04 June 2017

Why Did Trump Withdraw From the Paris Agreement?

Despite the universal outcry, Trump pulling out of the Paris Agreement is a non-event from a climate change perspective.

But I believe that it is likely to become a Rubicon of sorts for Trump and the GOP.

Let me explain why this was a stupid decision.

And why it won't change much for the planet.

Why Withdraw?

Pulling out was a stupid decision because, first, Paris Agreement is a non-binding arrangement. If you don't stay within your limits, there is nothing anyone can do. You want to pollute more because you like Loretta Lynn, go ahead and do it.

You don't need to withdraw from the Agreement.

Second, by withdrawing you unnecessarily alienate big business.
Spoiler alert, the coal industry is pretty happy. But apart from that, there has been almost universal criticism from big business. 
Tesla chief executive Elon Musk and Walt Disney boss Robert Iger have quit their advisory positions in the White House as a result.
We are not just talking about the tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook or Tesla. Take energy companies:
US giants ExxonMobil and Chevron had urged President Trump to stay in the Paris deal. And a tweet from Anglo-Dutch giant Shell said: "Our support for the #ParisAgreement is well known. We will continue to do our part providing more & cleaner energy."
Well, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson is the US Secretary of State.

And you know what:
The secretary of state was, by all accounts, a member of the "Remain Campaign" lobbying against a US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement. 
So President Trump's "Climate Brexit" was a blow to him - in an ironic twist the fossil fuel company he used to head supports the accord while the government he now represents does not.
Third, it simultaneously diminishes America's stature and turns China into the global leader of the fight against global warming.

This is especially stupid for someone who has been trying to re-assert the super power status of the US vis-a-vis China.

Finally, there is no real public support for the move.

According to a November 2016 poll 7 out of 10 Americans want to stay in the Agreement.

And Sierra Club says that, in every state, the majority of the population is in favor of the Agreement.

That's the map on the right.

Even when you look at party lines the emerging picture is not very good for Trump.
An overwhelming majority of Democrats, 86 per cent, are fans of the deal, while only about 51 per cent of Republicans say the US should take part in the accord, the programme reported. 
So, even the Republicans disagree with the decision.

Will It Change Anything?

Not really.

First of all, the Agreement is structured in such a way that it will take exactly four years to get out of it.

Which means it will take place during the mandate of the next president and I am pretty sure this will not be the Orange Man.

Secondly, large US cities and regions already declared that they will continue to abide by the Paris Agreement. Who cares what Idaho does if California, the world's sixth largest economy, stays within the limits of the Agreement.

Thirdly, Trump's withdrawal will not mean a sudden shift to more coal consumption.

Coal consumption has steadily been declining in recent years because natural gas is cheaper.
Coal as a means of making electricity is declining around the world. In the US, natural gas has overtaken it as a power station fuel, partly due to fracking bringing the prices down .
And renewable energy sources like solar and wind power are tumbling in price, meaning coal is not likely to become a major player again. 
It hasn't been a major source of heat for people's homes for years, either, having been largely overtaken by gas.
Finally, the rest of the world seemed determined to do more with or without the US.
China peaked its coal use in 2013. Since then, they have become the world’s biggest solar market and have been poised to adopt America’s climate leadership role in the event of them pulling out of Paris.
Similarly, India has recently announced it won’t build any new coal plants after 2022 and forecasts that renewables will generate 57% of their power by 2027, far exceeding their Paris pledge.
India's PM Narendra Modi and French President Macron just pledged to go above and beyond the Paris deal.

Germany and EU strongly criticized the withdrawal and declared that they will bypass Washington and work with US companies, cities and regions directly.

And of course, the increasingly cheeky President Macron did this:

Trolling Trump with a clever slogan was also a prefect way of establishing France as a relevant country and emphasizing his status as a young politician who speaks the social media language of the millennials.

Apparently, this was the most retweeted message in France's history.

Incidentally, even Trump's buddy, Vladimir Putin, came out in favor of the Agreement.

What Are the Risks for Trump?

Short term risks are obvious.

Another Katrina or Sandy and you can kiss your presidency goodbye, not to mention any Kanye West endorsements.

Medium term, and by that, I mean next three to eight years, he has an Alaska issue which will soon blossom into a big problem with a finger pointed to him.
Scientists like Prof Walsh say the effects of a warming climate are being felt particularly keenly here in the Arctic - with sea ice and glaciers melting, permafrost thawing and coastal communities at threat from erosion. 
Not only that but the process appears to be accelerating thanks to a so-called feedback loop - the more ice melts, the darker the surface of the planet becomes, with both land and sea reflecting less sunlight and absorbing more heat, and the warmer the world becomes.
Longer term?

This the global map. Take a look at it.

If, as they suggest, the sea level rise is around 7m, a lot of The Donald's New York properties and the Southern White House will be under water.

And scuba golfing will be an Olympic event.

The Donald might be gone by then, but the Barron will be there cursing daddy.

And now the obvious question.

Why Did He Do It?

Ever since Donald Trump was elected, the corporate media has been running stories about how he broke his campaign promises and how he changed his positions.

They periodically run clips interviewing Trump supporters who seem to assert that, despite all the lies and inconsistencies and massive instances conflict of interest, their candidate is doing a fabulous job.

And they seem puzzled by this apparent contradiction. The guy is an unprincipled liar, a buffoon, a bully, and yet every time they expose him, his voters love him even more.

As Atrios explained there is nothing contradictory about this:
For confused reporters, I'll explain it very simply: Trump voters don't care about most of the issues Trump claimed to care about in the campaign. They were just applause lines. If Fox and Breitbart had spent 3 months going on about the "Zipperhead Protocol" they'd have screamed in delight every time Trump mentioned it, without caring what it meant. [...]
Trump supporters have legitimate economic grievances like the rest of us, but they don't really see politics as a way to solve that. They see politics as a reality show in which their guy is winning and stomping on the face of the losing team, a team which includes blah people. Keep the racism going, keep pissing off the loser liberals, keep sticking it to the blah people. That's what will keep them happy. It was never about the ex-im bank or Chinese currency manipulation or whatever the hell, it was about kicking the shit out of loser liberals.
You can add global warming to that list.

It is tribal politics. If your leader does something that is considered outrageous by the people you dislike, you are giddy regardless of the effects of his actions on you and your loved ones.

The push to repeal Obamacare perfectly illustrates this irrational phenomenon: Trump voters will be hit harder than most but they don't care. As long as blacks and other minorities lose their covfefe Trumpistas are happy.

In that sense, pulling out of Paris was Trump's gift to his supporters and they love him for it.
In interviews with Trump supporters and Republicans across the country, the Paris climate agreement news looked far different than it did in Washington, a fact that Bannon reminded the president of, according to a senior White House aide. 
Jenny Beth Martin, the head of the Tea Party Patriots, enthusiastically supported the move. She said her group viewed leaving the Paris agreement as a “part of a larger ‘make America Great Again’ platform that necessitates putting America first.”
Why This One Might Be a Problem?

The problem with this one, it carries the risk of gelling the opposition.

The GOP had a good run because progressives do not have a unified front. They fight each other over nuances and they are unable to let go of minor differences.

The case in point was Bernie voters not being able to bring themselves to voting for Clinton.

But the Orange Man was a horrific wake up call.

They didn't think this was possible: a grifter in charge of the public purse; a racist and sexist as the ultimate arbiter of equality, a climate change denier making environmental rules.

Pulling out of the Paris Agreement might just be the turning point for the progressives.

They might finally say, forget our differences, instead of fighting Elizabeth Warren, we will first fight this guy.

And if that were to happen, it could become a yuge problem for the GOP.

One that no gerrymandering would be able to fix.

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