Among his other campaign pledges, the president-elect vowed to scuttle US support for the Paris Climate Accord. Since then his comments have become somewhat milder, raising the suspicion that he might just be backing off his hard-line stance. If so, he should think again
In October, 2009, Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, ostensibly for what he had done in his first few months as President. In effect, the sum of his achievements, such as they were, had been to deliver a couple of speeches that appealed to the chairman of the Nobel committee, a former Norwegian Labor Party Prime Minister. In awarding the prize, his TelePrompted orations were described as “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
This announcement was greeted by conservative commentators, I won’t say with disgust because the Nobel Peace Prize now has about as much status as the Australian of the Year, but, let’s say, with contempt. And events have proven the sceptics right. Obama the Impotent has been a monumental failure, particularly on the global stage. He bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia, ‘lost’ Libya, watched the rise of ISIS while doing nothing and, only last week, capped that dismal record with a shameful-but-predictable betrayal of Israel.
What prompted this thought about the departing president has been the equally premature elevation, by certain commentators – including some on this site — of Donald Trump to near sainthood, on the strength of his campaign promises and because he relegated Hilary Clinton to the dustbin of history (a worthy achievement certainly). It seems that, like the law in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe, he has no kind of fault or flaw. That would, indeed, make him unique.
Since his election Trump has been modifying his rhetoric on many fronts. That may be no more than a bid to project a more statesmanlike image. Let’s hope so, but there are worrying signs. He has already backtracked on his pre-election assertion that, had he been in charge of the Justice Department, Clinton would have been in jail by now. He has now said of the Clintons, “they’re good people” and claims to wish no ill upon them. He might be serious; then again, he might not, as the twin investigations of Hillary’s emails and the Clinton Foundation‘s pay-to-play shenanigans are being independently investigated — twin probes over which the soon-to-be-president has no control whatsoever.
No president gets to implement his agenda in its entirety and we can certainly expect some backtracking and compromise. Even with Republicans in control of both houses, Trump will not get his own way on everything. The biggest mistake the Republicans made was to not embrace Trump with both arms once he baggedd the nomination. Now he owes them nothing. It will be an uneasy relationship between the White House and Congress.
But there is one promise he can honour — indeed, must honour — and it will be his first big test: dumping the Paris Climate Agreement. This was a firm promise, it clearly accords with his oft-stated views on climate change, it would be strongly in the US national interest and it would be easy for him to accomplish given that most Republicans are climate sceptics. Whatever modifications Trump has made to his rhetoric since his election, if he fails to walk away from the Paris Agreement he will reveal himself as just another main-chancer. If he does keep his promise he will have justified his election on this basis alone.
There are, however, worrying signs, notably his response to a New York Times reporter that, “I am looking very closely at it. I have an open mind.” That might just be rhetoric, but it is deeply worrrying. All his other actions suggest that he intends to implement policies clearly at odds with the CAGW playbook and it might be argued that Trump could get on with business and just ignore the toothless Paris agreement, leaving it to wither on the vine, at least in the US.
That would be a great shame. Alarmists are already drawing comfort from Trump’s oddly conciliatory words to the Times. Dumping the Paris agreement would send a very powerful message to the rent-seekers across the globe that it’s no longer business as usual. Ideally it would empower other national governments to follow suit. If there is ever going to be a circuit breaker that will bring sense to the ‘climate debate’, this would be it. It would have global, not just US, ramifications.
Letting the agreement stand would be a symbolic victory for the alarmists, who we know from bitter experience can see a silver lining in any cloud. Sure, give credit where credit is due: Trump might not be the very naughty boy the Left luvvies would like to portray, but if he ignores his promise to scuttle the Paris pact the rest of us can be sure he’s not the Messiah either.
Have a Happy New Year!