President Trump and his Legacy

Date Published

12th Nov 2019

Don McLean
Founder and Managing Director (CEO), IES

Last week, President Trump formally notified the United Nations of the United States’ intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.  I think this is very disappointing.  

The US accounts for approximately 15% of global CO2 emissions.  Without their contribution, it will fall upon the rest of the world to generate an oversupply of carbon free energy - equivalent to about 18% more carbon savings - to offset the US’s non-participation in the Paris Agreement.

Not participating gives the US a number of commercial advantages. Principally, they do not need to invest in energy efficiency and decarbonisation of the country.  I would imagine that this will make many of their companies more competitive as they will not need to spend heavily on decarbonisation.

This implication may cause the problem to spiral out of control.  Other countries may decide to withdraw from the Paris Agreement because they need to be more competitive with the US and so cannot meet their Paris commitments, due to the cost of investing in an expensive decarbonisation strategy. 

Carbon emissions equalise very quickly across the Earth.  So while the US will benefit from the efforts of all other countries, their efforts will have less impact if the US is not also reducing their use of fossil fuels.   

Unfortunately, if countries do not participate in reducing their carbon emissions, there is little the remaining countries can do unless some form of sanctions are implemented.

Remember, we do not need to save the planet. The Earth will survive.  However, climate change will make the Earth more inhospitable to many species.  Many species will become extinct and some will survive. Humans are likely to survive, but the global population may drop significantly to 1 billion, or maybe only tens of millions.  

This is a major risk and we need to be united.  If we cannot, there is every chance that we collapse into one of the many dystopian societies that are envisaged in books and films.

If an alternative POTUS takes up the Presidential post in 2020 or 2024 there is hope that the US might rejoin the Paris Agreement.  If not, and humanity suffers as a consequence of Climate Change, how will the future generations, that survive the worst impacts of climate change, judge President Trump?

Fortunately, there are many individuals, groups and organisations across the US that are still committed to supporting climate action and have pledged their continued efforts to help achieve the targets set out by the Paris Agreement under the “We Are Still In” declaration. I’m encouraged to have read statements of support from like-minded organisations, such as the US Green Building Council, who last week announced their ongoing dedication to creating an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy and prosperous world through more sustainable buildings, communities and cities.  As well as the many other leaders who have called out the risks of this withdrawal.

This could be a defining moment for humanity. Can we unite and help create a better future for our descendants?

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