Trump Is Ready to Bet the World
November 23, 2016
Bill McKibben / The Washington Post & Ted Galen Carpenter / The National Interest
Commentary: Donald Trump will enter the White House with an environmental policy agenda opposed to that of the Obama administration and many other nations that have pledged support to the Paris climate agreement. We simply don't know what a Trump administration foreign policy will look like with respect to Europe, East Asia or any other region. All we have are a number of statements that the candidate made during the heat of a political campaign.
Donald Trump Is Betting against
All Odds on Climate Change
Bill McKibben / The Washington Post
The Washington Post's Chris Mooney breaks down what a Donald Trump presidency will mean when it comes to climate change.
(November 17, 2016) -- President-elect Donald Trump has already begun to back off some of his promises: Maybe not all of Obamacare has to go. Maybe parts of his wall will actually be a fence. Maybe it's okay to have some lobbyists running the government after all.
But I fear he won't shrink from the actions he has promised on climate change: withdrawing the United States from the Paris accord, ending President Obama's Clean Power Plan and okaying every new fossil-fuel plan from the Keystone XL pipeline on down. He won't back down because those are hard-to-hedge choices and because he's surrounded by climate-change deniers and fossil-fuel insiders who will try to ensure that he keeps his word.
So let's be entirely clear about what those actions would represent: the biggest, most against-the-odds and most irrevocable bet any president has ever made about anything.
It's the biggest because of the stakes. This year has been the hottest year recorded in modern history, smashing the record set in 2015, which smashed the record set in 2014. The extra heat has begun to steadily raise sea levels, to the point where some coastal US cities already flood at high tide even in calm weather. Global sea ice levels are at record lows, and the oceans are 30 percent more acidic.
And that's just so far. Virtually every scientific forecast says that without swift action in the next few years to cut carbon emissions, this crisis will grow to be catastrophic, with implications for everything from agriculture to national security that dwarf our other problems.
It's the most against-the-odds bet because at this point there's so little scientific dispute about climate change. Researchers have spent three decades narrowing the error bars and establishing an ever-clearer picture of the future. There's always the chance that scientists have overlooked something, but it's by now so narrow a chance it hardly deserves that description.
And it's the most irrevocable bet because the next few years are crucial. This makes global warming unique: If you take away Obamacare, poor people will suffer until something replaces it -- which would be bad, but that suffering would not make it harder to fix the problem later.
Climate change, however, comes with a time limit, which is why senior scientists last week were saying that if Trump carries through with his wager, it might well be "game over." If he loses his bet, he will have cost us the last years in which we might have made a real difference.
Against all this, Trump has merely the conviction that climate change is a hoax. It's a conviction more or less shared by the man he has put in charge of his energy and environmental transition team, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and a handful of other climate-change deniers at websites such as WattsUpWithThat.com.
Some, like Ebell, are funded by the fossil-fuel industry, and others are quite sincere freelancers who have involved theories about how some of the thermometers measuring the planet's climate have been placed too near to airport runways or believe that sunspots or cosmic rays or "natural cycles" will soon cool the Earth.
They are contemptuous of the consensus science (the product of "a lot of third-, fourth- and fifth-rate" researchers, says Ebell) and of anyone who takes it seriously. (Pope Francis, in his encyclical on climate change, was "scientifically ill informed, economically illiterate, intellectually incoherent and morally obtuse," says Ebell.)
It's easy to see why these kinds of pronouncements might appeal to Trump. It's not just that they're spoken in the brash language he likes to use, but they made it easy for him to justify, say, his promises to restore the nation's coal mines to their glory days. It would indeed be much easier for all concerned if global warming were hogwash.
But as far as anyone knows, he has never tested his beliefs by sitting down with scientists for even a cursory examination of the data. So someone who has his ear needs to tell him that the opinions on which he's relying are marginal at best.
And that friend might remind him, too, of the difference between issues governed by opinion and those governed by fact. If you don't think poor people should get subsidized medical care, that's ugly, but it's an opinion you're entitled to hold.
Science isn't like that: The heat-trapping properties of the carbon dioxide molecule simply a re. Which is why, even if we fail in our efforts to stop Trump from making his bet, it's important for history to note what's going on. One man is preparing to bet the future of the planet in a long-shot wager against physics.
Bill McKibben is the Schumann distinguished scholar in environmental studies at Middlebury College and founder of the global climate group 350.org.
Donald Trump's Foreign Policy:
What Will He Really Do?
Ted Galen Carpenter / The National Interest
(November 12, 2016) -- Donald Trump's upset election win has set the media both here and abroad all aflutter about the probable direction of his foreign policy. Panicked internationalists already are proclaiming that the surprise outcome of America's presidential election represents a great triumph  for Russia's Vladimir Putin, who is supposedly a great friend, if not the puppet master of Donald Trump.
Since Trump has expressed both a desire for friendly relations  with Russia and has made extremely critical comments about America's NATO allies, Moscow, they contend , is the big beneficiary of the Trump electoral win.
Likewise, some internationalists speculate that the unexpected Trump presidency will also strengthen  China's hand. Again, the reasoning is that President Trump will undercut US relations with Japan, South Korea and other traditional US allies in East Asia. Beijing, the argument goes, would benefit  greatly from such developments.
More sophisticated analyses point out that Trump's trade protectionist views could lead to tensions  with China and might even undermine China's growing power. But Beijing is still generally seen as better off than it would have been under a Hillary Clinton presidency.
Analysts on the opposite side -- those who hope that Trump's calls for a reassessment of alliance obligations were sincere -- are now concerned that the first postelection indicator was worrisome. Trump reportedly called South Korea's president to assure her  that Washington's defense commitment to that country remained firm. Such a call was actually unsurprising.
Even a US president intending to embrace a policy change would want to do so in a gradual, orderly way, lest precipitous action encourage the volatile North Korean regime to do something reckless. But the gesture could also mean that Trump is already backing away from his campaign position.
The reality is that all of this speculation is terribly premature. We simply don't know what a Trump administration foreign policy will look like with respect to Europe, East Asia or any other region. That is true for one very simple reason: there is no Trump administration yet. All we have are a number of statements that the candidate made during the heat of a political campaign. Those are not a reliable guide to the policies that will actually be pursued once in office.
A far more crucial indicator is the selection of personnel for key policymaking roles. A graphic example of the importance of that factor became apparent during the administration of George W. Bush.
In a prominent speech at the Reagan Presidential Library in late 1999, candidate Bush stressed the need for a more cautious  and even "humble" US foreign policy. Many realists, myself included, were encouraged by such comments. The actual Bush foreign policy became known for many things, but caution and humility were not among them.
It would be easy to explain the chasm between the campaign rhetoric and the subsequent policy reality by pointing to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and they undoubtedly played a role. But there were warning signs long before that episode, and they centered around the personnel being chosen for key policymaking positions.
People like Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and his chief deputy, Douglas Feith, were in their positions long before 9/11. Others, like Scooter Libby, infested the vice president's office. Indeed, a president who was a foreign policy neophyte was largely surrounded by a cadre of neoconservative warhawks who were determined to launch a US military crusade in the Middle East.
If 9/11 had not occurred, the process might have taken longer, and the target might have been Iran, rather than Iraq, but it would have required a strong, knowledgeable leader to have resisted the blandishments of his prowar advisers, and George W. Bush was neither strong nor knowledgeable when it came to foreign policy.
That is why watching President-elect Trump's choices for his foreign policy team is so important. If he chooses primarily alumni of the Bush administration, we can be fairly certain that there will be few, if any, beneficial changes in Washington's security strategy.
Indeed, it could conceivably be even more interventionist than that pursued by the Clinton, Bush or Obama administrations. The main difference might be that it would be conducted unilaterally rather than multilaterally, especially if someone like John Bolton gets a key position.
If on the other hand, Trump begins to pick advisers who have little or no previous government service, it would be an encouraging step. Watch for appointments from realist enclaves like Defense Priorities, the Independent Institute and others.
Also watch for the appointment of individual unorthodox or "rogue" scholars from such places as Notre Dame University, George Mason University, the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and (ironically) the Bush School at Texas A&M University.
Such moves would indicate that Trump was choosing new blood and really intending to make a meaningful change in the direction of US foreign policy.
For now, we can only wait and watch and hope.
Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow in defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute and a contributing editor at the National Interest, is the author of 10 books, the contributing editor of 10 books, and the author of more than 650 articles on international affairs.>
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