Centro de Estudios Demográficos, Urbanos y Ambientales

Dr. José Luis Lezama
Profesor-Investigador / Professor -Researcher
Director del Seminario Interdisciplinario sobre Estudios Ambientales y del Desarrollo Sustentable / Director of the Interdisciplinary Seminar on Environmental and Sustainable Development


viernes, 2 de junio de 2017

Trump Climate Madness

Trump climate madness
José Luis Lezama

               Fortunately, President Trump does not have the capacity to create a world that fits his whims. And it does not have it because it has chosen the wrong enemy: the economy. All his imperial dreams are met with an economic reality that goes in the opposite direction to his desires. But this compelling force, which is the economy, is also personified in powerful interest groups and with a citizenship that has in its hands a weight no less than that of the groups that support it. In this context, it is important to be clear about the meaning of the United States withdrawal from the Paris Agreements signed by 197 countries and ratified by 147. Even though the United States is the second most important emitter (17.8%) of the global Emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHG), its departure will not decide the future of the Agreements, for different reasons, among which stand out:

               First, the Agreements are not binding, so the United States was not obliged to comply with them. This country did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, however, in recent years its emissions have declined. Mexico signed it, without this provoking any benefit to the global climate or to the national environment. Mexican cities are now more polluted than the United States, which did not sign Kyoto.
Second, there is a trend in the world to greater investment in clean energy, so millions of dollars have moved from coal to alternative energies. In the United States, the coal industry can only be reactivated through large subsidies, obsolete and unprofitable.
               Third, the procedure for the United States to withdraw from the Agreements will take at least 4 years. By that time President Trump may have left the presidency.

               Fourth, some States will consider environmental goals consistent with the Agreements. This has been expressed by California and New York, who own a gross product equivalent to the fifth economy in the world.

               Fifth, the rest of the world accounts for about 80 percent of GHG emissions. The 197 countries signatories to the agreements have no obligation, other than morality, to comply. Most countries do not have institutional systems and effective control mechanisms to verify and sanction non-compliance with what was offered in Paris. This is the real threat to planetary climate, more than President Trump says or does.
               That the economy and the market are decisive we see it in China. This country is today the most important investor in clean energy, becoming the world's leading exporter of solar panels. The high profitability and the large income of foreign currency generated by this sector are a strong motivation to become a 'leader' of the global environmental cause. Meanwhile, more and more sectors of the economy are abandoning coal.

               All this does not mean that the damage they can cause, rather than the withdrawal of the Agreements, the internal measures that the president has put into operation to 'soften' environmental regulation, to bring down the Clean Energy Plan, and the support provided or offered for the oil and coal industry, may not have a significant impact on the global climate. It is estimated that if the United States returned to its energy scheme a few decades ago, planetary temperature could rise by 0.3 Celsius per year by 2100. The truth is that the effect of the withdrawal from the United States is more psychological than real. In part it is to 'please' his voters; In part it is to thank the oil and coal companies that have financed the Republican political campaigns; In part is to continue with its national and international policy of intimidation, in its strategy to 'soften' the defenses of the enemy and try to impose his conditions.
               In fact, the economic 'principle of reality' is imposed on him and he is overcome in each of his follies. All its anti-environmental measures will be taken to the courts, its support for the coal industry is not economically viable, and President Trump's stay of 4 years, or much of 8, is too short to make all his Feverish threats.

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