Paris: Time for Passion, not Despair
I have a few words to say about Paris. Specifically, about the news Trump is ending US climate leadership and pulling out of the agreement.
All is not lost, friends.
It’s vital to see what a turning point Paris was: The first time the leaders of all humanity chose an ecological future for our planet. Yes, Paris is insufficiently ambitious. Yes, it lacks teeth. It is, nonetheless, a landmark agreement. The cheers in Paris at the signing of the Paris Agreement were also the death knell of fossil fuels. That’s what agreeing to 2º means.
Guess who’s super-clear about that: fossil fuel investors. They know boldly pursuing 2º would mean never developing another oil field or coal mine, ever again. They know that 2º means shutting down coal plants, blocking pipelines, refusing new extraction, ending massive dirty energy subsidies. They know it means that their holdings are worth a fraction of what they’re claiming — what finance experts call The Carbon Bubble.
They also know wind, solar, batteries, EVs, green building design, rapid construction, and low-car cities are experiencing breakthroughs. A zero-carbon future is not only achievable, it’s getting competitive enough to disrupt fossil fuels on purely economic grounds.
Drops in valuation are drops in power. A falling industry loses the political leverage it needs to stave off disruptive competitors. The ability of fossil fuel industries to maintain the perception of future value’s critical to the political power to continue business.
Because, when push comes to shove, burning fossil fuels is morally wrong, extremely dangerous and largely unnecessary in on-going practical terms. Which is why Paris is not dead, even if the US leaves. Indeed, I expect we’ll see more aggressive action, even CO2 tariffs.
It’s also why any journalist/pundit who isn’t treating Trump’s entire energy/climate stance as one big con is being played for a sucker. It’s one big lurching grab by a bunch of carbon cronies, to get one last score before the whole Carbon Bubble crashes. It’s reckless and immoral. It will delay climate action, and thus do harm to billions of people. But at its core, it’s still just a con. (Russia’s part of this, as I’ve written.)
There are victories, however — as the great California poet Robinson Jeffers wrote — that breed their own defeats. Trump’s gang may think they’ve won, because they’ve created the perception that little can now be done, that fossil fuels are inevitable. They’re wrong. I expect they won’t even keep us out of Paris for longer than his term. We’ll re-join.
Climate will central in 2018, 2020 and beyond. The GOP has chosen to stand between a huge majority of the American people and our jobs, our values, our security, our kids’ futures.
More, they’re ensured that now is the moment when climate politics begins to grow and accelerate.
I’m a futurist, so let me foretell: Trump trashing Paris will enrage and inspire a new, radically ambitious American climate movement. And when we come, we’re not going to be coming looking for a few gestures — some subsidies, a little cap-and-trade, a few weak regulations. Nope, this movement’s going to demand the building of a carbon-zero nation, starting now.
So don’t mourn Paris, ready yourself — gather your allies, ready your tools, hone your thinking.
The most important political fight of your life has begun.
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