“We support your effort to ensure meaningful and effective measures to control climate change, an immediate challenge facing the United States and the world today. Please don’t postpone the earth. If we fail to act now, it is scientifically irrefutable that there will be catastrophic and irreversible consequences for humanity and our planet.”
– Donald Trump, signatory letter/advertisement in the New York Times, December 6, 2009.
“A Trump Administration will focus on real environmental challenges, not phony ones …. We’ll solve real environmental problems in our communities like the need for clean and safe drinking water.”
– Donald Trump, “An America First Energy Plan.” May 26, 2016.
Consider it corrected.
It does not take a climate scientist to understand the intellectual weaknesses of climate alarm. And it does not take a political scientist or political economist to see the problems of any one-world solution, much less a domestic one, to this alleged international problem.
And evidently, the presidential nominee has done enough homework. Trump sees how the common person, in the form of higher taxes and higher energy prices, pays for the whole Climate agenda with de minimis climate payback.
How to interpret old Donald Trump back then? Having studied business-environmental strategy from the inside (first hand at Enron, where not only Ken Lay but Jim Rogers, later of Duke Energy, worked), I offer the following thoughts.
1) I see this sign-on as politically correct–and ‘crony-cash’ for an international real-estate developer trying to take the issue off the table for his/her company. ‘See, I support in general …’
This said, ceding the moral high ground can lead to a lot of trouble when the other side opposes what you do for a living because it is not climate neutral. Duke Energy’s Rogers embraced climate alarmism/activism only to find protestors at his home because he was not doing enough for the issue he raised. When it comes to climate, after all, just about everything you naturally do is not enough (part of the mass ‘market failure’), so more must be done after you have done whatever you did.
2) The science and politics of the climate issue after nearly eight years of Obama is different today than back then. On science, sensitivity estimates have come down to a range where CO2 can be a positive, not negative, externality. With politics, look around the US and the world to see what is law or proposed law on the basis of climate change. Politics is never pretty. There is government failure in the quest to address alleged market failure.
Yes, a bull session can debate how a carbon tax is better than what exists in an either-or, perfect knowledge, Environmental Pope world. But that is not reality. The real debate is about climate regulation in the first place. Greater speed to the wrong destination, as Fred Smith of the Competitive Enterprise Institute has noted, is hardly a virtue.
I bet Trump has studied and knows more about the issue today than back then (and maybe not by much). And he believes that he has something to sell. He does; the math does not work when you look closely at costs and benefits from US action, now or a decade from now.
The great majority of libertarians and conservatives understand that climate change is the ‘central organizing principle’ of one-world-government–the new central planning. From Climategate to RICO, the quest for carbon control is grotesque. Libertarians and conservatives also see how advocating a better, or least worst, program for government in this area cedes the moral high ground and turns the issue from markets to open-ended politics.