Trump’s announcement that he wants to pull out of the Paris Accord has rattled environmentalists and climate scientists, but there are some reasons to not worry too much about it.
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Turns out there are a lot of reasons to believe that this action is not the threat to climate progress that we think it is. Here’s 5 of them.
1: The US shift is market-driven.
There are two ways to enact change.
One is to legislate it and force people and companies to comply through laws, penalties and tax credits. The other is through a disruption in the market.
Legislated change comes slowly and incrementally over time as companies begrudgingly readjust their budget priorities to make their mandated milestones.
But adoption of new technologies follows an S-curve, where slow early adoption rates becomes exponential as the new technology proves itself, then flattening out once it dominates the market.
2: Wind and solar are cheaper than coal.
Nine of the top 10 wind energy states are traditionally red states, with Texas the reddest of them all, at the very top.
These aren’t tree-hugging lefties embracing wind energy because they want to save the polar bears, they’re doing it because it’s way cheaper and easier.
The market will embrace the solutions that are the most profitable, that’s why even amongst the fossil fuel industries, natural gas is becoming more popular than coal, because it’s much cheaper to produce.
In fact Gary Cohn, Trump’s own director of the National Economic Council – his top economic advisor – recently told reporters that coal, quote, doesn’t make sense anymore.
The US is, in fact, the second largest producer of wind energy in the world behind China, which leads me to number 3:
3: China and India taking leadership roles.
Not only do China and India have 36% of the world’s population, they are emerging economies where more and more people have access to electricity every day.
But luckily since they are still building their infrastructure, they have the ability to build it clean from scratch, instead of rebuilding it after decades of going in a different direction.
These efforts are likely to create whole economies around sustainable energy in those countries that will leak out and spread around the world.
4: Cities and states stepping up
Within hours of Trump making his announcement, the mayors of cities around the country and even some governors pledged that they would keep up their end of the Paris Accord.
This group has since called themselves the United States Climate Alliance and as of this recording includes nine states with eleven more voicing support for the Alliance, and more than 200 cities have signed on in support.
With 80% of the US population living in cities, that means the vast majority of the country’s population would still be abiding by the Paris agreement.
And now that you’re feeling all happy happy joy joy, let’s talk about the 5th reason this action doesn’t matter…
5: The Paris Accord was never strong enough to save us in the first place and we’re just as doomed as we’ve always been.
How you like that wet blanket?
Scientists say that in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need to keep the temperature rise under 2 degrees by the end of the century.
But according to the UN Emissions Gap report released at the end of last year, even if all member countries follow the Paris Agreement perfectly, we’re still expected to see an increase of 2.9 to 3.4 degrees.
They said that it was an important step, but that’s all it was, just a step. It was never meant to be THE solution.
Trump’s goal is to renegotiate the US role in the Climate agreement, he felt that our current obligations are too high.
But since he made his announcement, both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the new French President Emmanuel Macron have both stepped forward and said, no. There will be no renegotiation.
Merkel and Macron stepping up means that Europe is now taking a leadership role on the world stage, and they’ll be incentivized to trade with countries that are members of the agreement.