Donald Trump knows perfectly well why his coastal golf course in County Clare, Ireland, is under siege by rising sea levels. Perhaps “walls” were on his mind when he spoke about the border of Mexico because he was forced to build a protective wall around his Ireland golf resort before it slowly slips out to sea, golf balls and millions of dollars with it. In the end, no wall will save it from catastrophic weather disasters that are the consequential effects of climate disruption. To summarize Dahr Jamail’s warnings: Humans are releasing carbon into the atmosphere 10-times faster than during the hottest mass extinction period in the past 66 million years, and it is the closest precedent for today’s greenhouse warming.
Given Trump’s comprehension of the world’s stock of manageable assets in the private sector, he should know that global warming is creating a devastating ripple-effect in the markets of agriculture, construction, resorts, tourism and transportation, as he, himself, is experiencing firsthand by trying to protect his resorts from rising sea levels. Losses from climate change do not merely represent market volatility, but permanent damage to global assets. Furthermore, the fossil fuel industry is losing billions of dollars from extreme weather disasters. With the advent of super hurricanes, and excessive flooding, oil drilling is an expensive and extremely volatile business that is financially risky for most investors. A disturbing report released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), sets out in the starkest terms how much inaction on climate change is likely to cost the world economy. As reported in Reuters:
Trillions of dollars of non-bank financial assets around the world are vulnerable to the effects of global warming, according to a study that says tougher action to curb greenhouse gas emissions makes sense for investors. Rising temperatures and the dislocation caused by related droughts, floods and heat-waves will slow global economic growth and damage the performance of stocks and bonds, according to the report, led by the London School of Economics. “It makes financial sense to a risk-neutral investor to cut emissions, and even more so to the risk-averse,” lead author Professor Simon Dietz, an environmental economist, told Reuters.
This is how congressional Democrats should frame the arguments if they want to bridge the gap with Donald Trump by discussing climate change as a “financial disaster” and job-killer for businesses. If his decisions are, to rephrase Trump’s The Art of the Deal, “starting points for negotiation,” then providing proof of the enormous financial losses from climate change catastrophes should serve as a persuasive incentive for Trump to reach out to CEOs of renewable energy providers.
For example, Telsa CEO Elon Musk intends to employ thousands of Americans as he begins production of his affordable Model 3 electric car. This year his goal is to build as many as 500,000 vehicles this year, and 1 million vehicles per year by 2020.
And here’s something that I believe Trump would admire: Musk is completing the construction of his Gigafactory, a giant battery plant located in Sparks, Nevada. These batteries are capable of providing energy for homes and businesses, storing the energy from solar, and charging electric vehicles via the stored battery energy from the sun. This is not some futuristic idea: It’s all happening right now.
I can imagine Musk making the following case to Trump: Instead of relying on coal plants for jobs, put coal miners to work in electric car factories where they can build batteries and electric vehicles. Put oil construction workers in solar and wind production. Provide industrial workers with good wages and benefits, and explain to them that by working in the renewable energy field, they will not only earn good incomes, they won’t have to worry about losing loved ones to lung cancer or dying horrific deaths from coal and oil explosions or being buried alive from cave-ins or burned alive in oil refineries, which happens more often than it should, which is why it’s vitally important for the federal government to enforce safety regulations.
Most importantly, many financial assessments signify a booming job creation in the green energy sector, which far outnumber oil and coal jobs. Contrary to a large public demand for solar, wind and electric vehicles, jobs in coal and oil are usually temporary, dangerous, in terms of labor, and most of the work is completed by machines. To add insult to injury, industrial pollution produced by fossil fuels is typically dumped in working Americans’ backyards, contaminating their water and land with toxic waste. I assume that the incoming president would not like it if his resorts were polluted by a cesspool of poisonous chemicals? Trump surely must know that that’s why there are supposed to be federal and state environmental regulations to protect the public’s health from toxic pollutants. Obviously, Trump wouldn’t have to worry about pollution regulations regarding solar and wind production.
You cannot fix the economy by relying on an archaic industrial model that is wrecking global economies, and worse, it’s driving all life on this planet rapidly towards extinction. Imagine if you kept telling investors that they’ll get rich if they bet on X’s racehorse. Never mind that the horse is 25 years old and that he can barely trot.
Although Trump boasted about increasing production of fossil fuels in the United States, Marketplace reported that 365 businesses have urged Trump to stick with the Paris Climate Agreement. “They are committed to curbing carbon themselves, according to a statement released in Morocco where climate talks are taking place in order to give businesses the confidence to develop and implement strategies that are going to build advantage, lower risk, and lower their costs.”
Regarding auto production of low emission vehicles, Marketplace’s contributing financial reporter, David Brancaccio, explained that “many people in those firms understand that they have to switch to clean vehicles that are not dependent on fossils fuels. The far-sighted people in those firms understand that if they don’t do it, some startup that nobody ever heard of 10 years ago, is going to become the General Motors, the Ford, the Toyota or whoever of the future, and we will only remember those legacy auto firms as something to study in history.”
In other words, the fossil fuel billionaires cannot put the green energy genie back in the bottle. It’s here to stay. At the conclusion of this Reuter’s climate change article, Stephanie Pfeifer, CEO of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, a European forum for 128 investors with more than 25 trillion euros in assets, announced that “changes towards greener growth were irreversible. Renewables have already overtaken coal as a global power source, electric vehicles are the growth segment of the auto industry and jobs are being created in clean energy sectors faster than any other.”
If Donald Trump is truly interested in creating lots of jobs for Americans, then he should stop placing his bets on an old horse that can’t possibly win. In terms of rebuilding our infrastructure, Trump knows that other countries are way ahead of the United States: They’re building electric vehicle stations and lighting up their cities and homes with solar and wind, which has created thousands of new jobs in construction and engineering. If Trump continues to rely on an antiquated industrial 19th century energy paradigm, the US will become a horribly poor, polluted nation while other countries that are operating from the new “green” paradigm are rapidly becoming economically and ecologically secure.
If Trump truly wants to put America back to work, he should start by hiring Elon Musk to head up his energy department instead of Myron Ebell, a climate contrarian from the buggy wagon era of the 19th century. Ebell is characterized as a “climate criminal.” In Paris, activists pasted mug shots of him during the United Nations climate talks as “wanted for destroying our future.” That’s not a very good selection if Trump truly wants to bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans. Ebell’s brain is stuck in the 1940s. How many ways can I say it! The fossil fuel paradigm is no longer economically viable. My guess is that even Trump’s youngest son, Barron, knows more about the threat of climate change than Myron Ebell.
Real change is not about forcing a circle into a square. Fossil fuels are not applicable to our current world reality. To quote Trump in his own words, what does he have to lose? Why not at least meet with Musk and top green energy executives to hear their side of how to go about creating millions of jobs for Americans that provide good incomes, benefits and the work is safe and clean?