By the time you read this post and if the rumor mill is correct, President Donald Trump may have taken steps to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement. If he has, or if he does, he will pull America out of the biggest business and jobs opportunity in U.S. and world history.
We all should hope he’s a smarter businessman than that.
The big opportunity I’m referring to is the world’s growing demand for clean renewable energy. It will be driven in large part by the Paris deal, in which nearly 200 nations promised to reduce their carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels. Trump’s objective, and the nation’s, should be to lead the world in capturing and serving that market.
As I have written before, if Trump or Congress manage to pull the United States out of the Paris accord or if they simply ignore it, they might as well send pink slips to the millions of blue-collar, white-collar and pink-collar Americans who could be employed in the renewable energy sector. He might as well send condolence messages to their children, too, who will want good jobs in the future. Many of the emerging renewable energy jobs would go instead to countries like China, as would dominance in the international clean energy sector.
More than 8 million people are employed in the global renewable energy sector today. Fewer than 10% of them are in the United States. International energy experts project that by 2030, 24 million people worldwide will work in renewable energy. Trump and his successors in the White House should make sure that many if not most of those jobs are here.
So far, the signs are not good. Since last November’s election, the Pew Research Center has found that 65% of Americans including all but the most conservative Republicans prefer alternative energy over fossil fuels and most Americans (59%) believe that strict environmental regulations are worth the cost. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication and George Mason University have found since the election that 70% of American adults agree that global warming is underway, 55% agree that it is caused by human activities, 78% of registered voters favor taxing or regulating carbon pollution, and 69% want the United States to support the Paris deal.
Yet the accumulating evidence is that Trump wants his government and the American people to bury their heads in the sand on climate change — that official U.S. policy should be to ignore if not deny that the weather disasters most climate scientists said would happen have begun, giving us tragic evidence of growing risks to the health and safety of the American people. There are reports of gag orders against federal scientists and employees at EPA, climate information disappearing from federal websites, and rollbacks of the actions President Obama took to make the U.S. the world leader in the fight against climate change.
Instead, Trump should show that he knows a great business opportunity when he sees one, and renewable energy is it. He should mobilize the titans of American enterprise he has assembled for his Cabinet to make American first in the world’s transition to clean energy as well as the world’s preferred provider of advanced solar, wind, geothermal and other sustainable energy technologies.
Imagine the resurgence of U.S. enterprise and pride if Trump launched a concerted national effort to lead the international transition to clean energy – an effort comparable to the industrial transformation that won World War II. That would indeed be a beautiful thing.