Trump in the Time of Climate—or Climate in the Time of Trump?

 

As a Lukewarmer and a progressive liberal, I suppose I should be rending clothes, gnashing teeth and working on future ‘I told you sos,’ to be delivered with appropriately baleful gazes.

I don’t think Donald Trump and his incoming administration will be good for either the U.S. or the world at large. Not on the economy. Not on national or international security. Not on immigration (which I support) or reducing inequity.

And yet I actually think it is possible for Trump and his crew to have a beneficial effect on our fledgling efforts to combat whatever climate change is coming down the pike.

At the risk of boring you I’ll repeat the basics of the Lukewarmer message (unapproved, nay, unread in all probability by other Lukewarmers): Like most skeptics, lukewarmers well understand that CO2 is a greenhouse gas and emitting industrial quantities of it may work to raise temperatures. Lukewarmers go further and say there’s a very good possibility those rises may net out as a negative consequence, hence we should consider spending some of our treasure to prevent or prepare for it. However, we recognize the limitations of our understanding of atmospheric sensitivity, the operations of cloud forcings and feedbacks and see that actual observations do not call forth as much worry as mystical interpretations of climate models.

How on Earth can I be so sanguine at the prospect of a Trump administration’s policies on ‘combating climate change?’

Well, part of it is just a secular need for change after 8 years of one administration. I support much of what Obama did—especially the Clean Power Act, which has helped to lower US emissions to the point where other countries can’t criticize us as much as they would dearly love to. I am happy he continued federal support for renewables—yes, even Solyndra—and look at the continual downward curve of solar pricing as proof of good policy. (Yes, of course Obama didn’t lower solar prices—but he didn’t get in the way. That’s the best policy!)

But eight years is a long time—long enough for principles to get entrenched, for rules to outlive their utility, for dogma to become established policy without review. Quite a bit of that has happened during the Obama administration, just as it has with every two-term administration before it. A new administration can sweep through the halls of bureaucratic power and clear some of the deadwood out.

Policies like opposing pipeline transportation of oil are not based on evidence—pipelines are safer modes of transport, they emit less CO2 than the trains and trucks they would replace and only Warren Buffet (whose company invested heavily in trains and trucks for oil transport) would lose if they were adopted.

Making it easier to drill for oil and gas on Federal lands may boost the U.S. economy. (As energy demand continues to increase throughout the developing world, fossil fuels will continue to be the fuel of choice, and cheap US oil and gas is better for the environment than expensive and risky Arctic deposits or deep, deep water sources.)

Similarly, Trump’s new choices for State, Energy and the EPA may counter-intuitively increase the chances for adoption of a modest carbon tax. The corporate backgrounds of most of the incoming administration will focus them on placing bounds on the risks faced by companies and a carbon tax is the most efficient way to do that. A regulatory regime that lets companies understand the limits of their liability and allows planning would be welcomed by most—even, as we see, companies like Exxon. As it is also the most efficient tool to combat climate change, the only losers are the rent-seekers who would prefer to be at the controls of an unwieldy and easily gamed Cap and Trade scheme. It saddens me that so many of these are from my party. A modest carbon tax on large emitters, with the revenues hypothecated to reducing Social Security taxes would do more for America’s climate emissions than a dozen Paris agreements.

I have no doubt that in four years I’ll look at this piece ruefully, saying ‘Okay—enough’s enough!’ I am a Democrat and I am a Lukewarmer. I oppose on first principles most of what Trump has proposed and I doubt if that will change much.

But the groans and moans from the Alarmist and Konsensus communities really don’t sound much different from the noises they emitted during previous, friendlier administrations. The NGOs and lobbyists that form the bulk of those two communities (with the sleazy assists from social ‘scientists’ like Stephan Lewandowsky, John Cook, Dana Nuccitelli ad nauseam) have never wanted to negotiate any kind of a climate solution. Their stated goal has been total surrender of all their opponents—and they have insisted on expanding their universe of opponents to include most sane people who look at their goals in horror.

So in addition to the normal cleansing effects of the swing of the political pendulum, I am hopeful that a Trump administration will do violence (hyperbole alert: I do not mean physical violence) to the entrenched climate establishment that has worked hard at creating a feverish atmosphere with exaggerations and lies about a fevered planet.

If Trump and his crew manage that, I’ll be prepared to forgive a lot. But be very aware that I’ll be voting for his Democratic opponent in four years.

I just want to close by thanking those who read Climate Scepticism for their support since the opening of this web venue. It’s a hoot reading the posts and comments here. I don’t have much of a chance to write on climate issues any more, but I still read all the blogs and a lot of the comments. I wish you all the happiest of holiday seasons and hope you join me in wishing that next year, at the very least, we see far fewer defections from this planet to Rock and Roll Heaven.

18 thoughts on “Trump in the Time of Climate—or Climate in the Time of Trump?

  1. I hope your relaxed attitude is justified. I am rather less sanguine. A US friend who is also horrified by Trump’s election says he expects Trump to go down in flames well before 4 years, due to some stupidity or other. We’ll see.

    …most sane people who look at their goals in horror.

    What goals do you think the bulk of the “Alarmist and Konsensus communities” have? Not the extremes, but the typical people?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Tom for an admirably thoughtful outline of what we can expect from the Trump administration. It shouldn’t be necessary to mention one’s own politics in an article like this, but given the reactions which are already coming from green/ left-of-centre media, it’s going to be ever more vital to separate scepticism (or lukewarmism) from support for Trump.

    It’s going to be interesting to see the reactions of the Green Blob. Environmentalist groups are already reporting increased contributions, and I see no reason why the European Union and billionaire-backed foundations should cut funds to the numerous tentacular climate blogs and think tanks that feed the liberal media.

    It will be different for academics and scientists funded by the US government, who may want to distance themselves from the more vocal activists. There’s already a long-running theme in Greenyland that “scientists don’t dare speak out” and that the IPCC is conservative in its estimates etc. Expect tales of witchunts and McCarthyism to dominate the environment pages. It could get nasty.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What do you make of the Trump team request for lists of individuals from DoE, Geoff?

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  4. What do you make of attempts to cleanse politics of people with “links” to fossil energy, Len?

    Sauce for the goose, and all that.

    Trump, however, has a mandate.

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  5. Hiya Geoff–well, it may be interesting to see how the Green Blob reacts, but I’ll bet there are few surprises. Calls for more money will dominate, I imagine.

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  6. Thomas, You have an interesting post here. However, there is some cognitive dissonance between your liberal economic views and your lack of panic over Trump. Trump has appointed a very conservative cabinet. However, I’m not sure that’s bad news for emissions reductions. I expect a lot of emphasis on natural gas and on nuclear and that’s going to be more effective for our Green friends in reducing emissions than all the renewables stuff. However, my take is that like Teddy Roosevelt Trump is going to be hard to categorize in the ideological spectrum. He is clearly a nationalist and many Americans are hungering for that after Obama’s remarkably ineffective administration (and the childish attempts by Obama to blame every failure on someone else).

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  7. I well recall those chants about how Reagan would cause WW3 etc. Yawn. It’s quite hard to get an easy Internet access to those newspaper headlines. It’s as if the Guardian has hidden its archives. A real contrarian would show the headlines of horror at Reagan’s election, day by day

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Man in a Barrel, I also remember the reaction to the Reagan election–I voted against him and I was convinced we were really in for it after he got in. Overall, I don’t think he was a very good president, but I forgave much because of his work in bringing the Cold War to a… well… I was going to say conclusion, but–hey, can we say ‘pause’ about things other than temperature averages?

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  9. It is also important to bear in mind that ExxonMobil was /is committed to being a highly efficient company. So rules that bear down on oil companies effect ExxonMobil less than Shell or BP. Because the internal rules are so strict, regulations carry less weight on ExxonMobil than on other oil majors. The BP Gulf of Mexico disaster hyped by Obama might give an ex ExxonMobil boss a chance to get a gain over a rival firm. BTW, we all know that Obama was hyping shit science…. A sort of science that Ken Rice needs to own

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  10. Many of us in the US understand what Trump will likely do, because he has been reasonably clear. He will secure the southern border; we have 11 million illegals without decent job skills consuming unearned education,medical, and welfare nenefits. He will cut burdensome federal regulation everywhere. He will greenlight Keystone, stop the Dakota Access nonsense, and permit fracking on federal lands. He will be tough on China, and via ‘T rex’ pragmatic elsewhere. He won’t intevene in others affairs if the US is not directly affected, unlike Obama on Brexit. Most likely he will adopt some form of Ryan’s tax policies and some form of Price’s health policies. He will cut DoD’s $135 billion of overhead waste and reign in cost overruns (Air Force 1 was a shot across the bow). He will likely exit Paris climate agreement, although that is unimportant since nothing is binding. Pruitt will reign in EPA, most likely letting CPP and Wotus fail in the courts as unconstitutional, to punctuate how unconstitutional Obam’s over reach was. He will move the Supreme Court to the right with at least one nominee. He will invest in rejuvenating infrastructure, although means and magnitudes are still sketchy (perhaps raise the federal fuel tax, which hasn’t been touched in decades and is only $0.18/gallon).
    Frankly, sounds like a pretty good agenda.
    Progressives will howl and whinge and distort, a process that has already started with Facebook ‘fake news’. Tough, they lost. Dems will try to sabotage, but except for the Supreme nominee, have almost no tools at hand having lost both branches of Congress, the White House, and the majority of state governors and legislatures.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. TF, your regrets are why the deplorables won the electoral college. Everything I noted re Trump is a matter of public record. Get used to it.

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  12. thomaswfuller2 says 18 Dec 16 at 9:08 pm

    “Ristvan, you have outlined a heroic agenda. I will be regretful but respectful if he manages a third of that.”

    Much of what the Donald can accomplish still depends on the dregs of the US congress. The Donald will do for the Donald, pulling the US in the little red wagon behind. If you do not like the direction ‘get out’. He has two years to turn all around. Mid terms will be crucial! Those not supportive will be crucified in both parties. Longer term; to far a swing to the right is likely harmful. Can you say why you think Trump would run for re-election in 2020?

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  13. RISTVAN, nobody has much idea what Trump might do. He hasn’t been clear about much, having said many different and often conflicting things. His presidency is probably the most unpredictable period in decades. Even his wall turns out maybe not to be a wall. One thing we can probably be sure of is that the Trump family will come out of it richer, so job done.

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  14. Because politicians are usually well known for ending up poor. I’m sorry Len, I must have missed all your post lamenting how many politicians get rich on the back of green issues. They’re getting rich on stuff people don’t even want.

    His term will probably like all the others – not as good as some hope, nowhere near as bad as others fear.

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  15. JJ, I doubt Zinke and Trump Jr will relax hunting/fishing limits on big game species like bear and mountain lion, except possibly black bear in the southern Appalachians which are overrun. Wolves are mostly protected, period, and are making a welcome comeback to help control the whitetail deer overpopulation in thenupper midwest. We occaisionally now get a wandering black bear or small wolf pack on my Wisconsin dairy farm. Never happened in the 1980s and 1990s. Most game limits are state set by their wildlife departments, and those limits apply to federal lands in that state. That certainly is true in Wisconsin for both fish and mammals. Migratory bird limits are a combinarion of state and federal for obvious reasons. Great waterfowl hunting in the lower Wisconsin River sloughs a few miles from the farm. Most hunters and fishermen are ardent supporters of limits, in order to protect their interests long term. Including me for waterfowl, deer, wild turkey, and trout. Could but don’t hunt black bear in north Georhpbia’s Chattahoochee National Forest (we have a cabin along the Toccoa River trout fishery) or at my brothers mountain retreat of several hundred acres just across the state line in North Carolina. Bear central to the point of being a problem.

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  16. Ristvan,

    I was thinking e.g. Alaska where federal law was recently approved in order to put a stop to the indiscriminate hunting of large predators.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2016/08/04/feds-to-alaska-stop-killing-bears-and-wolves-on-our-land/

    I’m hoping that Trump won’t reverse such initiatives to prevent state sponsored so called ‘predator management’ programs seriously impacting large predators. Unfortunately, many state wildlife services seem more swayed by hunting lobbyists and ranchers than they are by the desire to maintain viable wildlife populations.

    Like

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