In the ashes of November 9, 2016, the United States – and the world – looked uneasily at the next four years, unsure of what the new commander-in-chief might do. Trump’s fiery rhetoric careened wildly from position to position, both on and off the campaign trail. What he remained remarkably consistent on, however, was his desire to roll back many of the environmental protections that his predecessor had instituted while simultaneously withdrawing the United States from the historic Paris Accords. A slew of controversial Tweets claiming that global warming was a “hoax” invented by China did little to assuage concerns among environmentalists.
Six months into the presidency, and things aren’t looking much better on the environmental front in the United States. Big oil executives kowtow with the President, a Republican-controlled Senate salivates at the thought of undoing years of climate action, and environmentalist grassroots struggle to navigate this new, turbulent political environment.
But there’s hope. The seeds of change planted by Obama continue to grow, and the economic, scientific and cultural momentum of the environmentalist movement will be very difficult to stop. The global transition to a green, low-carbon future is well underway, and no matter how “bigly” Donald Trump thinks otherwise, reversing the momentum is going to take a lot more effort than the Republican White House might think.
Solar and wind are now cheaper than fossil fuels
The Republican Party has often touted itself as the party of fiscal responsibility, and perhaps for that reason, one of the biggest arguments in favor of staying the climate course is the cost of windmills and solar panels compared to their coal-fired cousins. In the United States, electricity from coal dropped by more than 50 per cent in the last decade, coinciding with a dramatic uptick in the usage of utility scale solar plants. In a truly ironic twist of fate, Trump’s first 100 days went hand-in-hand with wind power’s best quarter in eight years. Fossil fuels may still dominate the global energy market, but renewable sources are closing the gap—and fast. By 2028, electricity generation from natural gas and renewables will surpass coal, with or without Trump’s big rollback.
The free market has chosen – and it’s chosen renewable energy
“Vote with your wallet”- that’s the old maxim, and nowhere is this better seen than in the current state of the energy sector. Following Trump’s dramatic announcement to drop out of the Paris Accords, he faced resistance – not just from the usual gang of tree huggers and granola munchers, but from a far more persuasive faction: CEOs and companies. Some of the largest companies in the United States have argued for staying in the Paris Accords, including some unlikely suspects: the chemical giant Dupont answered the call, as did General Motors, who aims to have 100 per cent renewable manufacturing plants by 2050. Coal-fired electric utilities are all on board with reducing emissions over time, whether Washington wants them to or not.
This is a bipartisan issue – red states are going green
When you think of “renewable energy,” our minds immediately jump to the liberal cities of the United States – the Sacramentos and San Franciscos, the New Yorks and Seattles. But over the past few years, the desire for clean energy has spread beyond these yuppie borders and into the lands that their inhabitants sometimes call “real America.” Nine of the ten states who get the largest proportion of wind energy are red states, including Iowa, Kansas, the Dakotas, and even Texas. Some Republican lawmakers and representatives in these countries choose to sidestep the thorny issues of global warming and focus on the money behind these changeovers. It’s difficult to imagine these windy states disassembling their vast windmill apparatuses in favour of moving back over onto the coal standard, no matter how cheap it is.
Can Trump and his cabinet of swamp monsters still deal damage to the environment? Certainly. However, the environment has long been touted as a self-correcting ecosystem, and in this case that same maxim applies to Trumponomics. Trump can try – bigly, he can make the best – the greatest – the most terrific effort to roll back climate protections – but he’ll face ‘yuge’ resistance along the way.