When Trump’s Name is Forgotten, His Carbon Will Remain

Much of the carbon from his policies will remain in the atmosphere for centuries.

Given Trump’s desire to increase the use of fossil fuels, it’s no surprise that his presidency will result in increased carbon emissions.  Some of the carbon will remain in the atmosphere for centuries, an enduring monument to his presidency and his rejection of scientific facts.

Before the election, I took a stab at estimating that impact, based on EPA’s projections in the Clean Power Plan:

One of Trump’s pledges is to eliminate Obama’s Clean Power Plan.  That wouldn’t be quite as easy as he thinks, but there’s little doubt that he could do so.  So, how much difference would that make?  The answer turns out to be 2,470,000 tons of additional carbon emissions. That’s a bare minimum; the actual added carbon due to Trump could be much, much higher. Carbon lasts a long time in the atmosphere: about 20% of this extra Trump carbon will still be there in a thousand years.  How about that for a lasting legacy?

I based this rough estimate on the CO2 reductions projected in the Regulatory Impact Analysis in comparison with the “base case” of no Clean Power Plan.   (Table 3-5)   Not only will this be a very long-lasting monument to Trump, it will be a very expensive one.Given the Obama Administration’s  estimate of the social cost of carbon, this would equate to a cost to society of $75 billion, using the Interagency Task Force’s default estimate for the social cost of carbon.

Fortunately, we now have the benefit of a more detailed analysis, one based on a broader set of policies that Trump has now endorsed.  Marc Hafstead, a Fellow at Resources for the Future, has a sobering picture of Trump’s effect on the planet:

As a result of the Trump administration’s actions during the president’s first few months in office, based on these calculations, US greenhouse gas emissions are projected to be 10.2 to 12.6 percent below 2005 levels in 2025, compared to 17.3 to 24.9 percent below 2005 levels under the Obama baseline—a difference of 7.1 to 12.4 percent of 2005 emissions.

What is the worst-case scenario for emissions trends under Trump? Unfortunately, we simply do not have enough information to make such predictions. With a number of reasonable assumptions, emissions could be expected to increase even more due to policies pursued by Trump.

Hopefully, it may be possible to at least delay many of his policies long enough for the political winds to shift. But his plans are clear.  If he succeeds, Trump’s carbon will remain in the atmosphere centuries longer than Trump Tower will remain standing.

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