Donald Trump did a stupid thing last month…yes really. Actually, he did quite a few stupid things, but the one that stands out was his withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
The agreement signed in April last year was an historic moment. A rare moment where literally the whole world agreed on something. Specifically it was a voluntary global pact with the aim of limiting global warming by increasing investment into renewable technologies and reducing emissions of greenhouse gasses.
This is important because the global consensus amongst the scientific community predicts that a rise of just 2 degrees celsius may tip the atmosphere into a cycle of irreversible temperature rise….quite a prospect and at current rates this could well happen within a decade or two.
Now it’s important for balance to say that not everyone agrees with this assessment, there is a very small, and shrinking core of climate change deniers, President Trump is one of them, but even if they are right it does not change the fact that fossil fuels are not the future. They are a finite resource that inevitably will run out one day.
Donald Trump was swept to victory in last year’s election on a wave of support from the ‘rust belt’, a byword for the traditional heavy industries, automotive, coal and steel production, all in steady decline over recent decades. It is those people who put him into the White House, and it is to those people to whom he is talking now. His actions, condemned by heads of state around the world, effectively reduce government investment in renewable technologies, and continue with subsidies in the coal mining industry. Hopefully this will not prove catastrophic for the World’s climate, but it may well be more damaging for the US economy.
Renewable energy production and research is where the smart people and the smart money are right now, and we are on the verge of a revolution that has the potential to change the world forever. Solar and wind power are increasing in efficiency by the day and the cost per unit of renewable energy is coming down fast and very soon is likely to be cheaper than fossil fuel generated energy. Elon Musk’s Tesla company is throwing money and some extremely smart people at solar energy roof tiles and battery technology that, conceivably could make huge numbers of communities and individual homes completely self sufficient in power in the very near future. Research into nuclear fusion continues at a pace and again could, provide limitless pollution free electricity, very cheaply any time soon.
The US is, per head, one of the planet’s worst polluters, the rapidly rising, and industrialising nations of China and India are also large components in global greenhouse gas emissions as their industrial revolutions have been powered by burning fossil fuels, but since the Paris agreement China has cancelled the construction of hundreds of new coal fired power stations and instead has pledged investments of $361bn into its renewable power industry, with the potential to create an estimated 13 million jobs.
The United States has always been a nation defined by its innovation and a good nose for an opportunity. Modern manufacturing techniques were pioneered in the US, Henry Ford invented the production line, electricity networks, telephone systems, Silicon Valley, and the pioneers of the digital industries, IBM, Apple, Microsoft, Google and the like have specialised in spotting a niche and getting in early. President Trump’s recent actions have pulled funding from the blossoming renewables industry and put it into 300 year old technology. With it has gone the best brains in the business r as they head off abroad to more forward looking governments.
Whether you believe in climate change or not, it is clear that renewable power is the next innovation, and whoever gets in early is going to do very nicely indeed while solving one of the most critical problems the Earth is facing in the process, and you can be more sure than ever that it is not going to be the US, and all this from a President who claims he will run the country as a business.
Phil D. Coffers – The Islander Economics Correspondent