Donald Trump’s own goal

First they enriched us with Donald Duck. Now the Americans are bringing to the world their very own… Donald Dumb and his backroom club of fossil fools. It may turn out to be better news that it seemed at first.

American president Donald Trump’s own goal is not only that he showcases his country as the world’s black sheep in the class room, which it – as history’s biggest carbon polluter – less outspokenly has been all the way. Just like Adani does with its dirty deals with the Australian and Queensland governments, Trump could be doing the climate action movement a great favour by carving out in all its absurdity to everyone in the world what kind of a dangerous circus of fossil clowns it is that have hijacked our governments.

Will Donald Trump’s unusual moment of honesty around the fact that he wants to allow the Americans to freely pollute the atmosphere and wreck the climate as much and as long as they please, hit himself and his country in the neck like a boomerang? Other leaders – such as Malcolm Turnbull – are doing exactly the same as Trump, only they are just not as stupid as to say it out loud to the rest of the world.

Malcolm Turnbull’s strategy, and the general anti-climate action strategy of creating doubt about the science and spreading confusion among people and politicians, has a proven track record of being extremely successful in delaying any real action to close the fossil fuel industry down – which really is what the entire world’s governments should be urgently engaged with at this stage, where global warming is passing one dangerous tipping point and breaking one global temperature-rise record after the next.

The black coal cats have so far managed to avoid the threat to their investments and their profits. But in walks the narcissist Trumpet-elephant who wants to show his backroom club of cigar-smoking climate deniers that he actually dares to carry out what has been the entire fossil fuel industry’s wet dream ever since the Paris Agreement annoyingly was agreed upon by 190 countries in 2015: in a display of fossil fuel ecstacy, he dares to pull the plug on it.

The counter-intentioned implications are the fact that his elephantastic stupidity now has woken up lots and lots more people who are suddenly coming to see how bad things have become, and how utterly wrong it is what is going on in our governments. Not only in the American government, but in fossil fuel controlled governments around the world.

The climate action movement along with the Chinese will be grateful for this dumb draw of the US on the fossil-versus-renewables chess board, because this has moved the inevitable checkmate closer than it has ever been.

The United States is history’s biggest carbon polluter. Up til recently, China has been blamed as the black sheep in the family, but Trump has now shouted it out to the entire world that even though Americans only make up just four percent of the world’s population, they are responsible for almost a third of the excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Donald Dumb’s new move just made that into a sensational news story, damaging the Americans’ reputation on a global scale.

With or without the Paris Agreement, the scientific fact is that governments around the world are not doing enough to reduce carbon emissions and protecting the planet from dangerous warming and climate change. We are in a climate emergency, and governments continue to ignore this, as they are hijacked by the influential and wealthy fossil fuel industry.

American president Donald Trump carrying out his election promise of scrapping the global agreement for the protection of the global climate simply carves this out as clearly as if it was a chapter in a Donald Duck cartoon: how the governments of the rich part of the world are betraying that poorer part of humanity which is at risk of becoming climate victims and climate refugees.

Saying one thing, doing something entirely different: Governments deliberately procrastinate and delay the transition away from fossil fuels.

Trump has been called a ‘danger to humanity’, but it is also possible he is a ‘blessing in disguise’. Because of his extreme stupidity, many more people have woken up and begin to understand what is happening and what is going wrong. When you measure the effect of his actions and hold it against how much stronger the rest of the world now is responding – because of him – you may find that Trump’s provocations have actually benefited the climate change action cause.

Even the Republicans – his own party – have begun to rebel against him. The things scientists have warned us about for over 25 years are now – surprise surprise – actually beginning to happen. The more disruption that happens now, the better, because this apparently what needs to happen in order to get ordinary people out of their comfort zone and start to take action at a personal and local level. Start to get engaged in the battle.

Some even argue that – unfortunately – its better we start seeing some ugly climate-related disasters as soon as possible in order to wake up humanity before it’s really getting too late to do anything. Some say that 2020 is the year of the tipping point.

If you accept that paradigme, then what’s alarming news is actually good news, right now, in a fossil-dependent world which refuses to stop its air pollution and where the political power in all countries where there are fossil fuels in the subsoil is hijacked by the industry.

And then look what France is doing. President Macron is given the opportunity to play a bit of a global climate hero – along with Arnold Swartzenegger and hundreds of the most influential businesses in the world.

In other words, is Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement really as big a blow to the transition as some people are crying it out in social media, or is this just Trump being stupid as usual, because his keeping his word from the election-promise in this case will cost American jobs and credibility?

Saying you will commit to the Paris Agreement and then doing nothing, or even the opposite, as we are seeing the Australian government doing it, “beating about the bush” and quietly subsidising the fossil industry with billions of dollars, would probably have been a diplomatically smarter move for Trump – but in the real world, with the climate impacts hitting us harder and harder as the years go by, is that any better at all?

I suggest we instead point the camera-lens in the opposite direction and ask: who is really the black sheep around here? Measured per capita, Australians are among the worst polluters on the planet – and it is a classic “carbon-trick” that countries which claim to have lowered their carbon emissions in reality just have handed them over to China, by making China the world’s backyard industrial zone.

Australians can thank their state and federal governments for having one of the world’s oldest, dirtiest and least efficient fleets of power stations, more than 20 of them coal-fired. Burning coal produces more than 30 toxic substances, including lead, mercury and fine particles that penetrate deep into our lungs, causing serious health problems.

Below are some recent reactions and comments to reflect on.

74 million views in just a week, and two million shares on Facebook. That means two million people who agree with the Terminator, who says “it’s time to start a grass roots’ revolution to save our planet”.

When I talk with people who, like the Australian government representatives, think coal is the future, or that climate change isn’t happening, I’m considering if I should just cut that ridiculous conversation short and instead change the topic to something like: “Hey, I’m with Schwarzenegger! Who are you with? I can tell you I wouldn’t want to mess with Arnold Schwarzenegger…”

» More good words from Schwarzenegger.

California’s economy is the sixth largest in the world. Here are some stats:

» Bloomberg – 10 May 2017:
California Leads U.S. Economy, Away From Trump
“Whatever the president says, this state does the opposite. It’s working.”

» The Guardian – 2 June 2017:
The Paris deal pullout is more damaging to the US than the climate
“The US abandoning the global climate deal brings risks, but the unity of the rest of the world and plummeting green energy costs are reasons for hope”

“It shatters your confidence in democracy that a mean real estate mogul and reality star who came to the White House with support of just 25 per cent of the adult Americans – and with fewer votes than the opposition candidate – now has thrown the world community into a serious crisis by withdrawing the US from the Paris Agreement for the protection of the global climate.

It causes despair that the world’s most powerful political leader with access to all the information and the wisest minds of the globe can isolate himself into a parallel universe and deny that the planet’s climate is changing dramatically and that the fossil era is about to end.”
~ Jørgen Steen Nielsen

Hopefully Donald Trump will go into history as a short-lived bump on the road to a human civilisation that at the last moment got to its senses and reconciled with the insight that one has to adapt to the terms the planet defines, commented Jørgen Steen Nielsen in the Danish newspaper Information.

The 22 Republican senators who sent a letter to president Donald Trump urging the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement allegedly received more than $10 million dollars in campaign funds from fossil fuel interests, according to EcoWatch, stating that the American “Paris Exit was ‘Victory Paid and Carried Out’ by Republican Party for the Koch Brothers.”

In 2016, Trump dismissed climate change as a “Chinese hoax”. By stacking his cabinet with figures closely associated with environmental degradation, human rights violations, and climate change denial, he has made no attempts to hide that his administration is an unfettered free-for-all for the fossil fuel industry, detached from any accountability or consideration for repercussions.

Donald Trump has appointed several people with deep ties to the fossil fuel industry to key cabinet positions where they now enjoy enormous influence over American energy policy both at home and abroad. For instance he appointed Rex Tillerson, the chairman, CEO, and president of ExxonMobil, the largest multinational oil and gas company in the world, to become his new Secretary of State.

In addition to Exxon’s efforts to obscure and deny climate change, Tillerson has for years overseen a company so large that it dictates its own foreign policy. According to Little Sis – a database of who-knows-who at the heights of business and government, hence the name, the opposite of ‘Big Brother’ – Exxon has a long record of working with corrupt and dictatorial governments and racking up accusations of violating human rights in protecting its interests abroad.

In August 2015, Little Sis reported that the fossil fuel portion of Trump’s own portfolio was the following companies: TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., Halliburton Company, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Kinder Morgan Inc., Chevron Corporation, Devon Energy Corporation, ExxonMobil, Occidental Petroleum Corporation, and TransOcean Ltd. – which in a normal world would be called upaon as something that creates an unprecedented number of conflicts of interest for a United States president.

“This morning I woke up to news that President Trump has pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement. This is on top a new report yesterday that found half of the Great Barrier Reef’s coral may have died in the last two years.

And unbelievably, we’re still facing the possibility of the Turnbull government handing over $1 billion of public money to Adani to build a huge coal mine right next to the Reef. 

Right now what we need is leadership, not handouts to polluters in the coal industry.”
~ Mark Wakeham, Environment Victoria

» Canberra Times – 3 June 2017:
Donald Trump is more honest about climate inaction than Malcolm Turnbull
“There is a depressing honesty about Donald Trump’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. It stands in stark contrast to the hypocrisy of Malcolm Turnbull’s big talk on climate change, which is accompanied by a $1 billion subsidy for the enormous new Adani coal mine. At least Trump is doing what he said he would do.” Commentary by Richard Denniss

“Turnbull is more dishonest than Trump. They pretend to accept CC and Paris, keep crowing how they are making their targets cheaper than labor. Meanwhile emissions are rising and current actions show a 26% increase in emissions by 2030 rather than a 26% fall. Eventually the truth rises to the top but it is much slower than lies.”
~ Michael Fab

» Canberra Times – 17 June 2017:
Trump’s climate snub: hold the outrage, we’re just as bad
“The septuagenarian plutocrat currently passing for Leader of the Free World has only been officially meddling in global climate deals for 200-odd days, while we’ve been assiduously shirking our responsibilities and thwarting international negotiations for nigh on two decades.” Commentary by Sarah Gill

Renewables in the United States

These are some of the facts which Trump chooses to ignore:

• The US has 2.6 million jobs in solar energy and more than half of them are in states that voted for Trump.

• Renewable energy employment grew by 18% just between 2015 and 2016.

• 3.4 million Americans are directly employed by the clean energy industries including energy efficiency, smart grid, energy storage, electric power from renewables, renewable fuels production, and the electric, hybrid, and hydrogen-based vehicle industries.

• Another 2.2 million jobs come from the energy efficiency, green appliance and green building subsectors.

• By comparison, coal provides only 160,000 jobs and petroleum provides about 500,000 jobs.

“Not only is this a moral failure, it is also a huge missed economic opportunity, making America less competitive in the bustling global clean energy market, while other countries are ramping up investments to sell more innovative technologies, generate jobs and create economic growth. In taking this decision, President Trump ignored not only views of 70 percent of Americans, but also more than 1,000 businesses and investors that support the Agreement.”

“If the states that have publicly voiced their support for the Paris Agreement were considered a country, they would be the world’s 5th largest economy. … This shows that United States will continue to play an important leadership role for advancing global climate action no matter what the Trump administration does or does not do.”
~ Paula Caballero, Global Director, Climate Program, World Resources Institute

“To the dismay of our allies, the White House [has announced] the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. But as a patriot and climate activist, I’m not dismayed. I actually want to pull out.
The value of the Paris Agreement is in its aspirational goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, not in its implementation mechanisms, which are voluntary, insufficient, and impossible to monitor. But that modest goal will be breached shortly, which makes the agreement a kind of fig leaf, offering political cover to those who would soft-pedal the runaway climate crisis a while longer.”

Ken Ward, former deputy director of Greenpeace

Five reasons why climate action can’t be trumped

In Australia, Chief Climate Councillor Tim Flannery wrote:

1. The Paris Agreement is global.
The US, though powerful and a large emitter, is still just one country. China, Germany, France, UK, India and over 147 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement and show no signs of backtracking.

2. Renewables are unstoppable.
Trump may favour fossil fuels, but he can’t beat economics. Solar and wind are now the cheapest form of new power in many countries, like Australia. Renewable power will continue to drop in cost as it continues to be dramatically scaled up.  Just ask one of the countries capitalising on it – China. China will invest $360 billion in renewable energy through to 2020, creating 13 million more jobs in the process.

3. US States are taking the lead.

US states are already leading on clean energy, including the Republican stronghold of Texas, and one of the world’s largest economies, California.

4. Leadership is also coming from the world’s largest companies.
95 global corporations (many of them based in the US) – including Apple, Coca-Cola, GM, Goldman Sachs, Google, Johnson & Johnson, Microsoft, Unilever, and even Walmart – have committed to 100% renewables in their operations.

5. The rest of the world is already responding.
The EU and China have just announced they will strengthen their climate ties. The EU has promised to give China €10m to rollout a national emissions trading system. This comes on top of indications they could levy ‘carbon taxes’ on US imports. International markets are also signalling this as a damaging move for the US, with US energy stocks taking a plunge. It is likely the U.S. will be one of the biggest victims of this decision, missing out on countless business opportunities and becoming increasingly uncompetitive.  

However, Trump’s action will embolden those trying to hold back action on climate change.

Just this week Environment and Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg has diverted funds for renewable energy to coal.

As the Chief Scientist prepares to hand down his report on the national energy system next week, our role in holding our leaders to account and injecting facts into the national debate could not be more important.”

Excerpts of Trump’s Paris Accord speech

“I am fighting every day for the great people of this country.
Therefore, in order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord…
… thank you. Thank you — but begin negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an — really entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.
So we’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine. As president, I can put no other consideration before the wellbeing of American citizens. The Paris climate accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States, to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers, who I love, and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.
Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

“As someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscious support a deal that punishes the United States, which is what it does.”

“the bottom line is that the Paris Accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.
Further, while the current agreement effectively blocks the development of clean coal in America, which it does. And the mines are starting to open up, having a big opening in two weeks, Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, so many places. A big opening of a brand, new mine. It’s unheard of. For many, many years that hasn’t happened. They asked me if I’d go. I’m going to try.”

“Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations it is estimated it would only produce a two tenths of one degree – think of that, this much – Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100.
Tiny – tiny amount. In fact, 14 days of carbon emissions from China alone would wipe out the gains from America and this is an incredible statistic – would totally wipe out the gains from America’s expected reductions in the year 2030.”

“As “The Wall Street Journal” wrote, this morning, “The reality is that withdrawing is in America’s economic interest and won’t matter much to the climate. The United States under the Trump Administration will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on earth.”
We’ll be the cleanest. We’re going to have the cleanest air. We’re going to have the cleanest water. We will be environmentally friendly but we’re not going to put our businesses out of work, we’re not going to lose our jobs.
We’re going to grow. We’re going to grow rapidly.”

“if the obstructionists want to get together with me, let’s make them non-obstructionists.”

“The Paris agreement handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense. They don’t put America first. I do and I always will.”

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

“…our withdrawal from the agreement represents a reassertion of America’s sovereignty.”

» Full transcript

» Business Insider – 3 June 2017:
Pittsburgh plans to become the first US city to power itself with 100% renewable energy

“Science shows us that climate change is the most urgent threat facing our planet’s health today. We can’t let borders get in the way of taking real action to defend nature. International cooperation is not optional — it’s essential.”
~ Rich Gilmore, Country Director, The Nature Conservancy Australia

“It may be time to sell your coastal property.”
~ Joe Romm in ThinkProgress

“For one nation’s people to feel so elite, so separated from not only the rest of the world but the future of our world, is sickening.”
Cheryl Walker Hasten

Trump just wants to undo everything Obama did, despite the fact that it will harm our country. He’s a dangerous narcissist.”
~ L, Connecticut

Trade sanctions and boycott of American goods?

So now what? Many people are angry about Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement. They talk about boycotting American goods – or putting a carbon tax on them. A Carbon Tax on all goods imported from the US? Would that be a way to go about it and let Donald Trump and his team know how we feel about their illoyal continuation of polluting the atmosphere?

When France was doing nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific, Europeans boycotted French wine, and this really seemed to have an impact. The tests were stopped, anyway. Trade sanctions have proven to work, at least in some instances.

The international community didn’t sanction Australia when the country just as selfishly decided to scrap its carbon tax a few years ago. But if they had, would such sanctions then have made Tony Abbott change his attitude and stopped him from scrapping the carbon tax? Considering it was a top priority election promise of his, that is not very likely. (Abbott won government with “Scrapping the carbon tax” and “Stopping the boats” as his two main slogan lines back in 2013.)

Maybe the global community just quietly watched as bystanders because everyone is (almost) as entangled and addicted to fossil fuels as Australia is?
And maybe similarly now Australia should first get its own house in order before it begins talking about sanctioning or taxing others for their inaction?

For instance, what would a sanction mean to the Californians, who are the strongest economy in the US and who are firmly heading for 100 per cent renewables?

As with many other things around climate change, is that this is complicated because such a large part of the US actually will be performing BETTER than what the Paris Accord had asked of them and because the Paris Accord in itself isn’t enough to stabilise our climate and protect our planet anyway.
So as climate campaigners, we need to think about where and how we spend our time.

Helping with making our own neighbourhood, city, state and country carbon neutral in my opinion is the most important thing to be spending time on – as things are progressing. Most likely, the Americans will eventually figure their own mess out themselves.


» New York Times – 1 June 2017:
Bucking Trump, These Cities, States and Companies Commit to Paris Accord
“An unnamed group which, so far, includes 30 mayors, three governors, more than 80 university presidents and more than 100 businesses is negotiating with the United Nations to have its submission accepted alongside contributions to the Paris climate deal by other nations.”

» EcoWatch – 1 June 2017:
‘World’s Most Ambitious Target’ to Go 100% Renewables Just Passed the California Senate

» Financial Times – 2 June 2017:
Coal is dead; long live the sun
“The transition to renewables is possible if policymakers plan ahead”

» Wired – May 2017:
The Mayor of Los Angeles Says His City Will Stay in the Paris Climate Agreement Even If the US Won’t
It sort of can’t. But then again, it already is.

» The Independent – 3 January 2017:
Record number of oil and gas firms go bust as renewable energy revolution begins to bite
The world’s largest private power production company warns the sector that renewables could drive the oil price as low as $10 a barrel

» – 3 June 2017:
Greatest crime in the history of humanity
“What greater crime can there be than to dishonestly support coal and disparage renewables at the cost of severe damage to the planet?”


» Tell G20 to drop TrumpAvaaz
Merkel is facing an election soon, and with Trump so deeply unpopular in Europe, she’s looking for ways to distance herself. Let’s show Merkel and the other G20 leaders that the whole world supports them leaving Trump behind.

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One comment

  1. A quality piece of journalism Mik – it’s a real pity that we don’t see more of it from other writers

Comments are closed.