by Judith Curry
So . . . what can we expect from the Trump administration on environment/climate/energy?
There is much angst among the ‘greens’ about what to expect. This is typified by this morning’s headlines from the Huffington Post:
SET TO BOIL: Trump Racing to Scrap Landmark Climate Deal
China Calls Move Ludicrous… ‘GAME OVER’: Scientists Fear Disaster With Donald… ‘Election Of Donald Trump Could Be Devastating For Our Climate And Our Future’… ‘Trump Has A Profound Ignorance Of Science’… Donald Taps Climate-Change Skeptic To Dismantle EPA… Oil Exec Eyed For Sec. Of Interior… New Push For Keystone Pipeline Fires Up…
Lets take a closer look at what President-elect Trump has actually said in recent months, including his policy/issue statements.
Whenever the issue of Trump and climate change comes up in the world of the ‘greens’, the first thing they mention is that he said climate change is a ‘hoax.’
Politifact has done a good job of summarizing this (January 2016):
The clearest example comes from a tweet sent by Trump on Nov. 6, 2012. “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
On Jan. 18, after Sanders had attacked Trump’s climate change views in the Democratic debate, Trump told Fox & Friends, “Well, I think the climate change is just a very, very expensive form of tax. A lot of people are making a lot of money. I know much about climate change. I’d be — received environmental awards. And I often joke that this is done for the benefit of China. Obviously, I joke. But this is done for the benefit of China, because China does not do anything to help climate change. They burn everything you could burn; they couldn’t care less. They have very — you know, their standards are nothing. But they — in the meantime, they can undercut us on price. So it’s very hard on our business.”
On Dec. 30, 2015, Trump told the crowd at a rally in Hilton Head, S.C., “Obama’s talking about all of this with the global warming and … a lot of it’s a hoax. It’s a hoax. I mean, it’s a money-making industry, OK? It’s a hoax, a lot of it.”
In August, he stated: “I’m not a big believer in manmade climate change. Nobody knows for sure.”
Lets first look at the definition of ‘hoax’, here are a few I spotted by googling:
- a humorous or malicious deception.
- to trick into believing or accepting as genuine something false and often preposterous
- a plan to deceive a large group of people
- a deliberately fabricated falsehood made to masquerade as truth.
With these definitions in mind, here are two examples that qualify as hoaxes that I have previously written about:
- The UNFCCC definition of ‘climate change’ arguably qualifies as a hoax: climate change is a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods. [link]. This perversion of the definition of ‘climate change’ was designed to mislead people into thinking that all climate change is caused by humans.
- The propaganda from the UNFCCC that misleads people into thinking that the planned emissions reductions will have any discernible impact (that emerges from natural variability) on the 21st century climate [link], even if you believe the climate models.
So in terms of climate hoaxes, perhaps it is NOT Donald Trump’s whose pants are on fire.
Trump’s answers to ScienceDebate
ScienceDebate.org asked the Presidential candidates questions on a range of science-related issues. The answers to the climate change questions are [here]. Trump’s statement:
There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of “climate change.” Perhaps the best use of our limited financial resources should be in dealing with making sure that every person in the world has clean water. Perhaps we should focus on eliminating lingering diseases around the world like malaria. Perhaps we should focus on efforts to increase food production to keep pace with an ever-growing world population. Perhaps we should be focused on developing energy sources and power production that alleviates the need for dependence on fossil fuels. We must decide on how best to proceed so that we can make lives better, safer and more prosperous.
Well, I find it difficult to argue with any of this. In fact, I like this statement quite a lot.
The big news over the weekend is that someone from Trump’s transition team has leaked that Trump plans to pull out of the Paris UNFCCC agreement [link].
Robert Stavins has a concise analysis of Trump’s road ahead re climate change [link]:
Trump, if we take him at his word, will try to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on tackling climate change. But it will take four years to do that, now that it has come into force. (It came into force quickly — with countries accounting for 55 percent of global emissions ratifying it — only because countries were afraid of Trump being elected, and wanted to lock the United States in.)
Despite the fact that the Obama administration has already submitted the instrument of ratification through executive agreement, Trump might submit the Paris Agreement to the Senate, where, of course, it would fail in a ratification vote. Or he might just announce that we will not comply with our already submitted nationally determined contributions, a 26 to 28 percent reduction below 2005 emissions by 2025. The big question is what effect all of this will have on the positions of China, India, Brazil, etc. It will surely not encourage greater action.
Domestically, he wants to “bring back the coal industry,” but the problems of the U.S. coal industry are competition from low-price natural gas for electricity generation, not environmental regulation. Also, that’s inconsistent with his pronouncements supporting fracking, because that increases gas supply and lowers gas prices, which hurts coal.
Could he try to amend the Clean Air Act itself? That would be unlikely to succeed, as Democrats in the Senate would filibuster, I assume. Would he eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, as he also promised at one point? No, again that would require an act of Congress. But he could try to starve the agency through low funding. And he will be appointing people to hundreds of key positions.
A more thorough analysis is provided by Paul Voosen: What Trump can – and can’t – do all by himself on climate.
Trump’s campaign web site issued a Position Statement on Energy:
DONALD J. TRUMP’S VISION
- Make America energy independent, create millions of new jobs, and protect clean air and clean water. We will conserve our natural habitats, reserves and resources. We will unleash an energy revolution that will bring vast new wealth to our country.
- Declare American energy dominance a strategic economic and foreign policy goal of the United States.
- Unleash America’s $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, plus hundreds of years in clean coal reserves.
Become, and stay, totally independent of any need to import energy from the OPEC cartel or any nations hostile to our interests.
- Open onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands, eliminate moratorium on coal leasing, and open shale energy deposits.
- Encourage the use of natural gas and other American energy resources that will both reduce emissions but also reduce the price of energy and increase our economic output.
- Rescind all job-destroying Obama executive actions. Mr. Trump will reduce and eliminate all barriers to responsible energy production, creating at least a half million jobs a year, $30 billion in higher wages, and cheaper energy.
Read Donald J. Trump’s 100-Day Action Plan, here.
- Energy costs the average American household $5,000 per year. As a percentage of income, the cost is greater for lower-income families. [Fox News, Sept. 3, 2015]
- Shale energy production could add 2 million jobs in 7 years.
- The oil and natural gas industry supports 10 million high-paying Americans jobs and can create another 400,000 new jobs per year. [The New York Times, June 20, 2015]
Anyone interested in the environment is abuzz with the news that Myron Ebell is leading the transition re the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This Wikipedia article summarizes why the ‘greens’ would be alarmed at this appointment.
The Hill has an interesting article: Myron Ebell is Perfectly Suited to Lead the Transition. Excerpts:
Consequently, Ebell has expressed concern about EPA positions, including the Clean Power Plan. The EPA’s controversial power plan is based on an inadequate understanding of global warming and should not drive our middle class into energy poverty against congressional will.
It is critical to understand that while the federal government, through Congress, establishes the overall goals of environmental protection through laws like the Clean Air and Water acts, the implementation of those laws is by state governments.
State governments and their citizens have demonstrated the ability to implement programs that protect our environment without destroying the very thing that makes environmental protection possible: a strong economy.
Over the last eight years the Obama administration has abandoned this successful approach to environmental protection as envisioned by Congress. Instead, they have turned to special interest groups to drive centralized planning. Prime examples include the 2015 EPA Power Plan and the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule.
These rules contain illusory flexibility to states when in reality they represent a huge shift of control from states to the federal government. Even the current administration acknowledged that the power plan was symbolic and would do little to improve air quality.
The power plan would be expensive and shut down energy plants that have not yet been paid for, thereby stranding those costs with ratepayers. It would harm the industrial sector by significantly increasing electricity rates, which would throttle manufacturing industries that require low energy prices to compete.
Similarly, under WOTUS land use decisions would be federalized. Our nation’s agricultural industry would be hamstrung by costly and unnecessary land use restrictions, which would stifle growth opportunities. The expansion of manufacturing, commercial and residential development would be left to federal bureaucrats.
Fortunately, dozens of states and state agencies stood their ground against the federal government and won stays against these rules. We hope the Trump EPA will review existing rules and base its policy decisions on sound data and measurable results.
History has demonstrated time and again that just as “all politics is local,” so is environmental protection. State and local governments know best how to apply the many tools available to protect the environment and public health.We still need the EPA, but not the EPA of the past.
Returning control of our environment to the states also limits the dark money from self-serving lobbyists and deep-pocketed special interest groups masquerading as environmentalists.
I spotted this statement from Trump on the Wikipedia:
Everyone deserves clean air and safe drinking water regardless of race or Water infrastructure will be a big priority. We need to work to protect natural areas, but in a balanced way. End Obama EPA mandates that cost too many jobs, are opposed by most states, and too often have negligible benefit for the environment.
Sep 16, 2016
One of his tweets: “Give me clean, beautiful and healthy air – not the same old climate change (global warming) bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense.”
Some additional hints from outsideonline:
Don Jr. told reporters: “[W]e’ve broken away from a lot of traditional conservative dogma on the issue, in that we do want federal lands to remain federal.”
Trump himself put it like so to Field & Stream last January: “I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold. We have to be great stewards of this land. This is magnificent land.”
The next month, however, Don Jr. gave a more nuanced reply to a reporter’s question about revised leasing requirements coming into place on some federal lands, to enhance protections. “We do have to preserve those lands, and what I’ve seen thus far has been pretty reasonable,” young Don asserted.
In my post Trumping the elites, I stated that Trump’s election provided an opportunity for a more rational energy and climate policy. Many in the blog comments and the twitosphere found this to be an incomprehensible statement.
Here is what I think needs to be done, and I do see opportunities for these in a Trump administration:
- a review of climate science that includes a faithful and transparent representation of uncertainties in 21st century projections of global and regional climate change
- reopening of the ‘endangerment’ issue, as to whether warming is ‘dangerous’
- a do-over on assessing the social cost of carbon, that accounts for full uncertainty in the climate model simulations, the integrated assessment models and their inputs.
- support funding for Earth observing systems (satellite, surface, ocean) and research on natural climate variability.
Even if politics are to ‘trump’ the conclusions of these analyses, it would be clear that the Trump administration has done its due diligence on this issue in terms of gathering and assessing information. If the Trump administration were to accomplish the first 3 items, they might have a scientifically and economically defensible basis for pulling out of the Paris agreement and canceling Obama’s Clean Power Plan.
Environmentalists and ‘greens’ should look for the promising avenues to work with Trump, e.g.:
- Trump is clearly a supporter of clean water and clean air
- Trump seems dedicated to being a good custodian of federal lands (don’t underestimate Don Jr’s influence on this one)
- Trump wants the U.S. to be energy independent; this is easier without an over reliance on fossil fuels
- Trump seems to support win-win energy solutions; e.g. solutions that reduce cost and increase energy security while at the same time reducing emissions.
- Trump is a builder that wants to improve water infrastructure, which will help ameliorate the impacts of droughts and floods.
Working together on these issues would be a good start, if the ‘greens’ can get past the climate hoax thing. Donald Trump does not seem to be particularly beholden to the fossil fuel sector.
In closing, some insights from Andy Revkin:
Is this end times for environmental progress or, more specifically, climate progress? No. The bad news about climate change is, in a way, the good news:
The main forces determining emission levels of heat-trapping carbon dioxide will be just as much out of President Trump’s hands as they were out of President Obama’s. The decline in the United States has mainly been due to market forces shifting electricity generation from coal to abundant and cheaper natural gas, along with environmental regulations built around the traditional basket of pollutants that even conservatives agreed were worth restricting. (Efficiency and gas-mileage standards and other factors have helped, too, of course.)
At the same time, the unrelenting rise in greenhouse-gas emissions in developing countries is propelled by an unbending reality identified way back in 2005 by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, when he said, “The blunt truth about the politics of climate change is that no country will want to sacrifice its economy in order to meet this challenge.”
At the same time, as well, other fundamental forces will continue to drive polluted China and smog-choked India to move away from unfettered coal combustion as a path to progress. An expanding middle class is already demanding cleaner air and sustainable transportation choices — just as similar forces enabled pollution cleanups in the United States in the last century.
That’s why the Paris Agreement on climate change will continue to register progress on emissions and investments in clean energy or climate resilience, but only within the limits of what nations already consider achievable .
So if you’re a working-class family, and dad has to drive 50 miles to get to his job, and he can’t afford to buy a Tesla or a Prius, and the most important thing to him economically to make sure he can pay the bills at the end of the month is the price of gas, and when gas prices are low that means an extra 100 bucks in his pocket, or 200 bucks in his pocket, and that may make the difference about whether or not he can buy enough food for his kids — if you just start lecturing him about climate change and what’s going to happen to the planet 50 years from now, it’s just not going to register.