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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Reader Comments

8 Replies to “When Trump’s Name is Forgotten, His Carbon Will Remain”

  1. We should remember Jerry Brown. Two weeks ago, he met with China’s president Xi Jinping during an international clean-energy forum in Beijing, while Rick Perry was received by a lesser official. Brown has reaffirmed California’s commitment to abide by the Paris accord, along with 11 other states and numerous local governments and private institutions. California alone produces nearly 10% of US CO2 annual emissions (360 million metric tons), so its leadership is vital to both national and international progress on climate change, especially in the wake of Trump’s U-turn administration.

    While it would be better for the federal government to follow the Paris accord and continue its previous global environmental leadership, Trump has shown that reliance on the federal government is wishful thinking and that new coalitions, partnerships and other forms of cooperative relationship are necessary for responsible carbon emission policies and action.

  2. Just as destructive as our climate changes, are our social (Us/Them dichotomies), political (POTUS, Congress, SCOTUS threats to our democracy) and economic (too many people with too few resources) threats to our future. Academics must face the reality that If we don’t produce and implement solutions to all these problems with the greatest sense of urgency in this decade, then we’ll face the greatest threats to destruction of our civilization in history, but you folks keep focusing more on teaching us about the past and immediate dangers than planning and acting to protect our future. Will and Ariel Durant warned us but our political and intellectual leaders are failing to save our civilization from repeating the failures of history.

    1. Dear Anthony,
      Our nation is now dominated by those of us who support President Trump and his environmental policies. We rightly believe that climate change is a natural cycle and not a major threat, there is no reason for alarm.

      Even the President’s enemies recognize that the Paris Agreement is impotent and not a good political weapon, that is why they are focusing on collusion and obstruction of justice. Trump will eventually win this battle and move forward to greater achievements.

      All is well, have a good day.

      1. BQRQ, I gravely regret having to read what you and far too many other deniers, including politicians, are saying.

        I shall never give up, but the fact is that what I have said on this blog is also marginalized by academics even though I am trying to support them in their efforts.

        So it truly is an impossible dream for us to adapt in time, even though our own CALIFORNIA alumni magazine tried to warn them in their 2006 “Global Warning” issue:

        https://alumni.berkeley.edu/california-magazine/september-october-2006-global-warning/can-we-adapt-time

  3. Marginalization seems to have been a major problem at UC over the decades.

    Three of the greatest scientists in the 20th century were Edward Teller (fusion power plants), Charles Keeling (CO2 threat) and Linus Pauling (Peace) and they were all UC professors.

    If we had joined together and acted on their recommendations with a greater sense of urgency, we could have prevented some of the most destructive threats to our long-term future that we face today.

    Ike warned us and we even marginalized him:

    “The prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present – and is gravely to be regarded.”
    http://mcadams.posc.mu.edu/ike.htm

    1. Anthony said:
      “…..So it truly is an impossible dream for us to adapt in time…..”

      Dear Anthony,
      With respect, I do not understand where you are coming from! I adapted to climate change over 20 years ago and never regretted it and never looked back. It was easy and I always encourage my fellow citizens to do likewise.

      Adaptation is the most efficient means available for coping with climate change. However, we recognize that this is a personal choice and not everyone can or will adapt. Those who cannot adapt seem to be intent on spreading discord and causing trouble.

      For us Adapters, climate change is easy to live with, in fact its not a problem at all. You should try it before you die. In the not too distant future, all of us are going die. You should join with us, adapt and give a little peace to your life during the time you have left.

      Adaptation is the highest and best global solution to climate change.

      1. “Adaptation” is a synonym for “Giving Up.”

        Our intellectual and political leaders gave up over 50 years ago when they ceased to be able to communicate and cooperate anymore.

        1. We trust in God to save our soul and govern the natural world. We trust God who controls the climate, this is a simple act of Faith. God has given humanity resources and intelligence to adapt and flourish under changing weather conditions. One rejects God when they worship the earth and its climate.

          Faith in God helps us cope with the anxiety of death and gently resolves transient worries such as climate, sickness and loneliness.

          Happy Fathers Day,
          May God Bless

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About Dan

Dan Farber

Dan Farber has written and taught on environmental and constitutional law as well as about contracts, jurisprudence and legislation. Currently at Berkeley Law, he has al…

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