The Trump victory in the US presidential election is a victory for incoherence (also racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and denialism). During the campaign Trump never once articulated a coherent set of policies, he never explained how he was going to “Make America Great Again” in any way that passed even the most basic scrutiny. His most detailed policy proposals (Building a wall and banning all Muslims) were deeply troubling.
But while I agree and understand the legitimate fears that many have, as a White male Canadian I am immune to many of the most immediate fears. Trump doesn't threaten my healthcare. I am not a muslim trying to enter the country, and there wont be a wall along the 49th parallel. This makes me unfit to properly articulate the very real problems Trump poses to those not protected by the mantle of white malehood. Especially when it is easy to find impassioned voices from people who are directly threatened by a Trump presidency.
There is one area though that I do feel fit to opine about: Science. The United States plays an outsized role on the global stage and US policy can have immediate world wide effects. The biggest individual issue in this sphere is climate change.
In the past few years the world finally started making tepid progress on addressing the biggest issue facing humanity. Much of the progress was made possible because under the Obama administration the US finally started getting serious about reducing GHG emissions. On the domestic front Obama, despite having to deal with a House and Senate dominated by denialism which was unwilling to consider any form of legislation to combat climate change, was able to establish a regulatory framework to combat climate change.
Once the US started taking climate change seriously other countries (notably China, the world’s largest emitter of GHGs), who previously were reluctant to take meaningful action alone, were able to come together and agree and sign the Paris Agreement last year.
To be fair the Paris agreement falls short of the aggressive mitigation required to prevent serious and irreparable damage to human civilization. The Paris agreement never represented a solution to climate change; it represented a first step towards a solution. But after 2 terms of an Obama presidency the US was finally on the path of progress to reducing GHG emission, and progress from the most powerful nation on the planet was a big factor in getting the Paris agreement in place.
Trump, on the other, hand has called climate change a conspiracy created by the Chinese, and has refused to demonstrate even a basic understanding of the issue.
He wants to scrap all of the major climate change regulations put in place by Obama, and with the help of Congress he could enact legislation to prevent the EPA from regulating CO2 emissions.
Speaking of the EPA, he has appointed Myron Ebell, a fossil fuelled funded denialist, as head of the EPA transition team. Even worse, during the Campaign he vowed to get rid of the EPA all together. Ebell and the Republican controlled congress could make this a reality.
Trump also vowed to repeal all spending on clean energy. Given a compliant congress this would be easily achievable.
And finally Trump has promised to withdraw the US from the Paris agreement, and while it could technically survive the withdrawal of the US, we only need to look at what happened with the Kyoto Protocol when the US withdrew in 2001 after Bush was elected. Technically the Kyoto Protocol survived that, but it lost most if not all of its effectiveness.
We had hope that the world community was finally starting to move in a positive direction in combating climate change, but most of the gains of the last 8 years could be undone rather quickly by a Trump Administration.
And this is just climate change, Trump’s position on vaccines (for the record they DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM) or other science issues offers no comfort.
Not all hope is lost however. One of the most criticized aspects of Trumps presidential campaign was that he simply did not lay out any detailed policies and what little details he promised were often contradictory. This was worrisome because we no one really knew what a Trump presidency would look like. But now that he has been elected this keeps the door open to a wide range of policy options, including some policies that could have a serious positive impact on GHG reductions. I am not overly optimistic that this will happen, but the glimmer of hope exist.
Right now, as hard as it is to say this, Trump deserves our benefit of doubt. His slate as President is still blank, his first action as President Elect was a very graceful acceptance speech. While his campaign was one disgusting comment after another, lets criticize his presidency for things he does (or doesn’t do) as President.
Importantly now is not the time to give up.
UPDATE: That glimmer of hope is already starting to get fainter:
Trump looking at quickest way to quit Paris climate agreement, says report
The president-elect wants to bypass the theoretical four-year procedure to exit the accord, according to a Reuters source.
Donald Trump is seeking quick ways of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement in defiance of widening international backing for the plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions, Reuters has reported.
Since the US president-elect was chosen, governments ranging from China to small island states have reaffirmed support for the 2015 Paris agreement at 200-nation climate talks running until 18 November in Marrakesh, Morocco.
But, according to Reuters, a source in the Trump transition team said the victorious Republican, who has called global warming a hoax, was considering ways to bypass a theoretical four-year procedure for leaving the accord.