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.