Earlier today, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump picked Scott Pruitt, attorney general of Oklahoma, as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency. Pruitt, a New York Times investigation once revealed, has previously sent letters to government agencies that were actually drafted by energy-industry lobbyists. He has also legally challenged the Obama administration’s regulation of fossil fuels. Trump’s choice for the EPA is hardly unusual. As The Washington Post notes, he is the third of Trump’s appointees to “have key philosophical differences with the missions of the agencies they have been tapped to run.”
While many are worried about the global implications of having a U.S. president who has expressed “doubts” about humanity’s role in global warming, others believe it might, and should, elicit the right reactions from other countries to make a difference. “Trump’s victory is, paradoxically, great news for climate change: It will force the rest of the world to focus on technical progress and not on a fragile, unlikely and inefficient international coordination,” economist Jacques Delpla writes in French business daily Les Échos.
Denouncing the “precarious naivety” of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol and the absence of any sanctions against transgressors in last year’s Paris Agreement, Delpla argues that Trump’s stance on climate change “forces us to acknowledge that climate Malthusianism is a dead end.” That, he says, leaves us with only one strategy — to “find and develop technologies and radical innovations that will bring down the cost of clean energies below that of dirty energies.” Delpla calls for a global equivalent of the Manhattan Project, a program that allowed the U.S. to develop its first nuclear weapons during World War II. He says this could be done at a minimum investment — an extra 1% of GDP that could be financed by a higher tax on carbon which would, in turn, create an incentive for innovation.
As for the world’s poorer countries who often have no choice but to rely on polluting energies for their development, Delpla says they should be given free access to these technologies and innovations in exchange for access to their clean-energy markets. “As far as the climate is concerned, intelligence and price mechanism are more efficient than a naive and inefficient international Malthusian coordination,” he says. The only question is, who will now take the lead?