Fresh Ideas: Whose interests is Trump protecting in ditching Paris climate accord?
President Trump says he’s standing up for the interests of American workers in withdrawing our nation from the Paris climate accord. He says the cost to our economy of complying with the Paris accord would be close to $3 trillion in lost GDP. But any estimate of the costs of an action has to be balanced by an estimate of the benefits of that action. Trump doesn’t account for any benefits from mitigating climate change. He’s giving half the facts. What’s the other half?
Think Progress cites two nonpartisan studies that give a fuller picture.
“A 2015 report from Cambridge University’s Judge Business School found that the ‘present value of the damage caused by human-caused climate change from a moderate warming scenario is an astonishing $400 trillion.’
Also in 2015, Citibank found that not addressing climate change will cost $44 trillion by 2060, while investing in low-carbon energy would save $1.8 trillion through 2040, as compared to a business-as-usual scenario.
Trump ignores these immense costs of letting climate change proceed unchecked. Then there are the economic benefits of developing a clean-energy economy — also ignored by Trump. This clean energy economy is emerging right now — emerging more quickly than anyone would have imagined even 10 years ago — and it includes the estimated 20,000 jobs already in Nevada in clean energy and energy efficiency.
When Trump says he’s protecting American jobs, is he looking to the future or to the past? He said in his speech he “was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
Pittsburgh’s Mayor Bill Peduto took exception. He noted the bad times in Pittsburgh after the exodus of coal and steel jobs in the 1970s, but then he said, “At the same time, we didn’t invest in our past, we invested in our future. We are the example of what the Paris agreement could mean for jobs and the economy in the United States. And for him to use Pittsburgh as an example, I can only say it was a far stretch at best.”
Then Peduto issued an executive order Pittsburgh intended to still follow the Paris agreement, saying Pittsburgh “has been rebuilding its economy based on hopes for our people and our future, not on outdated fantasies about our past.”
Why is the Trump administration’s view of American prosperity so mired in the past? After all, the coal industry nationwide employs only 160,000 workers, with only 65,000 directly in mining. General Electric and Apple, two stalwart American companies building products everyone in the world is clamoring for, together have 184,000 employees in the U.S. According to the New York Times, the CEOs of both those companies implored Trump to stick with the Paris accord.
In withdrawing from the Paris climate accord are Trump and his Republican Party looking after American workers or are they looking after the fossil fuel industry? Here’s a telling statistic. In the lead-up to Trump’s decision last week, 22 Republican senators sent Trump a letter urging him to withdraw from the Paris accord. The Guardian reports those 22 U.S. senators “have collected more than $10 million in oil, gas and coal money since 2012.”
Fossil fuel industry donations in 2016 to Republicans exceeded those to Democrats by a ratio of 15 to 1. And that doesn’t even include dark money donations. In allowing themselves to be so unduly influenced by the fossil fuel industry, the Trump administration and the Republican Party are facing squarely backward — away from the healthy environment, future jobs and prosperity American families and workers want.
We live in a state with 20,000 clean energy jobs and more on the way. Our state legislature just passed a suite of energy legislation that will put us in the clean energy forefront. Leading companies with aggressive clean energy goals are locating in Nevada because of our abundance of clean energy resources.
Since the president’s announcement, more than 1,400 cities, states and businesses have announced their own commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Nevada cities, states, and businesses should join this alliance and move toward a healthy climate and a sustainable, prosperous future rather than looking backwards as President Trump would have us do.
Anne Macquarie blogs about clean energy and climate change in Nevada at nevadanscleanenergy.org.