The man who wrote The Art of the Deal has pledged as president to kill one of the best deals ever negotiated on behalf of the United States.
Of course, it was always a stretch to say Donald Trump was a successful businessman, rather than, say a con man, as billionaire Michael Bloomberg and so many other have described him. After all, Trump is a guy with six bankruptcies, who managed to lose money running casinos, who actually lost $900 million in one year, and who, as Fortune explained, “would be richer if he’d have invested in index funds” with the money he inherited rather than real estate deals.
If Trump exits the Paris climate agreement — something he campaigned on, and a pledge his transition team is apparently trying to make happen as fast as possible — then he will prove once and for all he is a terrible deal-maker.
That’s because the Paris accord is a ridiculously good deal for us. At Paris, 200 nations unanimously pledged to cut their projected carbon pollution over the next 10 to 15 years — and then keep ratcheting down their pollution with the goal of keeping global warming “well below 2°C” (3.6°F).
People rightfully focus a lot of attention on the devastating impact climate change will have the poor nations — since they have contributed the least to the problem and have the fewest resources to adapt to it. But the fact is catastrophic global warming threatens the United States with far more total economic damage than it threatens any other country. That’s because we are the wealthiest country in the world, have more than $1 trillion in insured real estate along our coasts, and are especially vulnerable to superstorm surge, mega-droughts, sea level rise, wildfires, and ocean acidification.
And yet, 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.”
The U.S. climate plan requires us to cut greenhouse gases 26 percent to 28 percent by 2025 vs. 2005 levels, which is “equivalent to 14–17 percent below 1990 levels of GHG emissions.” We can compare that target to the one from the European Union, which is “at least 40 percent domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions below 1990 levels by 2030.”
So with the Paris deal, we have a chance to avoid literally trillions of dollars of damages that are irreversible on a timescale of centuries — despite pledging the absolute bare minimum we could. Indeed, we can achieve our Paris pledge while expanding our economy and our leadership in the job creating industries of the future. Now that is deal!
What happens when President Trump withdraws from Paris, kills the EPA’s carbon pollution standards for existing power plants (the Clean Power Plan), promotes fossil fuel production and consumption, and works to undermine the global effort to ratchet down the world CO2 targets? As I’ve argued, Trump will be blamed for whatever catastrophic climate change subsequently occurs, the U.S. will become a “pariah” nation, and it might even launch a trade war.
The supposed master of deal-making and branding will achieve 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. Sounds more the outcome you’d expect from electing a con man, no?