It may be that whatever response we were making to the challenge of climate change was insufficient.  But at least most governments were trying, most citizens cared, most corporations had policy responses – and even lip service indicated a recognition of the issue.  Paris allowed for progress.
But this is different.  Not only is the withdrawal from Paris by the Trump Administration a setback, it goes further: it’s a sign that, in denial, America will consciously allow climate change to worsen. Indeed, it will deliberately do so.  Coal will be burnt as a statement, atmospheric carbon will be increased as a gesture of contempt, and true believers in Trump must double down on rejecting reality.
This then raises an existential question.  If Trump and those who follow him are now, without apology and without pretense, prepared to accelerate climate change, what is the allowable moral response?
If, as change in the environment becomes ever more apparent, ever more chaotic, ever more disastrous, and the prospect of civilizational suicide ever more likely, what is not just allowable but demanded of citizens of the world?
 

Comments

  1. It’s a bad and unenforceable “agreement” that unduly penalizes middle class workers in developed countries.
    The only winners are the Globalist Capitalists that can move environmental damage and their want to erode workers rights wherever they please.
    Sorry but Mr Trump is right on this one. Without a worldwide and enforceable treaty there isn’t a point, and it will merely become a tool that some will profit from and others lose.

    1. Indeed. The world’s biggest polluters, chief among them China and India, get away free and are allowed decades of building more and more coal plants, penalizing already very clean countries with the highest safety and environmental standards.
      Essentially, he correctly argues, this Paris accord is not primarily about the climate but about gaining an unfair competitive economic advantage, at the expense of the energy rich and wealthy US (who unlike Europe, like Canada, is very rich in mineral resources incl. coal, oil and gas).
      It is not a good deal for the US (nor Canada for that matter). A better deal must be found without giving polluting an unfair economic advantage for decades !!

  2. Well, when nation states go “rogue” – when they are ruled by authoritarian regimes, abuse human rights and willfully endanger the rest of the world – the response is usually sanctions, shunning or direct military intervention. I can certainly see some success with the first two responses. The third, unfortunately, would be deadly.

  3. It’s a bit of a moot point really. Any change in the U.S. will have to originate in the U.S. – the rest of the world can’t even force Cuba to change it’s ways, let alone the U.S. which spends more on its military than the next however many nations combined and has a permanent seat on the security council at the U.N.
    Any attempt to try to force their hand (e.g. sanctions), is likely to just make the Americans dig in further. We’ll just have to wait and see.
    We’ll have our own battles here in Canada anyway. The new Conservative leader Andrew Scheer seems to have similar views to Trump (albeit, not as plainly stated), as does most of the party behind him. Given our first past the post electoral system, it would only take a little more than a third of the voters to put him in charge of our climate policy.

  4. Trump will not be around forever. Theoretically, with an absolute GOP majority he can do his worst damage in his first two years, and he is into is second quarter already. Mid-term elections are coming up, and the Democrats could gain control of the Senate with just three more seats. If Trump POs enough people by 2018, he may be handcuffed just like Obama was by the opposition in control of both the Congress and Senate. If not, then there is the presidential election in 2020 … if the USA still exists as a democracy.
    Even some Republicans on capitol hill have noticed that wind and solar alone employed 880,000 Americans (some of whom presumably vote) in their states in 2016, and is close to producing 15% of the total electrical outlet of the US. Trump eked a win based on creating jobs, not killing them, and he will lose support in key GOP states if he tries.
    There is also the influence of 9.8 million people working in renewables worldwide, with huge production and product cost advantages in China and India.
    http://www.irena.org/DocumentDownloads/Publications/IRENA_RE_Jobs_Annual_Review_2017.pdf
    While Trump’s policies intend to diminish renewables and increase coal and other fossil fuels, economics will rule the day. Wind has outcompeted coal for electrical generation for a few years now. Solar PV has the great advantage of rooftop decentralization. The US could go into full Pause mode by banning all renewables, but the world will still spin at the edges with ever cheaper and more efficient products until the time is right to pick up where it left off, then flood the market.
    Having said that, it’s sobering to know that 1.5 degrees was exceeded by the crap already in the atmosphere even before Paris COP21 and well before that beacon of immorality walked his ageing Dennis the Menace profile onto the big stage. The key now is to turn to adaptation while still trying to lower emissions.

  5. Moot it is.
    The cold war was far more dangerous than any imagined fears of what the weather might bring. Especially for a cold country.
    If coal is your worry. Relax. The World Atlas reports: China produced nearly 3.7 billion tons of coal in 2013 representing 47% of global total coal yield. Coal is proving critical in the world’s energy growth. The need for coal is ever increasing, and ever larger percentages of electricity produced in the world is becoming reliant on power plants that use the resource.
    Technology will eventually reduce the need for coal. Stewart Brand is right; nuclear is the answer.

    1. Trump’s move was all about US coal. industry watchers do not expect anything to come of it because it was, is and will continue to be outcompeted by natural gas and renewables. Of these two, renewables are well on the way to domination over all fossil fuel in the long run on price points alone, not because of climate policy or taxes.
      Econ 101.

    2. Chinese coal consumption peaked 2013 and is now in decline, as is their GHG emissions. Concurrent with this, China also expanded the world’s largest solar PV panel plant and conducted serious R&D into improving their performance. This is one industry where China has become a leading high-tech nation.
      Maybe we should call you Johnny B. Badde for failing to locate the correct information over a morning coffee.

        1. If only it were true.
          Due to probably inaccuracies, some now say that India has a larger population now than has China.
          “Like China before it, India’s economic growth will be fueled by coal. Thus, in 2012, 45% of total primary energy demand and 72% of generated electricity demand was met by coal. India currently has approximately 205 GW of coal-fired electricity generation capacity, which will soon be augmented by 113 GW of new coal-fired capacity currently under construction.
          GOVERNMENT POLICIES TO MEET GROWING ENERGY NEEDS
          The Indian government’s policies to meet the growing need for electricity are focused, principally, on developing large-scale coal-fired power plants. Indeed, in March 2015, Arunabha Ghosh, head of the Council on Energy, Environment and Water think tank in New Delhi, told the UK’s Financial Times that “whichever way you cut it, coal is going to be front and centre of India’s future energy mix…”.6
          Over the next 25 years, electricity demand in India is forecast to grow at over 4% per annum. Under its New Policies Scenario, which modeled energy demand and supplies if all new and proposed policies were fully enacted, the IEA estimates that installed coal capacity will reach almost 500 GW by 2040 (more than three times the 2012 installed capacity)”
          Cornerstone.

        2. You need to update your sources Eric. From three days ago:
          In December 2016, the Central Electricity Authority (CEA) laid out an electricity plan that said no new coal plants, beyond those already under construction, are needed for at least the next decade. The CEA also put forth new renewable energy goals—a production of 275 gigawatts (GW) generated from solar, wind, and hydro by 2027.
          http://www.hellenicshippingnews.com/from-coal-to-solar-indias-energy-landscape-is-almost-too-hard-to-keep-up-with/
          May 30, 2017: Coal in Decline: Case Study, India
          http://ieefa.org/coal-decline-case-study-india/
          Renewables are now forming a huge tsunami that will submerge fossil fuels, probably in less than a decade. This makes Trump’s look like a total buffoon instead of half of one.
          That was from less than five minutes spent with my friend Google.

        3. Eric, If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…
          If you’re name is not Eric it is because the person who posted as Eric never was Eric, which many have long suspected.

  6. Here is Trump’s full speech on the withdrawal from the very lopsided Paris climate accord.
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2017/jun/01/trump-speech-paris-climate-agreement-video
    Essentially, he correctly argues, this Paris accord is not primarily about the climate but about gaining an unfair competitive economic advantage, at the expense of the energy rich and wealthy US (who unlike Europe, like Canada, is very rich in mineral resources incl. coal, oil and gas)
    Even if all measure were implemented at great cost and massive taxation and wealth reduction to billions of people the temperature by 2100 would only be impacted by 0.2 degrees.
    I personally have no problem with CO2 taxes but only if other taxes, say on incomes or consumption, are lowered in parallel as our governments already take a far too large share of citizens wealth & production.
    I am glad that someone actually points out the blatant wealth transfer from developed nations to polluting nations such as China & India as they continue to pollute and build new coal plants for decades while the reduction and economic burdens are disproportionately shifted to developed nations who already have the cleanest air, the most stringent environmental laws and the best river & ocean protection laws.
    I love the environment and clean air like most people but I do not buy into the tax hype nor the urgency nor the socialist wealth redistribution agenda behind it !!
    Trump is right to demand a far better, more balanced, less lopsided deal. So should Canada as a major oil & gas exporting nation, now forced to pay hundred of millions annually into the “Green Climate Fund” to be sent to corrupt, undemocratic and polluting nations so they can squander it.
    We can, we must do better !
    Yes to cleaner air with less pollution, but no to even bigger governments and even more wealth transfer out of Canada into UN administered funds while our schools are crumbling, homeless are unhoused and medical wait lines get ever longer here !

    1. As usual Thomas omits almost as much as he espouses, and researches little.
      The “blatant transfer of wealth from developed countries to polluting countries like China and India” completely ignores 350 years of colonialism, resource exploitation, near-complete environmental degradation and even slavery perpetrated by many of today’s advanced democracies. China and India are no exceptions when you take even a Coles Notes look at the history of the British Empire.
      I can’t believe that it’s possible for someone to be that myopic.

      1. China was colonized by British, French or Americans ? Their dirty coal plants today are the British fault ?
        India without British systems, railways, education systems or democracy built 100-200+ years ago would even be further behind than today.
        The major environmental degradation & air pollution (from cars or coal plants) does NOT happen today in NA or Europe but in S-America, Africa and Asia. That is the US or British fault ??
        The accord is rigged. Trump rightly points it out.
        EU, China and India loves it as it penalizes very wealthy & energy (hydro, nuclear, oil, gas and coal) rich parts of the world, such as USA or Canada. It is mainly about wealth and $ transfer and less about the climate.
        Like a rigged soccer or hockey match: different rules for different players ?

        1. Why not talk to the History Dept. at UBC?
          Colonial powers did not develop the colonies out of altruism. They built ports and railways to strip resources and ship them home backed by military rule, and in doing so exploited the people in the most egregious cases. India accepted the good (parliamentary democracy, railways …) and rejected the bad by fighting for independence against the military and economic forces that imposed their culture and religion on them. The British bombed Chinese cities and royal palaces and gardens, fostered expansion of the opium trade, and stripped many forests, but they left a legacy of democracy in Hong Kong and railroads.
          The historical record is peppered with both the good, but way too much bad that stemmed from ulterior motives.
          Then you’ve got Africa where the documentation of tragedies perpetrated by European nations and the US for hundreds of years right up to the civil rights movement would require a book-length essay.
          The “wealth transfer” you refer to began with mass exploitation of poorer countries, and the transfer was from poor to wealthy for centuries. It is not an illustrious history when you purposely separate the human condition from economic precepts.

        2. If Africa hadn’t had any European contact, do you honestly expect they life there would be different today ie more prosperous ?
          Look at Haita, as one of many examples. If it were a US colony or US state or annexed by Canada today it would be far far better off than the self-government they try to do. Like Hawaii, say. But no, they chose poverty to go it themselves and now seek $s from the “colonialists” under the pretense of “climate”.
          Why was South Africa and Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) successful states ? Because they had European style government. Look at them today as they descend into anarchy and chaos under self-governance.

        3. Once again, you are expressing opinions without historical context.
          Haiti’s current terrible conditions are deeply rooted in centuries of near-absolute exploitation of humans and natural resources by outside forces, including the US. At one point Haiti contained 1/3rd of the population of slaves in the world thanks to France, and slavery was used extensively to deforest the entire country and build cane sugar plantations for foreign owners. There was no democracy, and the first attempts at it failed due to the ancient lines of corruption, nepotism and abuse of military power. the Duvaliers stripped the entire country’s financing for themselves, and therein of the ability to build basic infrastructure. On top of it all, Haiti finds itself in the midst of natural disasters, from hurricanes to major earthquakes that shattered what little infrastructure they had left, and then were left without the ability to recover or rebuild because of its advanced state of deterioration.
          Then they are criticised on top of all that by neocons and libertarians for having to accept handouts from the UN, the Red Cross and other NGOs for basic survival, and for not having a working government. If Haitians would just pull up their bootstraps, eh? You are way off base, Thomas.
          This is a profound tragedy, considering not just the decades of rebuilding that lay ahead, but for Haiti’s huge potential to rehabilitate its agrarian land for both subsistence crops and profitable food exports, to eventually develop industry, and to obtain abundant, clean energy from solar power independent of multinationals.
          Giving to the Red Cross may be the best way to help countries like Haiti at present.

        4. Some “nations” are incapable of self-governing due to corruption, lack of education, belief system and/or attitude. That is why some countries like Greece, or Haiti, or certain African nations (with various different tribes within them) or certain Caribbean Islands are poor while others flourish. Ditto here in Canada. Just because you call yourself a “nation” doesn’t mean you can operate like one successfully, and thus demand perpetual handout from others.
          You are of the mistaken belief that all “nations” have the same capabilities. Upbringing maters. Belief system matters A LOT. Attitude matters. That is why some nations are far more succesful than others.

  7. A bit of a recap.
    — Coal is declining in the three largest economies in the world.
    — Coal is being replaced by renewables and, temporarily, natural gas for generating electricity.
    — The prices on solar and wind power have plummeted steeply in just a few years and are outcompeting all other forms of energy.
    — Bringing renewables on stream with major policy shifts is now de rigueur in China, India and, until yesterday, the US.
    — Over a million people are employed in renewable energy in the US (880,000 in wind and solar alone). Almost 10 million are employed in renewables worldwide.
    — No government would willingly put these people out of work except through incompetence or malfeasance.
    It is obvious that Trump’s announcement to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement will not have the desired effect.

    1. Exactly. We do not need government to tell us which forms of energy production is useful. As such wind and power will ascend to a higher and higher % of the energy mix. Ditto with electric car. Stop the government meddling such as excessive taxation to feed an ever bigger civil servants apparatus and all will be fine and the energy forms will auto-adjust.

      1. Would that you applied the same conditions and criticism on the subsidies paid (or breaks given) to the fossil fuel industry, including the egregious remuneration levels of the upper echelon management.

        1. There are no subsidies to oil and gas, besides normal or accelerated equipment writeoff allowed to most manufacturing firms, incl high tech firms. Even the NDP when they finished their allegedly rigged royalty regime in Alberta realized it is properly set.
          Some myth busting here http://business.financialpost.com/fp-comment/imfs-imagined-34-billion-silly-stats-are-behind-claims-that-canada-subsidizes-oil-industry
          and here http://business.financialpost.com/fp-comment/terence-corcoran-the-cbcs-fossil-fuel-subsidies-folly
          Upper echelons of private enterprises set their own salaries, with review committees and transparency. As an investor you are free to vote the management out. Much of the high salaries are stock options, that might be worthless if the stock doesn’t perform.

        2. Thomas, I began reading your links. I have to ask how you can make it through such opinion pieces without falling through all the holes. You must be an acrobat.

        3. @Ron: the WorldBank report is full of erroneous assumptions what a “subsidy” is. Jack Mintz is a respected professor.
          Everyone to their worldview. Meanwhile the new NDP+Green alliance is off to a rocky start due to the speaker issue and in any case will hurt BCers and Canadians alike with their anti-oil, anti-pipeline, anti-Canadian attitude http://news.nationalpost.com/full-comment/kelly-mcparland-ndp-green-coalitions-insularity-echoes-parti-quebecois-narrow-and-parochial-mindset
          US will rock economically while Canada will shrivel, like the EU, with their high tax agenda benefiting few.

        4. “US will rock economically while Canada will shrivel, like the EU, with their high tax agenda benefiting few.”
          How do you write this stuff and keep a straight face? It’s the low tax agenda that benefits the few – the few who least need it.

          When taxpayers have to pay for the health problems of those harmed by air, water and soil pollution, that is a subsidy to those who dump pollution free of charge.
          When taxpayers have to pay to clean up the mess left behind by fossil fuel industries, that is a subsidy to industries that do not properly finance the restoration of their deforestation, open mines, abandoned wells, dams, tailings and spills. (Currently it is estimated that industries have set aside about 5% of what it will take to restore the tar sands to something that doesn’t even come close to its former natural state.)
          When future generations have to pay the price for the greed of a few today, that is not only a subsidy but is the most cowardly of subsidies. It’s pretty pathetic when a powerful organization or country crushes a weaker one, but at least they have a theoretical chance to defend themselves.
          If the cost falls on the taxpayer for the benefit of industry it is a subsidy.
          Furthermore, fuel taxes to fund roads are paid by the consumer to help pay for the roads they use, just as the farebox does on transit. It is erroneous accounting to imply it is a tax toward government revenue that can offset subsidies, in the same way transit fares are not considered a tax. Yet your “respected professor” has to resort to such arguments.

        5. Restoring the oil sands to what, Ron? The original state is not necessarily wanted. What is being done is far better than the original.
          “The oil sands have drawn interest for more than 200 years. Historical documents date back as far as 1715, when James Knight, Factor of Fort York, wrote in his journal about “gum or pitch that flows out of the banks of a river” (the Athabasca). His is the first report by a European regarding the oil sands deposits in western Canada.
          At that time, bitumen’s primary use had nothing to do with energy. First Nations residing in the area combined it with spruce gum to waterproof their canoes. In 1788, Sir Alexander MacKenzie wrote of his encounter with “bituminous fountains; into which a pole of twenty feet long may be inserted without the least resistance. The bitumen is in a fluid state, and when mixed with gum or the resinous substance collected from the Spruce Fir, serves to gum the canoes.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *