A spark of hope?
While Trump’s election seems catastrophic for everyone fighting against climate change there are some recent developments that make the progress achieved over the last few years a bit more resilient to this shock.
Some states in the US, like e.g. California and New York, are following their own ambitious climate plans. Other states could pursue successful mitigation policies on state level, even without federal support. It doesn’t matter on what level the emissions reductions are happening as long as they do. Many states, including some large emitters like California, already suffer from the effects of a changing climate. Should the US stop its efforts to mitigate further climate change it might trigger an intensification of efforts in these specific regions.
There is also a general momentum towards increasing the priorities of sustainability and climate change. Recent price declines in renewables, the integration of these issues into education, and the slow realization of individual Republicans of the urgency of the issue may mean that its historically partisan nature may be slowly diminishing. Over the last decades we have seen many critics convinced by the the reality that is climate change as the effects of a warming climate can already be observed today, particularly the indirect effects on global conflict, migration patterns, and local unrest. A recent Gallup survey from March 2016 shows that 64% of Americans are worried ‘a great deal’ about global warming. This is the highest value since 2008 when Obama took office.
Related to this is the reality that businesses have not only become conscious of climate change, but it has also become a mainstream priority for the private sector. In a country where the prosperity of businesses is a high priority and where they can exercise substantial influence over politics, it may be that ‘businessman’ Trump is actually significantly swayed by this private sector momentum. There are more incentives for economies to decarbonize than only climate change, and this is understood by both the business community and the international community. Local pollution in places like India and China from burning fossil fuels is strangling economic development and the prospects of cheap and unlimited energy without being dependent on fossil fuel imports from politically unstable regions still constitutes a major incentive to invest in renewable technologies.
Finally, in Marrakech, Paris, at COP23, or elsewhere — climate change is not just about climate change: it is also about global diplomacy and multilateralism. There is such global momentum towards action on climate change that a U-turn from the US is widely seen as a risk for their foreign policy. Trump was heavily criticized for his inability to work with other world leaders, and revoking ratification of the Paris Agreement would likely be perceived as the US isolating themselves from the international community, a move which all but the most extreme elements of the Republican Party would strongly disagree with.