Does it matter if the US denies climate change?

Via the FT:

Donald Trump walked out of the G7 on Saturday at loggerheads with the rest of the big western economies over climate change, amid fears that the US will pull out of the Paris accord on tackling global warming.

Angela Merkel, German chancellor, did nothing to hide her frustration with Mr Trump, saying discussions had been “very unsatisfying” and adding: “There was no indication that the US will stay in the Paris agreement.”

Mr Trump tweeted after the summit: “I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!”

Mr Trump was isolated on the issue at the summit and talks were at times “tense and antagonistic”, according to one French diplomat. Negotiators worked until 2am on Friday morning to try to bring the US on board.

The Paris agreement aims to contain global warming to the 2C lift considered the threshold of dangerous change.

Australia is having a bet both ways:

Federal energy minister Josh Frydenberg has told Sky News the government is committed it the Paris targets, but won’t put pressure on the US to remain in the agreement.

It comes after US President Donald Trump left the G7 summit in Sicily with a parting-shot tweet saying he hasn’t made up his mind whether to back the major accord on climate change.

But according to a media report by US website Axios, Mr Trump has told ‘confidants’, including the head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt,that he plans to leave a landmark international agreement on climate change.

Back home the energy minister assured viewers that the government had no intention of leaving the agreement.

That’s pretty pathetic. Like many agreements in international relations, governing laws almost never have any actual legal power. Mostly they result from “normatives”, accepted rules of conduct that are only occasionally enforced by law and even less frequently by either economic or martial pressure.

In other words, relations between nations are mostly governed by a value system so if you want to see it work then you have to show some commitment to it. That’s the real damage that Trump is doing, undermining the normative of acting on climate change and thereby making it OK for others to do the same.

Aside from that, my guess is we see the US de-carbonise anyway thanks to its the shale revolution killing coal, via the EIA:

City and state level governments will also fill the federal void and, most importantly, capital knows what Trump does not, that climate change mitigation is an unstoppable locomotive that is going to make some folks very, very rich, while others whither. Take Telsa versus Ford and GM, for instance:

Trump is a speed hump not road block.


  1. Of course.
    Policies at this point in the game can only really make it faster, not slower (excluding utterly absurd fossil subsidies).
    The balance sheet says: build renewables.

    Trump’s stance isn’t relevant. 20 years ago it would have been – but no one cared then either.

  2. Individual states may have different ideas, as we have seen since Trump got into power.

    For those still stinking Trump does have a brain (the optimists amongst us) – awesome negotiation tactic to remove complacency from Europe and confidence in the US, forcing Europe to take its own defense seriously. Personally I don’t mind, Trump is doing more things for European cooperation than the Europeans themselves have done in the past 20 years or so.

    Not really in the interest of the US in the long run though. Merkel’s next stop: India and China. Trump is really making it easy for the Chinese take the global reigns.

    • > For those still stinking Trump does have a brain – aawesome nbegotiation tactic to remove complacency and confidence in the US, forcing Europe to take it’s own defense seriously.

      I can’t tell if you’re denigrating or complimenting him – on achieving the goal of getting NATO to spend its required 2%

      • I don’t think he is clever enough for this to be a well planned negotiation tactic, but if it is – brilliant in regards to getting Europeans to take action.

        It doesn’t really matter, his actions are causing global ripples. A more independent Europe? Excellent! A damaged US? Shame.

        America First in the short run perhaps and not at all that successful. In the long run US interests will be badly damaged. As HnH says, how can you trust such a country now?

      • I don’t see Europe talking about kicking Turkey out of NATO.

        Long term, it’ll be fine. Everyone’s so panicky. End of the day, Murica has the troops, the bombs, the planes, the tanks.

        I’m still on the fence. (Acting/being?) crazy seems to be working for his goals. I still can’t decide whether it’s deliberate craziness or he’s actually crazy. Either way, he seems to be mostly getting what he wants.

        For the deliberate act argument: I’m pretty sure the first premise in the art of war is “All war is based on deception. Appear strong when you are weak. Appear weak when you are strong.” If he wanted a weak partner to become strong, is appearing weak a good strategy? Seems like it. In under 4 months they’re talking about strengthening themselves and they’re shit scared the world’s biggest bully won’t rock up if they ask. Has anyone seen Europe so united on one topic before? Has anyone seen Europe talk about self-defense before? They’re talking about exactly what he wants them to talk about. Crazy or genius?

        For the he’s actually crazy argument: everyone has an opinion on that. I won’t bother.

  3. bolstroodMEMBER

    No, it does not matter if the US or any other signatory to the Paris agreement pulls out, it was only a sop to public angst. We are past the point of no return.We had our chance , and thanks to the greed of the fossil fuel lobby, and the ignorance and cowardice of sceptics and deniers unable to face facts, our fate is sealed. I think they will come to regret their stance.We now face planetry tempreture increase of 3-4 degrees above preindustrial levels.
    The future is going to be extremely challenging,if not fatal for life as we have known it.
    There is nothing left to do but suck it up.

    • Agree. We are now at the stage of having to geo-engineer the planet, which is scary because the chances of us not screwing that up are probably zero. The ever greater amounts of methane escaping into the atmosphere are going to tip us into faster and faster climate change and we will not be able to change fast enough. Treat the planet gently while you are on it and enjoy the remaining beauty, plus don’t have kids.

      • “Agree. We are now at the stage of having to geo-engineer the planet, which is scary because the chances of us not screwing that up are probably zero. ”

        So true- on both counts. We don’t have the capacity as a species to deal with a global problem on the scale of climate change. If climate change doesn’t bring us to our knees some other global environmental problem will. We’ll either see it too late, or it will demand a level of sacrifice we’re unwilling to bear.

        Seriously, between cognitive bias, being terrible at assessing complex risk, and a general selfishness, it’s amazing humanity has lasted this long.

        That said we may pull out a fix, but again as you say there will probably be a cost.

  4. California – their biggest state – has a renewable energy target.

    They should put a tax on plastic bags also.

    Solar power is getting cheaper anyway.

  5. DarkMatterMEMBER

    There are only two ways to change the energy consumption of the planet. The first is to close down the growth and consumer obsessed financial system and make it more efficient. The second is to introduce new technology that provides an alternative.

    The first option would mean that countries like Germany that make cars would shoot themselves in the foot. How can climate accords change this? It is like turning the Titanic.

    The second option is actually coming along better than we could have hoped for. There does seem to be a good chance that we can have civilisation at a much lower energy cost.

    • There’s a third way, but it involves significantly depopulating the planet. Who’s volunteering?

  6. ceteris paribus

    Donald might enjoy Peter Dutton’s line of humour on sea-level rise and inundation. I mean we all seriously have to ask ourselves the question: “Why do we elect these dregs to get anywhere near policy power?” Why is there such a profound collective deficit in our discernment and emotional intelligence? History is a damning indictment. Optimism for the future is equally unwarranted.

  7. ResearchtimeMEMBER

    Macrons antics will backfire spectacularly… if seeing Mark Latham pump Howards arm, probably out of nerves was odd… one has to see the Macron big man (not) almost break a man twice his age hand until the knuckles turned white, speak in French…

    IMHO, the French have bagged a winner – and if I were to make a prediction, he will be the most hated politician in Europe in three years!

  8. I hazard a guess that it will be too late to change when waves of sea water are lapping the front doors of all that exclusive beachfront property that the rich and ruling elite are so fond of.
    Their indignation and calls for change will be most amusing.

  9. “Does it matter if the US denies climate change?”
    Despite the bias in the question – The answer is YES, it questions the religion that is cloaked as Climate Change.

    The hypocrisy of Germany, Japan and China building coal fired power stations at unprecedented rate questioning Trump’s support for the US coal industry is glaring.

    Meanwhile Australia’s policy to kill off industry through ever-accelerating energy prices while exporting thermal coal at record rate is laughably naive. Any deluded sole who thinks that a modern economy can survive on wind and solar energy in its present guise needs a good dose of reality. The belief that wind and solar energy is cheaper than coal lacks any understanding the basic demands of an electrical network operates – it is not practical to defer most aspects of modern life until the wind blows or the sun shines. The modern world runs to a timetable.