What we previously knew as climate change is only what we now call global warming. We soon realized that the problem was much more serious than a simple increase in the average temperature of the planet. In the last 50 years, the trend of global warming has escalated twice as much as it did in the previous 100 years, which is expected to increase by 4ºC by 2050. This increase in temperatures contributes to the evaporation of the level of fresh water (rivers and lakes), which leads to a state of drought and decay. Rising temperatures and water scarcity hinder cultivation and reduce productivity, resulting in food shortages and increased hunger in the world.
The fact of not taking care of our surroundings has irreversible consequences that, should we not take them into account, they will not disappear on their own.
“The time has come to mobilize the greatest alliance in history for climate and development”
On June 1, 2017, Donald Trump appeared at a press conference stating that the US will withdraw from the Paris Agreement against climate change. The Republican governor has taken 133 days to undo the commitment ratified in late 2015 by his predecessor, Barack Obama, in his fight against climate change.
The agreement was signed in December 2015 by all countries, with the exception of Syria and Nicaragua, being the first binding global agreement on climate. It establishes a global action plan that puts the global warming limit below 2 ° C by the end of this century.
In order to achieve these objectives, the corresponding governments in each country must announce what percentage of emissions they commit to reduce and on what time horizon they will achieve it.
Unlike the Kyoto Protocol (where the US was left out), signatory countries are required to submit mitigation plans. These voluntary cuts will start to apply from 2020 and contain targets until 2025. After five years, each country will have to submit new plans for cuts.
Donald Trump, immersed in his “America First” speech, said that the Paris Accord could weaken the US economy, creating job losses while at the same time disadvantaging them.
In his energy plan, once in subsequent measures that he has adopted as president, his intention has been, and continues to be, to promote his own energy resources, including coal.
Trump’s victory in the past elections is due majorly to his advantage over Clinton in states with a large number of delegates. Alabama, Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, or Texas, are just a few of the examples, and these are precisely the states with the highest number of coal mines.
In terms of politics nothing is free, so the support that Trump obtained from these states, now translates into decisions that generate relief to this sector so questioned. Among them is the exit from the Paris Agreement, because, if it remains in the latter, the cut in CO2 emissions would probably end up indirectly having an impact on coal production, and could therefore lead to further layoffs in this sector .
According to Scott Pruitt, Secretary of the US Environmental Protection Agency, the coal sector has generated 50,000 jobs since the last quarter of 2016 to the present. This is the speech that has used in the different media such as ABC, NBC or FOX, to justify the decision of Donald Trump in the departure of the Paris Agreement.
If we analyze the jobs generated in the US in the mining sector from October 2016 to May 2017, information provided by the Federal Government’s main research agency in the field of economics and labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics), around 47,000 jobs have been generated.
Althoug according to figures, Pruitt seems to be approaching, the truth is that the mining sector is not only related to coal, but also to gas and oil, so that figure corresponds to all of these sectors. Of the 47,000 jobs generated in the mining sector, 40,300 jobs come from support activities, of which approximately 75% go to oil and gas. Therefore, from Pruitt’s claim that the coal sector had generated almost 50,000 jobs, the reality is that only 1,700 have been generated along with some support activity.
What effects can this decision generate?
The US got involved in the Paris Agreement to reduce CO2 emissions by 26-28% by 2025 compared to 2005 levels. The evolution from the same year to 2015 has been about 11%. With Obama’s Climate Action Plan, his prediction was to be close to the levels committed from 2030, which is now drawn in an almost impossible forecast, because with the new measures made by Trump, the scenario predicted is much more pessimistic:
A report by the UN’s climate change department said that through plans already submitted by 189 countries under the Paris Agreement, the aim is to ensure the goal of achieving a temperature evolution by the end of the century not beyond of 2°C. If we add to this picture the US withdrawal from the agreement, the forecast is more harmful in terms of agreed targets.
Will there be a green future in the US?
Given the current political system and the measures being taken the response appears to be clearly and strongly negative.
All criticism directed to Trump by the decision to leave the Paris Accord, (not only from Europe, but also from elected officials of his own country), have even gone so far as to commit to following climate policies without the federal government:
Regardless of the decisions to leave the Paris Agreement, and obviating the little support that Trump received, the US would need to change the course of its electricity generation, as both gas and coal account for more than 64% of the country’s energy mix.
Although it seems incomprehensible to think about a renewable future for the American country, the reality is that there are energy plans, apart from the initiatives already carried out in states like California (electric cars, free solar panels, Tesla Powerwall, … ), which could take effect by the middle of the century.
This extensive and comprehensive study by Stanford University outlines a work plan stating that the future under renewable energy is possible in the US by 2050.
The study analyzes in depth the situation of each state, taking into account the geographic location, the environmental situation and the legal and political facilities that allow the implementation of said plan. Science and technology prove that nothing is impossible, just enough to get down to work and bet on it.
As a positive aspect, as far as the cure of our planet is concerned, is that Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement is not immediate. Such a pact established that countries could not abandon it for the first three years and, once decided, would not be effective until a year later. That is, in theory, the US will continue to be part of the climate agreement until 2020, just the year in which elections to elect a new president will be held. It would therefore require Trump to be re-elected, or a new president with the same mindset chosen to carry out the planned actions.
The debate is open and there are no clear answers to the many questions that arise in the future: Will the objectives of the Paris Agreement be achieved with the exit of the US? Will some US states offset Trump’s decision with more green measures? Will the quota of US countries such as China and Europe cover?
Adrián Gil | Energy Consultant