On a day when scandal-rocked Sports Direct reported plummeting profits in the same breath as an order for a new corporate aeroplane, it was tempting, yesterday, to cast Donald Trump as a paragon of economic caution as his Twitter account quivered to the words “Cancel Order” – referring to plans for a new presidential jet.
However, just as onlookers were in danger of accusing the President-elect of mainstream rationality, he selected Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Mr Pruitt is currently the attorney general of Oklahoma but is better known for casting scorn on environmentalists and for seeking to overturn EPA regulations on methane emissions. He is quoted as saying that the debate on climate change is “far from settled” and his appointment has consequently rekindled panic among (the many) supporters of the present government’s Clean Power Plan.
Following Donald Trump’s election, there were similar cries of despair. He has, after all, famously tweeted that climate change is an invention of the Chinese to undermine the competitiveness of US manufacturing . But once the electoral dust settled, rational commentators began to speculate that his pro-carbon stance might prove counter-productive.
The climax of the US presidential campaign coincided with the UN Climate Change Conference held in Marrakech last month and the results were greeted at first with dismay but the mood moved swiftly to one of defiance. Delegates and negotiators, private and public, agreed that everyone else would just have to work harder to compensate for a possible withdrawal by the USA from the Paris Agreement.
The troubled waters that have been stirred up by Mr Pruitt’s nomination will probably calm themselves in much the same way over the coming days and weeks. The conviction of the low carbon lobby is likely to be bolstered rather than diminished by the reality of a vigorous opponent at the EPA.
That is not all. The recent success of Tesla in persuading its board to vote for a merger with Solar City, said more about the private sector’s determination to support clean technology than it did about sound accounting. As if that were not enough, Leonardo di Caprio visited Mr Trump and his daughter Ivanka this week, to show how renewable energies could create “millions” of jobs. . Al Gore was summoned to Trump Tower on Monday and, by the standards of climate change evangelists, that’s rather like having Roger Federer over for volley practice. He does, after all, describe global warming not as a hoax but as a “planetary emergency.”
So there is hope that the Trump/Pruitt climate change bark may be worse than its bite. And even if that is not the case, there are limits to what the new administrator of the EPA can do or undo without the support of corporations and foreign governments.
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