The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States is bad news for the global environment. He has made it clear that he will not implement the steps required to meet the pledges to reduce emissions as part of the agreement reached in Paris at the end of 2015.
Paul Krugman reflects the mood among Americans who favour climate action in a recent editorial:
I particularly worry about climate change. We were at a crucial point, having just reached a global agreement on emissions and having a clear policy path toward moving America to a much greater reliance on renewable energy. Now it will probably fall apart, and the damage may well be irreversible.
But, bad news is not the same as fatal news. And, it is less likely that global efforts to reduce emissions will “fall apart” than many believe. Here are some reasons why.
China stays the course
Let us begin with the world’s largest emitter, China, and consider China’s motivations for continuing with emissions reductions.
China has powerful incentives to reduce coal use due to local air pollution. As anyone who has recently visited almost any large city in China will tell you, the air quality is frequently abysmal and constitutes a serious health, economic, and political threat. Because of the congruence between reducing coal use and greenhouse gas emissions, China would be likely to make substantial efforts to shift to lower emissions technologies over the next decade whether they cared about global emissions or not.
And the Chinese do care about emissions. Unlike the incoming American leadership, the Chinese leadership knows that global warming is not a concept created by their predecessors, as Donald Trump famously tweeted, and they have said as much.