March 3, 2017
Now that the first month of the Trump administration is over, those fighting for climate protection have a better idea of what they are up against for at least the next four years. While there are many negatives that we could dwell on--EPA's measures to address climate change (such as the Clean Power Plan) are very likely history, the president wants to return the coal industry to its glory days, work on the Dakota Access Pipeline has started anew, and the tightening-up of fuel economy standards for the nation's vehicles could be eased, are just a few--there are a few bright spots that we shouldn't overlook.
First, many progressives in the U.S. are fired-up and getting involved for the first time in issues that concern them. While we don't know if their energy is sustainable over time, the climate movement could well bring many of these new activists under its tent. As the temperatures around the world continue their record-shattering trends--the earth broke its own temperature record in 2016 for the third year in a row--it's not a stretch to think that numerous Americans will conclude that "enough is enough" regarding climate change, and then act out of concern for their family's future. And if a global warming-caused natural disaster like Superstorm Sandy slams the country, a stampede for action on the issue could occur. Remember, respected academic research has shown that in order to bring a government down, you need only about 3.5%, and often less, of the population mobilizing against it.
Second, the president's protestations that increasing fossil fuel production will bring a high-growth economy notwithstanding, the administration wouldn't dare endanger the explosive growth in the clean energy sector, not if the President wants to have any chance of re-election anyway. Trump's people--at least of some of them read the business news--very likely have seen the ever-present headlines: "Solar is providing twice as many jobs in the U.S. as coal", "Wind energy installed more electric generating capacity in 2015 than any other energy source in the U.S." and "The solar and wind industries are each creating jobs at a rate 12 times faster than that of the rest of the U.S. economy." In addition, numerous red states, including Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa, depend on the economic vitality provided by clean energies such as wind. Governors of those states won't be happy if Washington throws bones to traditional fuels at the expense of renewables.
Finally, there may be hope that the Paris Climate Agreement could survive the new president's wrath, and its survival is critical if we are to have any chance of addressing the climate crisis. Though many experts agreed back in December 2015 when the climate pact was signed, it was only the first step in addressing the climate crisis, those same experts now say it is critical that the U.S. remains on as a signatory of the agreement. Should the world's second largest carbon dioxide-emitter leave the pact, numerous other large emitters will probably follow suit. So, when reports recently surfaced that Ivanka Trump and her husband convinced the senior Trump to remove criticism of the climate pact from the draft of a forthcoming executive order, we cheered the good news.
In close, certainly, our fight to save the world's climate became much more challenging with the inauguration of the new U.S. president. However, we mustn't lose sight of the potential silver linings inherent in any major event, albeit a distressing one. Indeed, they may be all we can hold on to for some time as we live out our days.