rss
22

Trump’s exit from Paris climate deal signals end of American Century

Print Friendly

Think Progress

By exiting the Paris climate deal, President Donald Trump is handing over global leadership to Chinese President Xi Jinping, seen here with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in January. CREDIT: AP/Alex Brandon, File

By exiting the Paris climate deal, President Donald Trump is handing over global leadership to Chinese President Xi Jinping, seen here with Trump at Mar-a-Lago in January. Credit: AP/Alex Brandon, File

President Donald Trump’s stunning words and actions to our European allies this week — culminating in reports that he will exit the historic Paris climate agreement — signal the end of the American Century.

Rather than strive to maintain the United States’ position as the leader of the free world, a role we have assigned to ourselves for decades, Trump is content with America the villain — the greedy and myopic country that killed humanity’s last, best hope of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Also, by abandoning clean energy, which is the one new sector capable of actually creating millions of high wage American jobs, Trump is officially handing the economic reins over to Europe and China.

Samantha Power, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in the Obama administration, echoed that sentiment on Twitter Wednesday morning.

“America is responsible, to herself as well as to history, for the world environment in which she lives,” wrote publisher Henry Luce in a famous February 17, 1941 Life magazine editorial, “The American Century.”

Luce was writing about America’s obligation to end its isolationism and enter World War II. But he had a broader purpose, to discuss a “fundamental issue which faces America as it faces no other nation,” an issue “deeper even than the immediate issue of war.”

That issue was whether America would assume the mantle of global leader. Luce explained that throughout our history, “this continent teemed with manifold projects and magnificent purposes. Above them all… was the triumphal purpose of freedom. It is in this spirit that all of us are called, each to his own measure of capacity, and each in the widest horizon of his vision, to create the first great American Century.”

In words that still ring true today, Luce described what would happen if America met the challenge and took a global leadership role — and what would happen if we retreated into isolationism:

If America meets it correctly, then, despite hosts of dangers and difficulties, we can look forward and move forward to a future worthy of men, with peace in our hearts. If we dodge the issue, we shall flounder for ten or 20 or 30 bitter years in a chartless and meaningless series of disasters.

And so the U.S. finds itself at the same crossroads today. After a disastrous European trip in which Trump offended many world leaders, refused to endorse our commitment to defend our NATO allies, and persuaded Germany that we aren’t a reliable partner, a decision to exit the Paris climate deal would be the last straw, a blunder of historical import.

By torpedoing the unanimous agreement among more than 190 nations aimed at sparing humanity decades, if not centuries, of misery, Trump will destroy America’s “soft power,” our ability to achieve outcomes we desire in other global negotiations.

Trump will be destroying the global influence that was at the core of Luce’s definition of the American Century: “to accept wholeheartedly our duty and our opportunity as the most powerful and vital nation in the world and in consequence to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit.”

Ironically, by gutting domestic climate action and clean energy investment, Trump will also weaken the U.S. economically; other countries, particularly China, have indicated they intend to seize on the vast wealth and high paying jobs that come with leadership in clean energy and climate solutions, which will be a $50 trillion-plus market in the coming decades.

China has already announced its intention to be the economic leader and global hero on climate change. Indeed, one leading Australian financial columnist called Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January “the moment China’s president claimed global leadership on trade and climate in the vacuum of America’s advertised withdrawal.”

The official China Daily wrote in a commentary at the time, “ready or not, China has become the de facto world leader seeking to maintain an open global economy and battle climate change.” It called China “the one major power with a global outlook.”

Unless Trump is replaced in 2020 by a president committed to domestic and global climate action, he will have free reign to fully thwart the world’s last plausible realistic chance to avoid disaster. America, the richest country and biggest cumulative carbon polluter, will inevitably be blamed for the ever worsening weather extremes, sea level rise, ocean acidification, and climate conflicts here and abroad.

Luce truly described the future Trump is creating for us with remarkable prescience: “We shall flounder for 10 or 20 or 30 bitter years in a chartless and meaningless series of disasters.”

  

Share this:

  • DevMac

    It’s a race to the bottom!
    Whoever wins, everyone loses.

  • Neil_Copeland

    All other countries should impose a carbon tariff on goods imported from the US

    • Joe

      The EU and China are exploring joining together in a carbon market. You correctly allude to carbon tariffs which I think would be placed on goods coming from ‘recalcitrant’ countries…like Donnieland. It is easy to blame China for its total carbon emissions ( low in per capita terms compared to western economies ) but they are charging ahead with RE. Let’s not forget that the world and its consumers are partly responsible for China’s high emissions. We happily outsource manufacturing of consumer goods to China because of their cheaper labour costs which translates to cheaper end product costs for consumers.So we are quite happy to take the price benefits and then slam China for its high emission. Quite the hypocrisy, yes.

      • Alastair Leith

        Not just cheaper labor costs, outsourcing our labor protections abuse and environmental damage to a country prepared to do it for us in exchange for it’s rise to China No. One.

  • David leitch

    Michael Pascoe will be pretty happy with this article.

    • MrMauricio

      hahaha!!!

    • mick

      I actually think we are better off with the current crop of yanks opting out and so getting out of the way

  • Rob G

    Tarrifs on ALL American produce by all countries with the money gained to go to developing countries to transform their energy. The rest of the world is stronger than America alone. Isolation will hurt them….

    • david_fta

      Tariffs on American products, provided such tariffs are no more and no less than the carbon price prevailing in the nation that imposes the tariff.

      In the case of Australia, for example, we should impose a carbon tariff on imports from the US that equals the fossil carbon emitted to manufacture the goods in the US, plus the fossil carbon emitted to ship the goods to Australia.

  • Macabre

    Trump makes America grate again.

  • Mark Roest

    Let’s trump this action instead. Please help encourage California’s leadership to step in boldly, leading other states who agree, and hundreds, soon to be thousands, of cities, to support each other in bringing out a slew of technologies that are on the way, to make a leap forward, instead of doing a face-plant. Consider that the states that follow California’s lead on the CAFE standards make up a huge part of total US GDP, and that California alone is perhaps the 5th largest economy in the world. We can isolate Trump and the GOP-controlled states, and leave them behind. We can use what we know to help lift the world, and then race to the decarbonizing finish line together.
    Since energy is 10% of the global economy, when we get rid of fossil and nuclear fuels (they also generate heat), and a few years after each installation have paid for it with the savings, we will increase disposable income among the rest of the world and the responsible U.S. States by 10%, and we will simultaneously eliminate most of the driving force behind the 12% to 15% of the U.S. budget that is spent on the military (controlling fossil fuel supply lines), and we can do this in a way that includes educating the population about what is really going on politically, and what that does to us all, in a context of actually reducing their insecurity and increasing well-being.

    • Nan

      All hands on deck. And when will it become illegal to promulgate, sell and use fossil fuels – when is humanity going to say – No More…

  • John Saint-Smith

    Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ – bankrupting America with his own ego.

  • MrMauricio

    I do think the headline is true-America is disintegrating from within and ceding hegemony albeit unintentionally to China and the EU. The Californian(6th biggest economy in the world) and adjoining NW states will power on with innovation and leadership as will the North East corner states.Everything between is withering. Maybe those two sectors of the U.S will amalgamate with Canada!!!

  • Nan

    I am hoping this is the moment when the worlds population digs in its collective heels and says No, we ain’t going back to our old polluting ways that will harm our childrens’ future. I don’t believe progressive US states will allow Trump to get away with it – and I think they will progress even faster and with more determination to transition to low CO2 economies. And ditto with other progressive countries and in Oz, states and councils. Even the business world is capable of taking the lead also, now that it has realised the financial potential and perhaps that it’s after all a human issue for all the world’s children, including those of business leaders, greedy rich people and climate change deniers. I think it’s time to prove that the rest of the world can proceed without dependency on the US. I have no doubt if Trump is stupid enough to pass up his last opportunity to become a true super hero in the combat against global warming, that he will have the majority of humanity against him, which will signal his own demise. Let’s hope that the Democrats win in 2018, and can start to re-engage with the world, and that Trump is relegated to history’s rubbish bin in 2020. In the meantime, we all have to redouble our own personal efforts to engage with renewable energy and try to be an active part of the new low CO2, eco-economies that must occur quickly and resolutely now. And agitate when and how we can against fossil fuel corruption for the future of our still beautiful planet.

    • Alastair Leith

      Down side is that anything the Democrats propose will look better the Trumps withdrawal and so they get away with incremental hopeless BS again like in the Hilary Clinton platform.

  • david_fta

    All that said, Mr Romm, perhaps the US’s departure from world leadership began with its failure to prevent rampant inequality and poverty, ie the circumstances which Trump exploited.

    • Alastair Leith

      eg. Repeal of the Glass-Stegsall Act under Romm’s former boss Bill Clinton (amongst a litany of neo-liberal mechanisms from Reagan onwards)?

  • david_fta

    Look on the bright side – the US abandoning this multilateral agreement is really the best possible action the US could do. How so?

    Because the US will now be free-riding on other nations’ climate mitigation, those other nations will be compelled to impose carbon tariffs on US exports.

    Carbon tariffs will only be permissible under WTO rules if domestic carbon consumption is taxed at the same rate as the tariff imposed on imports.

    Bingo! This necessity automatically creates the best of all possible carbon pricing regimes – fossil carbon consumption taxation – that it also sends a mighty rocket up all those lesser intellects who think carbon pricing is only possible through multilateral agreements is a happy side-effect.

    For what it’s worth, the same argument is set out in Michael Le Page’s 31 March 2017 ‘New Scientist’ article “How to snatch carbon emissions victory from US climate U-turn”, https://www.newscientist.com/article/2126495-how-to-snatch-carbon-emissions-victory-from-us-climate-u-turn/.

  • solarguy

    So we have an amazing paradox, the FF industry lobby groups keep spreading misinformation, disinformation, the coal industry keeps pushing the clean coal myth on TV, Radio and the print media.
    Yet we hear more and more admissions from AGL, Energy Australia et.al, that RE, from solar, wind and storage is cheaper than all F/Fuels and nuclear.
    The fact they are pursuing solar and wind generation confirms their admission. So why keep trying to perpetuate the lies. Perhaps it’s about buying time to keep the fat profits rolling by continuing to tell porky pies, in the hope that the many uninformed weak heads out there will keep on believing the nonsense.
    Hopefully we will wake up one day soon and we won’t be living in Noddy Land anymore. Sweet dreams folks!