Obama puts pressure on Trump to adhere to US climate change strategy
10 January 2017 | Mitigation
Barack Obama called the adoption of clean energy in the US “irreversible” on Monday, putting pressure on his successor, Donald Trump, not to back away from a core strategy to fight climate change.
Obama, penning an opinion article in the journal Science, sought to frame the argument in a way that might appeal to the president-elect: in economic terms. He said the fact that the cost and polluting power of energy had dropped at the same time proved that fighting climate change and spurring economic growth were not mutually exclusive.
“Despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the economic benefits of a low-carbon future than the United States,” Obama wrote.
He peppered his article with subtle references to Trump, noting that the debate about future climate policy was “very much on display during the current presidential transition”.
As he prepares to transfer power to Trump, Obama has turned to an unusual format to make his case to Trump to preserve his policies: academic journals. In the last week, Obama also published articles under his name in the Harvard Law Review about his efforts on criminal justice reform and in the New England Journal of Medicine defending his healthcare law, which Republicans are poised to repeal.
The articles reflect an effort by Obama to pre-empt the arguments Trump or Republicans are likely to employ as they work to roll back Obama’s key accomplishments in the coming years. Yet it is unclear whether Trump or the GOP could be swayed by scholarly arguments in relatively obscure publications.
In Science, Obama argued that as the cost of clean energy sources like solar and wind drop, businesses are independently coming to the conclusion that it makes financial sense to wean themselves off coal and other dirtier fuels. He also said that if Trump pulls out of the global emissions-cutting deal struck in Paris that Obama helped broker, the US would “lose its seat at the table” on global climate policy.
Obama said a key advantage of the US political system is that each president determines his or her own policies.
“President-elect Donald Trump will have the opportunity to do so,” Obama wrote. “The latest science and economics provide a helpful guide for what the future may bring.”
Meanwhile, the outgoing secretary of state, John Kerry, told students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that work to combat problems caused by climate change “should not be a partisan issue” on Monday, in one of his final speeches as the top US diplomat.
Kerry noted that military officials, intelligence leaders and mayors of coastal US cities agree that the problem of rising sea levels and erratic rainfall requires action, and urged Trump’s incoming administration to tackle such concerns head on.
Trump has described climate change as a hoax and promised to pull the US out of the deal negotiated in Paris in 2015 to cut global greenhouse gas emissions. In an interview with the New York Times in November, though, he said he was keeping an open mind on whether to pull out of the accord.
“I’m not going to speculate about the policies that our president-elect and his secretary of state will choose to pursue,” Kerry said. Trump’s nominated successor to Kerry is Rex Tillerson, chief executive of the multinational oil giant.
“But I will tell you this … some issues look a lot different when you’re actually in office compared to when you’re on the campaign trail.
“The truth is that climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It’s an issue that all of us should care about, regardless of political affiliation.”
The Senate is due this week to begin the process of confirming Trump’s appointments, including proposed Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt, the attorney general of Oklahoma who has repeatedly challenged the agency’s authority in the courts.
Many Republicans in Congress argue environmental regulations slow business growth and job creation, top priorities for the Trump administration.
Kerry referenced a US intelligence report published on Monday that listed climate change among the factors that could raise the risk of conflict between nations.
Kerry called on researchers and students at MIT to keep up their work on improving energy efficiency and inventing new energy sources, regardless of government policies.
“It’s going to be innovators, researchers, entrepreneurs, and business leaders … who will continue to create the technological advances that forever revolutionize the way we power our world,” he said.
“Every person in this room – indeed, every person on the planet – has an interest in making sure that transition happens as quickly as possible.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Monday that 2016 was the second hottest year in the US.
Source: The Guardian