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Trump’s executive order puts the world on the road to climate catastrophe

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ThinkProgress

President Donald Trump holds up signed Executive Order to undo U.S. climate action, March 28, 2017 at EPA’s DC headquarters. CREDIT: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

President Donald Trump holds up signed Executive Order to undo U.S. climate action, March 28, 2017 at EPA’s DC headquarters. CREDIT: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued a sweeping executive order that effectively guts national efforts to address climate change. If he isn’t stopped, the endpoint of this approach is the ruination of our livable climate and the needless suffering of billions of people for decades to come.

The order starts the process of undoing President Obama’s Clean Power Plan standards for power plants. It also spurs fossil fuel consumption and blocks federal efforts to even prepare for the multiple, simultaneous catastrophes that unrestricted carbon pollution the world faces — severe drought, ocean acidification, ever-worsening heat waves, rising seas that threaten to destroy coastal cites.

This is not politics as usual. The irreversible consequences of Trump’s actions would rank as one of the most tragic blunders of all time.

“History does not forgive us our national mistakes because they are explicable in terms of our domestic politics,” the great diplomat and ambassador to the Soviet Union George Kennan wrote in his 1951 book on American diplomacy. “A nation which excuses its own failures by the sacred untouchableness of its own habits can excuse itself into complete disaster.”

Incidentally, Trump’s economic rationale for his policies is entirely bogus. This order, along with his budget, would undermine America’s ability to compete economically for perhaps the biggest high-wage job-creating sector of the foreseeable future: clean energy.

But far more importantly, this order makes America a rogue nation in the global fight to save the climate, comparable to Vladimir Putin’s Russia. And it renders moot the question of whether Trump formally stays in the Paris climate deal, which 200 nations unanimously agreed to in December 2015 — a last-ditch effort to preserve the stable climate that made large-scale agriculture and modern civilization possible.

Here’s why.

In Paris, the world’s nations made pledges to cut their projected carbon pollution over the next 10 to 15 years. Significantly, those initial pledges—including America’s—would not have stopped catastrophic warming of well over 3°C (5.4°F).

Indeed, every nation agreed with the goal of keeping global warming “well below 2°C” (3.6°F) and ideally to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, since the science has become increasingly clear that there are very serious and irreversible climate impacts as warming reaches 2°C.

That’s why each nation committed to ongoing negotiations in which they would keep ratcheting down their carbon pollution targets every few years. The goal of beating 2°C can’t happen unless total world greenhouse gas emissions hit zero sometime in the second half of the century.

There’s really very little room for error at this point. After a quarter-century of ignoring the warnings of climate scientists, the fate of our children — and the next 50 generations — is on a knife’s edge.

We are headed toward a world of mega-droughts and failed states, like Syria and Yemen. Imagine the world’s current refugee problem multiplied by a hundred, as people flee the inundated coasts and interior Dust Bowls. It’s a world of endless civil unrest that encompasses hundreds of millions of people south of the U.S. border.

The normal climate of North America in 2095 under business as usual warming (i.e. no Paris agreement) according to a2015 NASA study. The darkest areas have soil moisture comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl.

The normal climate of North America in 2095 under business as usual warming (i.e. no Paris agreement) according to a2015 NASA study. The darkest areas have soil moisture comparable to the 1930s Dust Bowl.

Certainly Trump’s actions in just two months in office — particularly Tuesday’s executive order and another aimed at weakening Obama’s tough fuel-economy standards — means we are quite unlikely to meet even our very modest 2025 Paris targets. But far more significant is that Trump’s policies to boost U.S. carbon pollution are fatal to the ongoing negotiations to keep ratcheting down emissions.

America is not just the second-biggest annual carbon polluter, but we are the biggest cumulative source of CO2 over the past century and the richest country in the world. Our actions to cut emissions are critical to the effort to take the world down to zero emissions — and our leadership matters.

Though Trump had campaigned on formally withdrawing from the Paris agreement, some on his team have reportedly argued against that move. But even if his Machiavellian advisers decide the optics of withdrawing are too terrible, the end result is the same: The world is not going to keep total warming below catastrophic levels, which was going to be a challenge even with a more rational U.S. climate policy.

It also bears pointing out that Russia, the world’s fifth-largest carbon polluter (fourth if you don’t count the European Union together) made the weakest possible CO2 pledge — and has thus far refused to ratify Paris and says it probably won’t for years.

While China has certainly stepped up to become a global leader on climate action, there are plenty of countries that would love to have U.S. recalcitrance on climate action to hide behind. As the Washington Post explained, “the Trump executive order could encourage other countries to backslide on their commitments — such as Brazil, another major global emitter, mainly because of deforestation.”

Those who want to preserve a liveable climate must fight Trump’s moves as if humanity’s very future depended on it — because it does.

Source: ThinkProgress. Reproduced with permission.

  

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  • Rob

    The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

    • solarguy

      Oh yes they have.

  • suthnsun

    The script is already written for many deep levels of catastrophe, suffering and species’ extinction. What is at play right now is the future H extinction.

  • trackdaze

    A temporary victory for arsenic, mercury and lead.

    • solarguy

      Let’s hope it is temporary.

      • trackdaze

        The only question is will its signatory be more or less temporary?

  • Ken Dyer

    There is absolutely no sanity in Trumps Executive Order. The coal industry in the USA employs 70,000 people and this is dropping. The renewable energy industry employs more than 200,000 people and this is growing.

    Trump hates Obama with a vengeance, because Obama showed him up for the person he really is. What this fool has done in a fit of pique because he could not kill Obamacare, is to try and unwind another of Obama’s legacies. There is nothing political about it.

    Time will show that the renewable energy forces in the USA are formidable and growing, and will overrun this ludicrous order in a very short period of time, making Trump look more ludicrous and stupid than he already is.

    • solarguy

      Hopefully Ken your right, if not and this mad man continues. the worlds best hope is for someone to get the cross hairs on the target.

    • Geoff

      I completely agree with you. The guy is a nutter and is making these absurd decisions based on hate for Obama. Typical white boy hating African Americans. Won’t be long now till he brings back slavery.

      • Thom Kinoshta

        obama is not African-American. obama is a 1/2 white Kenyan American

        • Ken Dyer

          So that makes him a half black American Kenyan, and an Americam-African.

    • Thom Kinoshta

      using your figures, it shows coal is a winner and renewables is a loser. 30% of our energy is from coal, 18% is from renewables, 35% of the renewables is hydroelectric power.

      • Ken Dyer

        Thom, According to the magazine Coalwire, “without doubt the Trump plan to undo Obama Administration reforms on climate and energy policy has pleased coal companies and their lobbyists. However, there is no denying the structural challenge to coal power – with Moody’s suggesting wind power is now so cheap in the US Great Plains states that many coal plants will be retired far earlier than previously thought. US coal use is set to keep going down; the only question now is how fast the decline will be.
        The financial ratings agency Moody’s estimates the cost of wind power in the Great Plains states in the US central west is now so low that it may accelerate the retirement of up to 56,000 MW of old coal plants. Moody’s estimates power purchase agreements for wind projects are about US$20 per Megawatt hour (MWh) after allowing for the US Government’s Production Tax Credit (PTC) while most coal-fired power generation in the region has operating costs over US$30/MWh.”
        Coal will be killed not by renewables, but by cheap natural gas.
        But don’t take my word for it, here is an article from PV Magazine
        https://www.pv-magazine.com/2017/03/28/trump-executive-order-based-on-energy-fantasies/
        You need to catch up. 94 coal fired power plants closed in the USA in 2015 with another 41 to go in 2016. Ask yourself why. They are just not economic, and the trend will continue. In Australia, the best thing to have happened was the closure of Hazelwood power station; it was not economic and was 50 years old 20 years past its use by date.

      • neroden

        Twenty years ago, US electricity was produced over 60% by coal (I can’t be bothered to look the numbers up) and essentially none was from solar or wind.

        Look at the directional trends. Coal is a dying man walking. Solar is booming, doubling every two years.

  • Peter Campbell

    I think I should write a polite but strongly worded letter of complaint about this to the US Embassy. While our government is hardly ideal, Trump’s actions amount to a declaration of war on the rest of us, and, ultimately, future Americans too.

    • John Saint-Smith

      You ought to worry about our government, which has done more to promote pollution, destroy the environment and stymie the transition to clean energy than Trump could ever hope to achieve (even in his fevered imagination).

      • Peter Campbell

        Yes, I have written letters of complaint about our federal government’s undermining of action on climate change too. Also, letters of appreciation for certain specific beneficial decisions made by my local government (ACT).

  • John McKeon

    The USA has elected the most complete narcissist of all time. And look at the bunch of fools and goons around him. Business as usual? Surely not. How long can this madness go on?

    • John Saint-Smith

      Indeed, Trump wouldn’t even have been a footnote in history if it weren’t for the millions who voted for him. Now, we have an excellent chance that he will become the full stop at the end of human civilisation.

    • Thom Kinoshta

      reducing coal is a left wing idea to keep the USA dependent on muslim oil.

      • Ken Dyer

        Prove it, dipstick!

  • raaj

    A great order will reduce oil prices and Putin may lose his job catastophe let high population and high population growth area be tamed .. world has very high population a few million or a billion will not make difference … objections are by pseudo environmentalists

  • dorsett

    Time to take a deep breath…

    Many US states have already exceeded their 2022 targets under the CPP.

    Many states have legislated targets well beyond the CPP 2030 targets.

    Even in states where goals are weak or absent, wind and solar are winning the contracts for new generation on price alone. Wind & solar are not becoming more expensive with the continuing ramp up of installed capacity.

    Most of this executive order will have no more effect than just another semi-random tweet from the twit-in-chief, because the US Supreme Court has ruled that the US Environmental Protection Agency has an obligation to regulate greenhouse gases. If the EPA fails to act, they will be sued, but state environmental & energy regulators are taking it into their own hands.

    Just because Federal lands are again being open to lease for coal mining doesn’t make it economic to do so. Just because the Keystone pipeline has been approved at the Federal level doesn’t mean it’s economic to build it (at current oil pricing), and still has state legal hurdles to clear.

    The state of Wyoming is the largest coal producing state, but it’s all surface mining, and the total employment in the industry is about 5000 people (if you include the office help.) Even if the decline in coal production flattens a bit in the very short term, wind power is poised to swamp the employment numbers in that state. (Wind development has been delayed by the state legislature’s eagerness to figure out how to tax that soon-to-be soaring booming business, but those uncertainties are beginning to clear.)

    It’s still impossible to get financing for new coal fired power generation in the US.

    Bottom line: This set of executive orders are mostly political theater pandering to his (dwindling) base. In the near term it will have little to no effect on the ground, and given the blunder rate of this clown it seems unlikely that he will serve out his term. Nobody in the energy business is counting on his policies to be fostered by subsequent administrations.

    • John Saint-Smith

      All good logical economic answers to why Trump would fail. But Trump still has the potential to repeat the Australian disaster.

      Here in Australia the case for renewables is even more compelling, and we have done far less than the US, because we have been blessed with politicians whose love of fossil fuels goes way beyond a negative reaction to their political opponents.

      As a result, all renewable energy programs have been stalled for several years, leading to a chaotic collapse of the old coal-fired network, because no one wants to invest in it, and a failure to launch of the renewable network because no one is allowed to invest. Rules are made to obstruct development, regulators distort the electricity market, and the Federal government, in conjunction with major news media have engaged in a relentless propaganda campaign to frighten Australian electors and power users about the supposed dangers of renewables and promote the illusion of ‘clean coal technology’, which no one in the coal mining or burning industries actually believes in.

      • Thom Kinoshta

        wind and solar are losers. look at California. 1/3 of the electricity is mandated to be wind and solar by 2020. Companies are just moving out of California. The cost to electricity is rising in Cali. Wind and solar is a money loser and can only compete with government subsidizes.

      • dorsett

        Trump’s power to really affect this is far less than it might seem. A large and increasing fraction of renewable installations in the US are above and beyond state mandates on the raw economics alone. The Federal tax credit subsidies will not be repealed or changed, since they are scheduled to step down over the next handful of years, even though they are no longer needed for wind & solar to be competitive in many states. The sheer magnitude of these industries in Republican-majority states make the tax credit subsidies and other Federal policy support popular among the Republican legislators, but state governments also support these industries, independently of the level of climate change denial blather.

        Policy changes on the ground simply can’t change as rapidly under US style government the way it can under parliamentary government models, and for that reason alone the US won’t follow Oz down the same rabbit hole.

        There is no nationwide grid operator under US Federal control, and both regional grid operators and state regulators have a lot of power over what can and can’t happen on the regional & state grids. At the national level the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) controls interstate commerce in electricity, and can strike down local attempts to subsidize local generators when the output is sold across state lines, and has exercised this power. While the executive branch appoints the commissioners, it is (by statute) not allowed to be dominated by members of a single party. The FERC has also in recent years mandated (and it has been upheld by the US Supreme Court) that demand response programs be allowed to compete directly against generators, which was a significant loss for the fossil burners, and quite different from the Australian model.

        Also, many (but not all ) regional grid operators in the US have had 5 minute clearance on spot market pricing, damping the sort of the monkey-business gas generators in Australia have been enjoying. (You can watch the 5 minute market LMP pricing within the ISO-New England grid region in quasi-real time here: https://iso-ne.com/isoexpress/web/charts )

        The most significant thing that came out of the recent round of Trumpian trashing of carbon policy was to remove carbon pricing considerations from Federal projects. But that doesn’t touch private board rooms, utilities, and at state government projects, even when there is some amount of Federal money going into it.

        In the end, it will only slightly adjust the ramp up of renewables and ramp down the phase out of carbon emitters, and even under the Trump administration the Federal EPA is required to regulate greenhouse gases (per US Supreme Court ruling), even if they won’t go forward with Obama’s CPP. Rather than risk an endless (and losing) legal battle the EPA under Trump is “reviewing” the CPP, not removing it, but they’re not pushing it either. If they fail to come up with greenhouse gas regulations of some sort, the legal options to force the issue are many.

        Utility operators understand that if not now, at some point in the future carbon taxes or other policy actions can destroy the financial model of long term generation investments, but with 20 year power purchase agreements already competitive with gas & coal powerplants, almost all new generation is now (including gas burners even at near record low gas pricing, far cheaper than in Australia, and cheaper than US coal). This will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future, but for the rare exceptions. There will be a few fast-ramping gas peakers built in the next few years, but batteries will take over much of that market, and new peakrs will be rare by 2020. The rush to replace coal & nukes with combined cycle gas was significant over the past decade, but is now fading fast, since it has to compete with cheaper-greener renewables.

        This isn’t much like Australia at all.

      • neroden

        The federal government is now totally worthless in the US. Luckily, our state governments are actually stronger and more powerful than yours in Australia.

  • Shane White

    Title: “Trump’s executive order puts the world on the road to climate catastrophe”

    We were already on it. Paris’ INDCs result in “median 2.9 °C; full scenario projection uncertainty, 2.2–3.5 °C”; Table 1, Fig. 2b, Supplementary Fig. 1 at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v534/n7609/full/nature18307.html

    and also from that article –
    “Typically, policymakers in the UNFCCC have been concerned about limiting warming to below 2 °C with >66% probability. However, from current INDC levels, all available internally consistent scenarios manage to limit warming to below 2 °C with only a lower, 50%–66% probability, increasing the risks of climate change impacts. No scenarios are available that are consistent with both the current INDCs and a 1.5 °C warming limit with 50% probability.”

    4C is considered to end civilisation: https://sites.google.com/site/climategenocide/anderson-kevin

    Hansen and coauthors state SLR as a consequence of 2C would make the planet ungovernable: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JP-cRqCQRc8

    What we consider Normal is broken. The world was ALREADY on a road to climate catastrophe, Trump has simply sped up its progress along this road.

    The canary is dying:
    http://psc.apl.uw.edu/research/projects/arctic-sea-ice-volume-anomaly/ See figures 3 and 5.
    and
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/29/cyclone-debbies-cooling-effect-wont-prevent-great-barrier-reef-bleaching-scientist-says

    Driving today? Perhaps flying? Considered a cruise?

    • Geoff

      maybe trump should watch this video, or do we need to boil it down to 128 characters?

      • Shane White

        It’s not only Trump that needs to watch it Geoff; society does.

    • Thom Kinoshta

      bogus post, besides China uses 4 times the coal than the USA.

  • Radbug

    Vladimir Putin sees gold as the world’s reserve currency, replacing the $US. He seeks to replace a mistress with a master. He also cherishes Iran in the new gold bloc. Gold demands balanced trade. Iran cannot sell oil/gas to Russia, so what can it sell? It can sell solar energy. Fugitive CO2, from gas wells, plus water, is shipped to Kerman province and turned into methanol. Flare gas converted, via Direct Reduction, into methanol. CO2, plus solar energy, into carbon fibre & polyhydroxybutyrate. The solar energy economy. If Iran can’t sell these things to Putin, Iran goes into gold deficit & Putin loses Iran. Putin knows geopolitics. He will NOT lose Iran. He WILL go Green.

  • Thom Kinoshta

    bogus post, coal is the future for US power, We have 15 years of gas left unless we find new gas.

    • Ken Dyer

      Rubbish. Coal bad, wind good. Tell Trump

      • MaxG

        Simply ignore this fool… it is pointless as is Trump

  • MaxG

    I hope these clowns standing up there clapping will face a criminal court one day!

  • MaxG

    Like I said, democracy is dead! … non-existing debate is now replaced by
    propaganda; provided by a firm (now registered in AU)… reading
    towards the end is quite interesting and revealing… they brought you
    BREXIT and Trump… and if AU lets them, will bring back the COALition
    and climate deniers…
    https://www.itnews.com.au/news/turnbull-to-meet-trumps-big-data-consultant-456592