The establishment has now accepted the reality that Donald Trump could win the GOP nomination — and could even possibly … become the next president of the United States. [Memo To Self: Adjust meds.]
Yet while narcissistic showman Trump has a long history of saying nonsensical things about climate change and clean energy, narcissistic President Trump is exceedingly unlikely to blow up any global climate agreement that comes out of Paris for two big reasons.
First, the Paris accord is almost certain to be a very good deal for us (as I discussed here), and Trump sees himself as a great deal-maker above all else. Second, Trump understands the value of “brand” — and nothing would ruin his brand (or this country’s) more permanently than to be the guy (or country) who killed the world’s best (and maybe only) chance of getting onto a path that could avoid catastrophic warming and centuries of misery for billions of people.
If, as Trump said Sunday, he won’t torch the Iranian nuclear deal, then he isn’t going to burn any Paris accord — and that means he’d have to honor the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, since that is essential to the U.S. side of the deal.
Trump Is For Real
Let’s take all of these points in order. First, the establishment spoke through one of its major mouthpieces — Bloomberg Politics Managing Editor Mark Halperin, and author of best-selling campaign books like Game Change:
We’ve reached a turning point with Trump, the major establishment campaigns of both parties now think Trump could win Iowa, and most of them think he could win the nomination, and a significant number think he could win the White House.
Yes, seriously. Here is the segment from “Morning Joe” on MSNBC Monday:
Trump Spouts Nonsense on Climate and Clean Energy
Second, based strictly on what’s he’s said, a President Trump would not be good for the climate. Trump’s comments have been indistinguishable from other high-profile conservative candidates who deny climate science, and oppose clean energy — as ClimateProgress has detailed in many posts over the years, most recently “It Snowed Once And Other Things Donald Trump Thinks Prove Global Warming Is A Hoax.”
As someone who has been highly critical of Trump’s nonsense for a long time, I am not making any excuses for the anti-scientific, pro-pollution ideas he has been spreading. But it remains the case that conservative candidates for higher office say a lot of nonsensical things — the difference with Trump, at least right now, is that he knows this and even admits that much of what he’s said is bluster.
For instance, we and others (rightly) criticize Trump for the bizarre conspiracy theory he tweeted in 2012:
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
Seriously? Actually, no. When CNN’s Jake Tapper read this tweet to Trump in a late June interview, Trump admitted he was NOT serious (mostly):
TRUMP: Well of course I’m being sarcastic you know…
TAPPER: That’s not to be taken seriously?
TRUMP: No it’s a little bit serious, there’s a little bit of seriousness there. Look, we are restricting our factories much more than China, I go to China. They have factories that are much more competitive, I’m not saying friendly, but they’re certainly not environmentally friendly. I’m a huge believer in clean air, I’m not a huge believer in the global warming phenomenon.
In short, he’s admitting the tweet was pure B.S., which is quite a concession from a guy who never retracts or apologizes for anything. So what happens when Tapper presses him on the scientific reality of global warming?
TAPPER: But the overwhelming majority of scientists say it’s real and it’s manmade and things are happening-
TRUMP: Oh there could be some manmade to- I’m not saying that there’s zero- but not nearly to the extent- when Obama gets up said it’s the number one problem in our country, and if it is, why is that we have to do our and clean up our factories now and China doesn’t have to do it for another 30 or 35 years in their wonderful agreement, you know our wonderful negotiators.
They have much smarter, much better negotiators than we do, it’s really as simple as that. We don’t have- and that’s part of the reason I’m doing this.
TAPPER: Because you’re the man who wrote “The Art of The Deal”
TRUMP: I did write “The Art of the Deal” in all fairness.
That’s an interesting pivot from a guy who has called the whole thing a hoax. Trump (correctly) understands that most of what politicians say on the issues does not matter to voters (see below). This allows him to focus on being as entertaining and provocative as possible for the public, but then retreating to pragmatism — his supposedly superior deal-making skills — whenever pressed on the facts by the media.
For the record, Trump has his facts dead wrong about the China deal, or he may even know this is B.S. as well. Either way, the Chinese “wonderful agreement” to peak CO2 emissions by 2030, leads directly to their pledge to peak in coal consumption by 2020. Moreover, in that agreement, the U.S. got the Chinese to make clear they were going to beat the 2030 target — and as we reported last month, it’s now a widely held view in the Beijing climate community that China will peak its CO2 emissions around 2025.
Further, China may well have peaked/plateaued in coal already, and it is beating all of their already world-beating renewable energy targets. None of this is because they are better negotiators — but because they understand that the reality of climate change means clean energy is going to be the biggest set of job creating industries this century.
None of this excuses Trump’s endless stream of nonsensical statements. It’s only to say that they don’t tell you what he would do as president because even he knows a lot of it is nonsense.
Trump is ALL About the Deal
Trump is selling himself as a dealmaker — one who understands that the policy positions candidates put out now are largely irrelevant to what they would do as president.
The Washington Post’s political weblog, “The Fix,” spelled that out in a Sunday column, “Donald Trump’s surprisingly savvy analysis of American politics.” The piece analyzed Trump’s response to one Iowa reporter who said to him, “a lot of voters are saying that they really want to see your policies now.”
Trump explained policy statements are over-rated in the real world:
“You know, when you put out policy, like a 14-point plan? A lot of times in the first hour of negotiation, that 14-point plan goes astray, but you may end up with a better deal. That’s the way it works. That’s the way really life works. When I do a deal, I don’t say, ‘Oh, here’s 14 points.’ I got out and do it. I don’t sit down and talk about 14 points.”
He ends by saying, “I know the press wants it. I don’t think the people care. I think they trust me. I think they know I’m going to make good deals for them.” The Washington Post then explains why, “There’s an enormous amount of insight in that statement, about both Trump and about politics.”
Trump isn’t leading the GOP field on the basis of policy statements, political experience, or carefully crafted, poll-tested lines. Obviously.
Trump is running on the exact opposite, his success as a billionaire dealmaker who uses bluster, showmanship, and negotiating skills to get what he wants. He’s made clear that even on matters of serious ideological purity for conservatives such as the Iran nuclear deal, he is still going to be a flexible deal-maker.
Trump told Meet The Press Sunday: “I’ve heard a lot of people say, ‘We’re going to rip up the deal.’ It’s very tough to do when you say, ‘Rip up a deal’.” He notes Iran would have already gotten much of what it wanted — tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets released.
“I buy contracts where people screwed up and they have bad contracts. But I’m really good at looking at a contract and finding things within a contract that, even if they’re bad, I would police that contract so tough that they don’t have a chance. As bad as the contract is, I will be so tough on that contract.”
That actually makes sense — certainly more sense than what the other “serious” GOP candidates have been saying. Indeed, as HuffPost notes, all of them but Jeb have said they would torch the Iran deal on becoming President.
Trump Would Honor Paris Climate Deal And EPA’s Clean Power Plan
If Trump won’t rip up the Iranian deal, he certainly isn’t going to rip up any deal to come out of Paris. First, as the independent analytical team at Climate Action Tracker (CAT) put it, “The U.S. climate plans are at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution.”
But the U.S. commitment was enough to get the “wonderful deal” with China that, despite Trump’s blinkered sarcasm, was a true game-changer. That deal broke the long-standing logjam in international negotiations between developed and developing nations — resulting in a flood of commitments from other countries.
If there is a breakthrough climate deal in Paris in December, it will be in no small measure because of the U.S.-China deal. Paris won’t “solve” the climate crisis — by historical design, it can’t put us directly on the path to 2°C. But it will enable subsequent agreements to do so and avoid some of the most catastrophic impacts.
If there were a Paris deal and the United States simply torched it, however, then President Trump and the United States will be blamed for whatever catastrophic climate change subsequently occurs. We would be the ones who ripped the tourniquet off that had stanched the bleeding.
A brand-obsessed deal-maker is not going to invite permanent brand destruction and historical notoriety of the kind enjoyed by leaders like Neville Chamberlain and Herbert Hoover — all to destroy a global deal that requires minimal effort to fulfill.
Just as Obama’s CO2 pledge for Paris is the least the United States can do, the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which enables the pledge to be met, is also the minimum the United States can do.
By the time anyone becomes president in 2017, it will be even more obvious that climate change is a dire problem, and also more obvious that meeting the CPP’s state targets is pretty straightforward.
I’m not saying Trump would be a good president for climate change or clean energy. There is no evidence of that in any of his buffoonish words (though he may well be the most progressive of GOP candidates). And anyway, after a quarter century of dawdling, we need a Churchill right now, not a P.T. Barnum.
But whatever else one can say about Trump, he doesn’t blow up good deals, especially ones critical to maintaining his personal brand.