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Trump’s Bizarre Climate Beliefs Would Jeopardize Meaningful Global Climate Action

CREDIT: LM OTERO, AP
CREDIT: LM OTERO, AP

Donald Trump’s climate science denial and dubious deal-making skills just raised the stakes of this election to “existential.”

As Reuters reported Tuesday, the presumptive GOP nominee said he would seek to renegotiate the Paris Climate Agreement, “spelling potential doom for an agreement many view as a last chance to turn the tide on global warming.”

For the mainstream media, Trump’s dangerous recklessness on the gravest national security threat the nation faces was mostly lost amid the incessant barrage of jaw-dropping things Trump has said to Reuters (and others), including that he would love to talk with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

“He’s said one stupid, reckless thing after another,” GOP strategist Mike Murphy told MSNBC Tuesday night, “The guy has a chimpanzee-level understanding of national security policy.”

To paraphrase Trump himself, I refuse to say that’s an insult to chimpanzees.

Certainly it is uniquely reckless and self-destructive to undermine the world’s best — and, indeed, only — hope for preserving a livable climate for ourselves, our children, and the next 50 generations to walk the Earth. In addition, Trump’s nonsensical explanation eviscerates any notion that he might translate whatever deal-making skills he has in the business world into the world of international politics and negotiations.

Paris Agreement A Ridiculously Good Deal For The United States

Trump demonstrated his complete ignorance of the Paris deal when he told Reuters, “those agreements are one-sided agreements and they are bad for the United States.” He said, “at a minimum I will be renegotiating those agreements, at a minimum. And at a maximum I may do something else.”

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In reality, if the Paris Agreement is “one-sided,” it is one-sided in favor of this country. The agreement is a ridiculously good one for America — for your kids, for my kids, and above all for Donald’s kids.

Why? First off, the United States put the absolute bare minimum climate target on the table (see below). Yet in return the other nations of the world unanimously agreed to try to save our butts from this:

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.

Indeed, to avoid this very outcome, the nations of the world agreed to keep ratcheting down their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions levels to keep total warming “to well below 2°C [3.6°F] above preindustrial levels” — with a preferred goal of 1.5C.

Not only has the entire rest of the world agreed to work tirelessly for many decades to save all Americans from Dust-Bowlification, they will also be saving the Trump family specifically from ruin. After all, there are a few families in the entire world who have as much wealth in coastal properties as the Trumps, especially in South Florida where adaptation to sea level rise is all but impossible.

CREDIT: Peter Aldhous forBuzzFeed News/ Basemap by CartoDB / OpenStreetMap
CREDIT: Peter Aldhous forBuzzFeed News/ Basemap by CartoDB / OpenStreetMap

Until the Paris agreement, there was every reason to believe those properties would be rendered valueless in the coming decades by the combination of sea level rise and increasing storm surge. But Paris at least offers a chance to slow sea level rise and avoid the kind of rise that would submerge those properties this century.

Who knew the rest of the world loved the Trump family so much?

To be clear, while the reckless pronouncements of Donald the Denier (Dust-Bowl Donald?) deserve widespread mockery, his candidacy needs to be taken very, very seriously by all voters. Personally, while I have thought for a long time that Donald Trump, by virtue of his superior communication skills, was a serious contender, I mistakenly believed his hype that he was actually good at deal-making. He isn’t, as his trashing of the Paris deal makes clear.

CO2 Target U.S. Committed To In Paris Is Bare Minimum We Can Do

The U.S. carbon reduction target is a 26 to 28 percent reduction in U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2025 compared to 2005 levels. That is “equivalent to 14–17% below 1990 levels of GHG emissions.” We can compare that target to the one from the European Union, which is “at least 40% domestic greenhouse gas emissions reductions below 1990 levels by 2030.”

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“The US climate plans are at the least ambitious end of what would be a fair contribution,” as the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) puts it. “The reduction target could therefore be strengthened to reflect the United States’ high capability and responsibility.” The CAT is an “independent scientific analysis produced by four research organisations tracking climate action and global efforts towards the globally agreed aim of holding warming below 2°C, since 2009.”

The U.S. should be doing at least as much as the European Union if not more, as this chart of cumulative carbon pollution from 1850 to 2011 makes clear.

It is cumulative carbon dioxide emissions that determine a country’s total contribution to the climate crisis. Since the EU is more than two dozen countries, this chart makes clear that the United States is the biggest historical contributor to current atmospheric CO2 levels of any country by far.

So we’re the biggest contributor to the problem, we stand to suffer more losses than any other country (since we are the richest country in the world, with vast wealth on the coasts), and we are doing the least possible that we can to solve the problem. That is one sweetheart deal.

What About China?

Trump told Reuters a bunch of other malarky about the deal: “Not a big fan because other countries don’t adhere to it, and China doesn’t adhere to it, and China’s spewing into the atmosphere.”

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At this point, all one can do is take him literally. And this is literally gibberish. First off, the United States is “spewing into the atmosphere.” So are all of the countries who signed Paris. That is the point of making the deal.

Second, this is just gibberish: “Not a big fan because other countries don’t adhere to it.” The Paris agreement hasn’t gone into force yet, so no countries “adhere to it” as of now. If Trump meant other countries haven’t been adhering to previous climate agreements, the main country that actually applies to is the United States which agreed to the Kyoto Protocol CO2 reduction targets in 1997 but never ratified it and never adhered to it. The European Union, however, did adhere to it.

Third, more gibberish: “China doesn’t adhere to it.” Again, it hasn’t gone into force yet. Moreover, despite the fact that it hasn’t gone into force yet, China is already beating its carbon target. China said that by 2030 it would peak in CO2 emissions and double the amount of carbon-free energy it uses. It appears to be plateauing in CO2 emissions already. It has recently redoubled its war on coal and is exceeding all of its pledged targets for clean energy deployment.

Then again, this kind of nonsense on China and global warming should not surprise anyone given the bizarre conspiracy theory he tweeted in 2012:

In case you thought Trump had disavowed that, Politifact explained that Trump “has said as recently as Jan. 18, 2016, that action on climate change ‘is done for the benefit of China.’”

In the end, Trump can’t force the other nations of the world to renegotiate Paris. But he could as President undermine the EPA’s Clean Power Plan which is needed to achieve our target — and he could block the “ratcheting down” of climate targets needed to avoid catastrophic warming. His threat to blow up the only process we have to avoid multiple irreversible catastrophic climate impacts must be taken as seriously as his candidacy.