President Trump doesn’t believe in climate change and is doing everything he can to destroy environmental protection in America, wreck the solar power industry and bring coal back. So why is there any reason to be optimistic about saving our planet from global warming?
The answer is that the rest of the world recognizes the danger and isn’t sitting still. It used to be that American conservatives argued that we shouldn’t do anything until the Chinese did. Now, China is among the world leaders when it comes to cleaning up the environment and reducing pollution while America is trying hard to become the world’s major climate change problem. And this is happening despite the fact that hurricanes and firestorms made worse by global warming have already taken hundreds of lives in the US this year, and caused something close to 300 billion dollars in damage.
Americans, too fearful and confused to act usefully in their own behalf, need to understand that this is a battle that can definitely be won, and to learn from the rest of the world just how to do that.
In addition to other countries stepping up, the marketplace is also voting in favor of saving the planet–not out of altruism, but because that’s where the jobs are. In the US, though, this is becoming less true every day as the administration does everything it can to harm industries such as solar power that contribute to the global effort.
One thing that Donald Trump is trying to do is to slap tariffs on Chinese solar panel imports. This will add to some state efforts to regulate solar power out of existence. Between Trump and regulations such as those in Florida that made it illegal for solar power users even to turn on their systems during the power outages caused by Hurricane Irma, the American solar industry is under siege.
Worldwide, coal usage has peaked. In the US, jobs in that industry have dropped from around 200,000 in the 1980s to around 50,000 today. Trump’s vow to put the coal miners back to work is an empty promise because industry employment is dropping much faster due to automation than it is due to declining coal production. The truth is that the coal industry sees a time ahead when it could produce enormous amounts of product with few workers, making it more profitable than ever.
China is not only constructing solar farms much faster than it is expanding fossil fuel use, it has joined India, Germany, the United Kingdom and many other countries who are either mandating hybrid or all-electric vehicles in the future, or encouraging their production and sale over conventionally powered ones. So far, US mandates remain in place.
In 2016, renewable energy worldwide accounted for more than half the new power capacity added globally. India virtually abandoned the construction of new coal-fired power plants in favor of solar farms. This is not out of environmental activism, but because the cost of producing solar power is now less than the cost of coal. And once a solar plant is built, it becomes a passive energy source rather than one requiring expensive and continuous shipments of new fuel to keep it running.
As recently as 10 years ago, deforestation of the Amazon was a serious worry, but between 2004 and 2014, deforestation has dropped by 80 percent.
Since 2014, global carbon dioxide emissions have grown by less than 1% and in 2016 worldwide energy-related emissions fell by 0.3% instead of rising as they have for decades.
In addition, carbon dioxide can be captured from the atmosphere and pumped into the abyssal deep where it can be stored for up to a thousand years before returning to the atmosphere.
There is no reason to be so frozen with fear that we can’t act. We can certainly save our planet. All it takes is respect for a marketplace that sees a profit in it, competent national leaderships and peoples who vote for the human future rather than clinging to the past.