In a world of post-truth democracy, it is fitting that President-Elect Donald Trump's new Director of the centre for Energy and Environment “is not a climate scientist. I'm just...the informed layman.”
It would be truly fascinating/terrifying to take a peek at what Myron Ebell is reading. On one hand he believes that global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the EU (at odds with his new boss who tweeted it was a Chinese concept designed to bring down US business). And on the other hand, he accepts it as fact but sees a silver lining: as really cold places become warmer it’ll be nicer to live there and where it is already hot, “the higher temperatures are killing people who are likely to die soon anyway.”
Ebell is quite comfortable with his controversial views. He submitted a list of accomplishments to the US Congress in which he stated he’d made it onto Greenpeace’s list of “Climate Criminals”, was described by Rolling Stone as a ‘misleader’ on global warming and was the subject of a House of Commons censure when MPs signed an Early Day Motion deploring “in the strongest possible terms (his) unfounded and insulting criticism of Sir David King” – he accused the UK’s Chief Scientist of being “an alarmist with ridiculous views who knows nothing about climate change.”
He is solidly on point with President-Elect Trump’s views on the Paris Climate Agreement. Trump has previously stated he intends on dismantling the accord which hoped to limit global warming to within 2°C, saying that it was a waste of money. In 2016 Ebell called on Congress to prohibit any funding for the Agreement – and also the Green Climate Fund as well as the UN Framework Convention on Climate change. Most analysts think President Trump will simply ignore the commitment made under President Obama.
Turning the country’s back on securing a source of energy independence though renewables – a move seen as strategically essential after the recent oil crash – will put the US massively out of step with the rest of the developed world. As renewable energy costs continue to fall through technological advances, they will be picked up by other signatories to the Paris Agreement. China and India in particular have good reason to invest here, due to costs, geopolitics and industrial policy.
Trump has promised on many occasions to roll back regulations and repeatedly promised coal workers he will put them to work again. He told a conference organised by the Marcellus Shale Coalition that “Producing more American energy is a central part of my plan to making American wealthy again, especially for the poorest Americans.” (Of course that could be something of a problem for the coal workers. After all, this industry was hit by cheap natural gas – and the glutted market will remain glutted via more fracking under Trump).
President-Elect Trump quotes figures from the Institute of Energy Research which says lifting restrictions on oil and gas would increase GDP by more than $127bn and add around 500,000 jobs. But it is worth noting that merely removing restrictions is not the dam holding back American energy prosperity. While Warwick Energy CEO Kate Richard believes Trump’s economic plan could be beneficial for economic growth, saying it is “interesting”, she did point out that his talk of repealing Environmental Protection Agency regulations was difficult to understand. “We haven’t seen a decline in drilling in this country because of EPA regulations. We’ve seen a decline in drilling in this country because of two years of low prices.”
She points out that what goes on with OPEC is going to be crucial. However with what looks like an agreement to cut production going into the final stages, what impact will President-Elect Trump have on the group? If he is determined to boost US oil production, pulls out of the Iranian nuclear agreement delivered by the Obama administration and the bromance with Putin continues, it will not – as bloomberg.com put it, “fill Riyadh with unalloyed confidence” and that could be problematic.
Whether we are entering a time of “planetary disaster” (bluntly put by the director of the environmental group the Sierra Club) remains to be seen. When Reagan took the White House, some too thought it would be the end of the world. That didn’t happen. In fact as Kevin Fay, executive director of the Internal Climate Change Partnership, said recently, “the Montreal Protocol – which Reagan personally authorised – is now the most successful multilateral environment treaty ever adopted.” Folks, you never know.