan.

Last autumn, Canada’s Conservatives greeted Trump’s election by saying it would be “complete insanity” for Trudeau to pursue a carbon tax in the face of the new president’s extremely-easy-to-foresee climate protectionism. Brad Wall, who remains Saskatchewan’s premier, said the same. It is easy to imagine that, if Trump’s policy results in further concessions to polluting heavy industry, some investment that would otherwise have gone to Canada will go instead to the U.S. industrial heartland. You can be sure you’ll hear about such cases if they happen.

MORE: Why corporate America thumbed its nose at Trump over the climate deal

But a very broad cross-section of governmental and private-sector actors across the West have parted company with Trump all the same. They include Justin Trudeau, a suddenly English-speaking Emmanuel Macron,  the CEO of Disney, Elon Musk, governors of big U.S. states, and mayors of big cities. These are people who believe (a) the science on climate change; (b) the importance of keeping commitments; (c) the utility of paying now to avoid grief later; (d) that sectoral gains, in clean tech for instance, can offset sectoral losses, and that it’s really hard to establish a causal link between aggressive climate action and economic decline; (e) that the time to part company with Trump was bound to come sometime, so it might as well come now.

In particular, Trudeau’s relationship with Trump looks increasingly like an amiable, even sucky, front for an aggressive and broad effort to get Canadian eggs out of the American basket. François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Energizer Bunny trade minister, hosted talks in Toronto on a post-American TPP trade alliance, and is working hard to find softwood markets somewhere other than due south. Macron is already more openly antagonistic to the White House than any French president since the Iraq war.

All of this comes hard on the heels of Trump’s astonishing Europe trip, which left the normally determinedly even-keel Angela Merkel musing that Germany must look out for itself in this world because the U.S. and Brexiting Britain, while still always friends, no longer have Europe’s back. Israel can’t trust its intelligence in American hands.

MORE: What Trump’s decision really means for global climate action

It’s important not to get too definitive, too fast, about all this. There were good reasons for U.S. hegemony for the last 80 years, and one loopy White House tenant won’t bring all those reasons to an end. But as Democratic governors, way outnumbered by Republicans, form alliances on climate policy, and Democratic big-city mayors openly resist the White House, and opposing Trump around the world begins to seem far more electorally advantageous than kowtowing to him, things could start to move fairly quickly.

Things to watch: calls by California Democratic state senators for a “climate summit” to be chaired by Jerry Brown and to which Mexican and Canadian representatives would be invited. Brown is ancient and distant from Washington, but has set himself up as a sort of leader of the opposition to Trump. The summit his Dems want would pose an interesting dilemma to the Trudeau government.

Closer at hand is the G-20 summit in Hamburg in July. What’s not to love about this summit? Trump and Trudeau will be there, as will the leaders of China—and Russia. The host will be Angela Merkel. Climate and free trade are on the agenda. A very large majority of the G-20 leaders are already, as of Thursday night, on the record opposing Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord. Several of them watched him traipse around Europe and came away unimpressed. Offhand it’s hard to imagine Hamburg will be the venue for a group hug.

MORE: Canadians shouldn’t be smug about America’s Paris accord retreat

One more thing. The Conservative Party of Canada has made sneering contempt for Trudeau’s climate plans its daily diet for 18 months. As a bonus, Conservative members heartily booed one of their own leadership candidates, Mike Chong, at every multi-candidate event on his campaign to seek the party’s leadership. (Patrick Brown, the former CPC MP who’s fetched up as Ontario’s poll-leading Conservative opposition leader, is interestingly more nuanced on the question.)

Laughing at carbon taxes won the Conservatives one election, in 2008, and there is still absolutely a constituency for it today. How does that change after Trump’s Paris Accord withdrawal? Guessing the answer to that one will be one of Andrew Scheer’s first big challenges.

MORE ABOUT DONALD TRUMP:


 

Donald Trump changes the climate game

  1. Alk toothless non-binding agreements that Obama has called his legacy.

    Meanwhile Obama’s failed cap-and-trade policies are costing 10s of millions in court costs because Obama overstepped his Presidetial boundary.

    Really Trump did not have much choice but to withdraw after being left with a 20 trillion deficit.

    • “The U.S. federal budget deficit for fiscal year 2018 is $440 billion”
      see: h$$ps://www.thebalance.com/current-u-s-federal-budget-deficit-3305783

      Presumably ‘debt’ was meant, not ‘deficit’? The debt is about $20 trillion.

  2. How are Gerald Butt’s climate change policies working for Kathleen Wynne in Ontario?

    The Bay Street and 1%’ers owners of the alternative energy electricity projects get windfall profits for a generation for delivering ghastly overpriced intermittent electricity.

    While ordinary Ontarians are left with sky high electricity rates PLUS the entire bill for upgrading the electricty grid to be able to use the intermittent electricity for which the Liberals 1%’ers friends get windfall profits.

    Plus, no new manufacturing will dare set up in Ontario because of the uncompetitive electricity rates unless massively subsidized by the Ontario and Canadian taxpayer.

    • And I forgot, and while paying for the new grid, Ontarians are seeing the grid they are paying for simultaneously sold off to Bay Street and 1%’ers for pennies on the dollar.

      • And this is basically how Justin and Gerry’s privatization bank is going to work. Canadian will pay user fees and tolls and rentier streams to build Canadian infrastructure than will be owned by global 1’ers, risk free for those global investors, because any losses are covered by, you guessed it, the Canadian taxpayer.

  3. But we can DO something have Zoolander give those Dictators Billions like he did before to fight climate Change or we all Doomed !!

  4. We all understand that the early developing countries, such as the USA,
    polluted the earth igniting this climate change debate. We shouldn’t penalize
    these late developing countries that are trying to improve their middle class.
    Americans could probably do without NASCAR, drag racing, monster truck shows,
    Indycar racing, motorcross, hydroplane racing, airshows, Hummers…

    • What has to be realized is that what Canada does or does not do carbon-wise is of moral significance but is irrelevant in the face of massive polluters in China and once again the US. While all carbon is bad, economic programs such as a carbon tax on our output is simply putting us at a serious economic disadvantage to US competitors and biggest market, despite what big capital says.

      I also wonder if the Trumping of climate change might give Christy Clark a little wiggle room of unknowns before she must give the oars to the combined NDP/Greens waiting impatiently in the wings with their ideological nonsense and economic unreality.

  5. Remember today. Today marks that moment when America truly embraced the fight against climate change. Washington, that bought-and-paid-for, dysfunctional sinkhole, has recused itself and left the field. But by the grace of the gods of unintended consequences, those hundreds of millions that Big Fossil paid to produce this decision have done nothing more than energize and unite all of those in the USA who were boots-on-ground the whole time. No more waiting around. No more deference to the “senior” level of government where leadership wasn’t ever going to appear. A far worse day would be one where Trump’s minions switched their brown shirts for green ones and PRETENDED to back the accord. Oh what paralyzing mischief could emerge from that. No, with a newfound clarity, California and it’s already-allied States representing over 40% of the US economy, municipalities, universities, and entrepreneurs and more States to come can move, move quickly and leave the obstructionists behind. I predict that things are going to move very, very fast. Pent-up frustration with Washington’s brain-dead behaviour has, in an instant, morphed into an exhilarating realization that for now, Washington simply doesn’t matter. I hear today that Michael Bloomberg has entered the fray. Who better, a Republican billionaire, to personify the breadth of American capabilities. Let’s just call them “Make The Planet Great Again”. WHAT’S THAT SPELL? MPGA! WHAT’S THAT SPELL?…… OK, now its the Green Wall, we can spell that too.

    • You Gotta be kidding? It’s not a question of politics but money, economics. Big biz will invest only if they have to, not because a lot of green wave signs. Unfortunately Trump voters (Republicans) are not from that crowd.

      • “Big Biz” invests to make a profit for their shareholders and create jobs in the process.

        • Gee, Jerome, my several economics courses said that profit comes from lower priced inputs, production efficiency and successful market competition. The green energy proposals, other than hydro are high cost, unreliable time-wise and inefficient because all are time-related (wind, sun, tides) and need backup or cheap storage. Yes, Big biz makes capital investments planning over a forty year period and that’s why some major producers who are facing capital renewal might warp their plans to green if they are can be convinced the risks are real but in the short run will opt for the cheaper energy sources which will continue to be coal and oil. And politics is a short-run affair.

          • I think the Green Energy investments are useless. I wasn’t refuting that but rather that Big Biz is motivated to invest when there is an opportunity to grow there business or improve the cost structure or make a new product or…… I don’t view that as when “they have to” but rather when they want to.

        • Gee, Jerome, my several economics courses said that profit comes from lower priced inputs, production efficiency and successful market competition. The green energy proposals, other than hydro are high cost, unreliable time-wise and inefficient because all are time-related (wind, sun, tides) and need backup or cheap storage. Yes, Big biz makes capital investments planning over a forty year period and that’s why some major producers who are facing capital renewal might warp their plans to green if they are can be convinced the risks are real but in the short run will opt for the cheaper energy sources which will continue to be coal and oil. And politics is a short-run affair.

    • You Gotta be kidding? It’s not a question of politics but money, economics. Big biz will invest only if they have to, not because a lot of green wave signs. Unfortunately Trump voters (Republicans) are not from that crowd.

  6. While the man made climate warming lemmings were meeting in Paris at the conference, there were also 1000 scientists, who do not support man made climate warming, who were also meeting there. But, of course, that got next to no media coverage. These 1000 are part of a group of 37,000+ scientists who believe climate change has everything to do with the changing tilt of the earth and solar activity and little to nothing to do with anything man does. This explains why glacial cover is shrinking in the Arctic but growing in Antarctica. Every one of the sun’s planets has experienced warming and I don’t believe there are many SUV’s running around on Jupiter. It also might explain why we’ve had 5 ice ages come and go before man discovered fire.
    The very positive thing with Trump’s move is that it should give the opportunity, hopefully, for these 37,000 scientists to get more air time.
    However, lets suppose you believe the man made climate warming scam. Today, NASA reported that if the US does nothing to reduce CO2 emissions, they will contribute 0.2 degrees C to increased global temperature by the end of the century!! Since the goal of the Paris Accord was to try to keep the temperature from rising 2 degrees C., the US over the next 87 years would contribute next to nothing if it did nothing. They have bigger fish to fry (such as reducing the massive debt Obama created) than sending more money to developing counties.

  7. I disagree with Trump on just about everything, but he is doing one thing that is a shining example to our excuse for a leader. Trump is keeping his campaign promises or trying to which is something our gang in Ottawa need to learn.

    • I want to laugh and scream at the same time when I hear about Climate Change. The fear, the guilt, the misinformation that is pushing this agenda full steam ahead and conclusion is it is caused by mankind, that is fraud!

      Following all these misrepresentations and stating ALMOST ALL THE TIME it is humans who are causing this. Ice Age, droughts, monsoons, hurricanes, etc. etc. If we continue to follow their logic I guess there were no icebergs what formed mountains, no NATURAL ACTIVITY that wiped out forests, (Sahara Desert now but was caused by ice sheets) and oh, what about volcanic eruptions that emit? Is there someone out there hitting a switch to cause all of this? No! Mother Nature will do what she has done for billions of years!

      Guilt, fear and misinformation to the uninformed to push the Liberal Agenda.

      Who gets rich on this, certainly not the taxpayers who will pay for yet again another Liberal Agenda Boondoggle.

  8. And soon enough Alberta’s costly and dangerous flirtation with socialism will be at an end!

  9. I didn’t think Paris went far enough. Easy for Trump to pull out and ban economic migrants/refugees. France, Germany and Italy are experiencing a surge.

    Read up on what’s going on with the coffee bean. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realise that even a 1 degree increase in temp would allow a virus to thrive.

    What I found laughable was one quote about the ‘free market’ looking after climate change. Free market looked after the citizens of Flint didn’t it?

    • http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/refreeze-ice-cap-bob-mcdonald-1.4102135

      Perhaps it is time to embark on other strategies to keep the climate from changing drastically because the US is the 2nd biggest emitter behind China and they aren’t going to do their part. Even Canada isn’t going to hit the Paris targets and those aren’t good enough. People are not going to give up jet travel for leisure; large houses or large vehicles. There are also other strategies…cross pollination…breeding coffee beans that are more resistant. We do it with other plants. In BC, they are looking at building highrises out of wood. These buildings capture carbon on ongoing basis. Not only can we go greener but we can become more resilient.

      • That’s the way we Have to go. Genetic modification. That’s what makes it so upsetting. The younger gens haven’t tried a real choccie bar. The flavours of food have been evolving and not for the better.

        Evolution used to take centuries. We have to think in terms of generations. Sad.

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