When I read that Trump intends to exit the Paris accords, all I could think of was that famous line from Casablanca, “We’ll always have Paris.”
Well, evidently, we won’t.
Permit me to deconstruct Trump’s gift to China, a gift that comes on the heels of his large assist to Putin’s geopolitical ambitions, thanks to his conspicuously lukewarm show of support for NATO.
Stephanie Rule posed an interesting–and illuminating–question to her panel during yesterday’s news broadcast: Since the Paris Accords have no mechanism for enforcement, why exit? If the Administration is convinced that pursuit of a particular goal is inconsistent with American economic interests, why not simply refrain from pursuing that goal?
The answer can be found in Trump’s ego and his animus toward Barack Obama. Failing to enforce a particular element of the Paris agreement would accomplish what Trump says is his goal: protecting American interests (at least as he defines them). But it wouldn’t generate the attention he so obviously craves. And it wouldn’t be yet another public attack on Obama’s legacy.
I’m not a psychiatrist (and I don’t play one on TV), so I don’t know the genesis of Trump’s obvious hatred of Obama. Jealousy is clearly a big part, and I suspect it is magnified by racism: How dare this uppity you-know-what garner the obvious respect and admiration of world leaders who snicker at Trump? How dare he draw far larger crowds? It’s insupportable.
Whatever the psychiatric explanation, Trump’s animus toward Obama and his egomaniacal need to be the center of attention have done significant damage to America’s stature in the world, and that damage is not limited to our moral leadership. His disastrous first international trip convinced our longtime allies that America is currently headed by someone too erratic and ignorant to be trusted. (Think about that when you have to get a visa for your next trip to Europe–a document that was not previously required of U.S. citizens. At least when you return, getting through customs should be a snap: tourism to the United States has dropped dramatically since Trump’s election.)
Power vacuums don’t last; when one country’s global influence ebbs, other countries fill the void. Over the past several years, China has moved aggressively to increase its global reach from South Asia to Africa. Google “China’s growing global influence” and you get thousands of links to articles documenting the country’s strategies and global investments.
In contrast to the Trump Administration’s peevish anti-science posture, China is moving (with most other developed nations of the world) to shift its economy to clean energy.
As 2017 begins, China is poised to leap ahead of the United States on clean energy to become the most important player in the global market. Last year, China increased its foreign investment in renewables by 60 percent to reach a record $32 billion, according to a new report from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. This includes 11 new overseas investment deals worth more than $1 billion each.
China’s new Going Global strategy for renewable energy was an important instigator of its huge increase in foreign investment in 2016. This is part of a broader picture of overseas investment. Last year, China showed its regional strength by establishing the Asia Infrastructure & Investment Bank and pouring money into the BRICS’ New Development Bank, which made its first loans, all for renewable energy.
And in contrast to Trump’s doomed effort to prop up a dying coal industry, China is generating economic growth through its commitment to renewable energy.
Looking at the entire economy, not just foreign investment, China regularly outspends the United States on renewable energy. It invested more than $100 billion in clean energy in 2015, more than double U.S. investment, which spurred robust job growth. Of the 8.1 million renewable energy jobs that exist globally, 3.5 million are in China, compared to less than one million in the United States. And China’s National Energy Administration projects that new investment from 2016 to 2020 will create 13 million jobs in the renewable energy sector.
People around the world used to study English in the belief that an ability to communicate with the dominant world power was important. I wonder how many people are studying Chinese these days….