Trump's order dents climate change fight

President of the United States Donald Trump has set the clock back in the efforts to fight climate change by dismantling, through an executive order, most of former President Barack Obama’s clean energy initiative. Trump’s steps to reverse Obama’s policies began soon after he took over. He first announced a decision to roll back fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks and then slashed the budget for climate-related scientific research. Last week, he annulled the most important element in Obama’s strategy which aimed at shutting down hundreds of old coal-fired power plants and making it difficult to start new ones. He also sent a populist message to coal workers and the coal industry that they will have happy days again. It was a part of his campaign promise and he has stuck to his view that the idea of climate change is a fraud and is the world’s, specifically China’s, conspiracy against the US.

The impact of Trump’s decisions will go beyond the US because America is the biggest emitter of carbon dioxide per capita and the second biggest emitter in terms of volume. No effort to fight climate change will be effective without cooperation from and supporting action in the US. The Obama plan had aimed to cut emissions from coal plants by 32% over 2005 levels by 2030. Many coal companies have stopped working and 50 of them have filed for bankruptcies since 2012. But it is unlikely that their fortunes will turn around because of Trump’s action. It is almost impossible to revive the coal industry because natural gas is cheaper. Other energy sources like wind and solar power have become competitive in costs and they have tripled their output in the last 10 years. Public sentiment, too, is in favour of cleaner energy. 

But the message sent out by Trump’s order is negative and discouraging for the world. There are doubts whether the US would withdraw from the landmark Paris agreement of 2015 in which Obama had played a major role. This may be unlikely because of various reasons, including differences in the Trump administration over the matter. But Trump’s move has, in effect, rejected the Paris agreement and cost the US its role as the global leader on climate change issues. There is widespread opposition to Trump’s decision in the US. One encouraging sign is that a number of progressive and informed states and cities may ignore Trump’s orders and go ahead with their plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Other counties should also stick to the goals they had set for themselves under the Paris agreement.
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