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McKibben writes: "It seems likely that the Paris climate accords will offer one of the first real tests of just how nuts Donald Trump actually is. For a waiting world it's a public exam, his chance to demonstrate either that he's been blowing smoke or deeply inhaling."

Donald Trump. (photo: Jeffrey Phelps/AP)
Donald Trump. (photo: Jeffrey Phelps/AP)

Trump's Dilemma: To Please His Friends by Trashing the Paris Climate Deal, or Not?

By Bill McKibben, Guardian UK

19 November 16


If the president-elect sabotages last year’s agreement, he will own every disaster – every hurricane a Hurricane Donald, every drought a moment for mockery

t seems likely that the Paris climate accords will offer one of the first real tests of just how nuts Donald Trump actually is. For a waiting world it’s a public exam, his chance to demonstrate either that he’s been blowing smoke or deeply inhaling.

Think, if you will, of the Paris agreement as a toy painstakingly assembled over 25 years by many of the world’s leading lights. It has now been handed, as a gift, to the new child-emperor, and everyone is waiting to see what he’ll do.

His buddies – the far-right, climate-denying, UN-hating renegades who formed his campaign brains trust – are egging him on to simply break it, to smash it on the floor for a good laugh. In fact, they’re doing their best to give him no way out. “President-elect Trump’s oft-repeated promises in the campaign are fairly black-and-white,” said Myron Ebell, head of his Environmental Protection Agency transition team, last week. (Ebell believes that the Paris deal is an attempt to “turn the world’s economy upside-down and consign poor people to perpetual poverty” – and that climate science is done by “third-rate, fourth-rate and fifth-rate scientists”.)

On the other side are the world’s business leaders, 365 of whom just signed a letter asking Trump to keep America engaged in the Paris process to provide “long-term direction”. These are not people who have spent their lives in obscure rightwing thinktanks. They run stuff – like DuPont, General Mills, Hewlett-Packard, Hilton, Kellogg, Levi Strauss, Nike and Unilever. And it’s hard to run stuff if the rules keep changing.

There’s also a gang of Americans who care what the rest of the world thinks. A group of former military leaders this week sent Trump’s transition team a briefing book arguing that climate change presents a “significant and direct risk to US military readiness, operations and strategy”. Ben Cardin, a Delaware senator and the top Democrat on the Senate foreign affairs committee, said withdrawing from the Paris deal would damage “our credibility on other issues”.

And then there’s the rest of the world. Other nations can’t be “weak” or “naive”, said France’s former (and perhaps future) president Nicolas Sarkozy. If Trump pulls the US out of Paris, Sarkozy proposes a carbon tariff on US goods. That won’t happen, but diplomats at the current climate talks in Marrakech have made it clear that leadership on the 21st century’s most important issue would pass from Washington to Beijing.

So Trump faces a dilemma. Does he please his most extreme friends? If so, he will own every climate disaster in the next four years: every hurricane that smashes into the Gulf of Mexico will be Hurricane Donald, every drought that bakes the heartland will be a moment to mock his foolishness. That’s how that works.

Or does he back down? It’s clear he won’t do anything to enforce the Paris accords anyway – to all intents and purposes Obama’s clean power plan expires at noon on 20 January, and Trump’s guys will give the green light to any pipeline anyone proposes. But if he doesn’t actually smash the global architecture of the Paris accords, he’ll win points from responsible people. That’s how that works.

It’s entirely possible he’ll decide to do neither, and send the Paris accords to the Senate for some kind of show vote, letting the entire Republican party take the heat for its climate-denying views. This would demonstrate weakness of a particularly childish sort – the coat-holding boy who goads everyone else into a fight and steps back to watch.

The irony here is that the Paris accords aren’t even very strong. They represent a lowest-common-denominator effort, one that will allow the world’s temperature to keep climbing dangerously. They were passed in no small part to allow the world’s leaders to strenuously pat themselves on the back for having done something. But at least the pact keeps the process moving – and there are mechanisms that might allow the world to ratchet up its efforts as the temperature climbs. It’s a tissue of compromise and gesture, a flimsy bulwark against the climbing mercury and rising sea. But wrecking it would be an act of political vandalism, one that would define Trump’s legacy before he has even taken office.

So we’ll see. your social media marketing partner


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+47 # PeacefulGarden 2016-11-19 19:34
The first test to see if he is nuts? He just appointed Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. He is wacko, both are wacko.

Jeff Sessions is a freaking racist pig.

Honestly, we all know what Trump is going to do with climate issues. He will spray hair spray on all of them. Climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese.

Why bother reporting on this douche bag.

I guess reporters are just going to call the douche bag a douche bag over and over again.

Jeff Freaking Sessions. It is the end of this country, Mr. Plantation is our Attorney General.

Is that crazy enough?
+44 # DongiC 2016-11-19 20:02
The US is the second biggest contributor to global warming. After China. Trump is nuts. He is the kind of leader who can bring a civilization to its knees. Thr Republicans despite all their protests to the contrary have been seeking this end for years. Why do they hate America so?
-4 # babaregi 2016-11-19 23:01
Drain the swamp!
+35 # Thomas Martin 2016-11-19 23:34
If Trump continues to trash the climate accord and thereby work toward condemning everyone to the fatal consequences of global warming (read a book, President Trump!), we can't object to, and even should hope and pray for other countries opposing US policies to save the world in any way they can!
+10 # economagic 2016-11-20 16:07
It is not entirely clear that Trump CAN read, much less that he does. I am told that he is a graduate of the Wharton School, the nation's premier business program. But none of that material is rocket science, and none of it requires deep thought. I could imagine someone with Trump's background at the time floating through without ever cracking a book, in much the same way as he floated through a campaign for the presidency on bluff and bluster.
+31 # futhark 2016-11-20 00:09
Mother Nature is not listening to Mr. Trump's denial of climate change. No amount of his blather will help in the least prevent rising sea levels or increasingly severe storms and droughts. The scientific analysis of climate data confirms the validity of change. Even the most casual observer of nature over the age of about 40 can recall how much warmer the winters have become in recent years, how much later the first frost and earlier the last frost.

Ironically, Florida, the state that has the most to lose as the sea level rises, has consistently voted into office the politicians who are most obtuse in denying this challenging reality and are most vehement in their pigheaded fantasies. Wake up, Floridians! You are in jeopardy of losing your water supply, your home, your job, and your future security. That's a heck of a lot more than you will lose on account of a few Mexicans slipping across the border!
+3 # economagic 2016-11-20 16:08
Yes, with North Carolina Number 2.
+16 # draypoker 2016-11-20 01:33
If the US refuses to act on Climate Change it will need to be broken into smaller states that will act.
+24 # janie1893 2016-11-20 02:08
Mr. Trump is going to be in a dilemma over many issues because he is not able to say "I'm sorry, I was wrong" nor is he able to figure out that he must please the electorate and other nations rather than his insiders or himself. When he lies, he believes that because it is him doing the lying, it either becomes true or doesn't matter because he misspoke. The man is so wrapped in his own ego that he cannot do otherwise.

But what happens when he gets bored with the demands of the Presidency?
+18 # joejamchicago 2016-11-20 05:54
You reap what you sow. Obama ignored his duty to the Democratic Party by acting as President as an above the fray nonpolitician. He wanted everyone to love him. Mitch McConnell did not. Instead of protecting his legacy (and planetary existence) by endorsing Bernie Sanders to be the Democratic nominee, he stood on the sidelines. If anyone know how vulnerable Hillary Clinton is as a candidate for the Presidency, duh!, it was he--an inexperienced barely out of the cradle of the Illinois state senate pretty face with the thinnest of resumes.
Donald Trump embodies all the worst aspects of the ugly American. The USA believes it is a strong nation, when, in fact, its economic life system is on a respirator. Watch the rest of the world teach us a lesson.
+5 # dipierro4 2016-11-20 15:11
There's more than enough blame to go around: Obama for not supporting Sanders; Obama for not working harder for the party between elections; the whole Democrat power structure for being blind from the start to what a terrible candidate HRC would be, and then for cheating in support of her; HRC for her awful campaigning, never appearing to stand for much (perhaps because she really doesn't) aside from re-escalating the Cold War, or giving anyone any reason to connect with her; Black Democrat leaders for working hard against the Sanders candidacy in favor of HRC, and BLM for publicly abusing Sanders.

The election probably was stolen (as per Palast & others), but it also was handed to Trump by a lot of people through greed, arrogance and astoundingly poor judgment. Trump should have lost by double digits.
+1 # DongiC 2016-11-22 19:10
For the sake of the planet, it better be a good lesson and we better learn it well. Closing time for the good earth draws near.
+14 # oakes721 2016-11-20 08:16
Pleasing his "friends"? Buddies?
True friendship can only be had among good men. Bad men can only have accomplices.
+18 # Dust 2016-11-20 08:37
Myron Ebell can go fuck himself. With no education in the sciences, he is a typical industry apologist, confidently and self-righteousl y dismissing what he doesn't understand.

“third-rate, fourth-rate and fifth-rate scientists"?? His entire basis for that dismissal is his conviction that "climate change CAN'T be real, it just CAN'T! If it were, it would need a centralized response and that is something we just can't have. So I must dismiss the science behind it, as I don't have the vaguest understanding of it myself."

+8 # newell 2016-11-20 13:17
A federal carbon tax under Trump and the Republicans is not doable. And since the world burned more fossil fuel in 2016 than ever, the 1% will not keep it in the ground, much less try to lower the number of consumers by one-child incentives. The states are now the only place that might put a high enough tax on carbon to cut electricity and gasoline usage by half or at least a third. And it could be progressive--th e more you use the higher the rate.

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