Saturday, October 1, 2022

Why Trump can’t change his mind about climate change

Since the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged, Republicans have been inclined to try to distance themselves from President Trump as best they can. Those attempts have tended to end in failure – the Minnesota Senator Al Franken once commented on the president’s vulgar language by saying, “That’s what I call a $100 bill”.

Now, Access Hollywood has released an audio recording which allegedly shows that during the time of President Obama’s presidency, Trump said that the Paris climate accord, which attempted to limit climate change, was bad for business. However, this is not what Trump said on tape. He said a variation of, “the Paris Climate Agreement is bad for business. I told my people, we’ve got to do it. If we don’t do it, we’re not going to have jobs anymore.”

So, is he actually trying to say that the Paris climate accord is a bad deal? In February 2018, the EPA established that, “there will not be significant domestic impacts from the Paris climate agreement, despite media reports and industry claims to the contrary.” In this most recent instance, in February 2018, Trump seemed to be attempting to backtrack from his earlier support for the Paris climate accord. Did he really say, “the Paris climate agreement is bad for business”?

The reality is that that Trump’s words are not as untrustworthy as the best politician and media reports would have you believe. Trump is known for inconsistent statements and his trying to unravel the Paris climate accord and the whole idea of global warming are his attempts to discredit an agreement that actually cut greenhouse gas emissions.

There are just three – maybe four – issues with which the Paris climate accord was a deal-breaker for him. First, he told various people that he wasn’t convinced that global warming is caused by humans and that the fact that President Obama made the agreement was political grandstanding. He claimed the president had failed to tell him that in the run-up to the negotiations. Second, the US was one of the big emitters of greenhouse gases and if it didn’t sign onto the agreement, other countries would almost certainly choose not to sign up to the agreement either. Third, if the US did not sign on, it meant that other countries would be charged far higher taxes on their carbon emissions. Fourth, he worried that the US wouldn’t have the leverage to go after corporations or strong-arm any companies into cutting down their greenhouse gas emissions.

Unfortunately for Trump, much of the world remains committed to the Paris climate accord. Trump just can’t afford to give up his entire bit of the pie. President Obama had urged the US to sign onto the agreement because it has global support. Trump, it turns out, really did want to get a free ride – the US had little chance of affecting climate outcomes in any way – and we’ve been all too glad to oblige.

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