We can at­tack global warm­ing even with­out Trump’s help

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Froma Har­rop Froma Har­rop is syn­di­cated by The Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group.

It would be nice if Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump took one of the most se­ri­ous threats to life on Earth se­ri­ously, but he does not. Trump called global warm­ing a Chi­nese “hoax” dur­ing the cam­paign, and he’s as­signed a sci­ence dunce to lead the tran­si­tion at the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency.

The com­fort­ing news is that Amer­ica can move past the black hole of ig­no­rance in Trump’s Wash­ing­ton — or New York, or wher­ever he is. En­light­ened state and city gov­ern­ments, as well as the pri­vate sec­tor, can pro­vide the lead­er­ship. As it hap­pens, they’re al­ready on the case.

Huge ex­am­ple: Dur­ing the Paris cli­mate change con­fer­ence last De­cem­ber, Bill Gates or­ga­nized a hand­ful of bil­lion­aires and came up with $15 bil­lion for his Break­through En­ergy Coali­tion. The group’s mis­sion is to fund re­search on rad­i­cal new clean en­ergy tech­nolo­gies.

“Ten guys in a room pro­duced more money than the en­tire world com­mu­nity of na­tions in com­mit­ment of re­sources,” Daniel Esty, pro­fes­sor of en­vi­ron­men­tal law and pol­icy at Yale Law School, told me.

“I’m not as sad or crushed as some peo­ple [that Trump was elected],” he added. “When the fed­eral gov­ern­ment col­lapses, state gov­ern­ments step up.”

Cal­i­for­nia’s war on green­house gases is al­ready 10 years old. Its orig­i­nal goal was to re­duce the state’s car­bon foot­print to the 1990 level by the year 2020. The new goal is to shrink the car­bon foot­print to 40 per­cent below the 1990 level by 2030.

Af­ter the elec­tion, Gov. Jerry Brown re­jected the no­tion of de­feat or back­slid­ing. “We will pro­tect the pre­cious rights of our peo­ple and con­tinue to con­front the ex­is­ten­tial threat of our time — dev­as­tat­ing cli­mate change,” he an­nounced.

Brown is not with­out eco­nomic fire­power. Cal­i­for­nia is the world’s sixth-big­gest econ­omy.

Re­gional com­pacts in the West, in the North­east and else­where are fol­low­ing Cal­i­for­nia’s lead. There’s also one in South Florida, where “king tides” are now flood­ing streets on per­fectly sunny days.

Can Trump be ed­u­cated on this is­sue — or at least tamed by forces he can’t con­trol?

For­mer French Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy, again run­ning for the of­fice, vows to slap a car­bon tax on Amer­i­can im­ports if Trump pulls us out of the Paris cli­mate deal. Could that hap­pen?

Ab­so­lutely, ac­cord­ing to Esty. Coun­tries fail­ing to meet in­ter­na­tional stan­dards that form the base line for fair com­pe­ti­tion can be pun­ished. And 195 na­tions have joined the Paris agree­ment.

Cli­mate change has be­come a ma­jor pri­or­ity for the U.S. De­part­ment of De­fense. Ris­ing wa­ters al­ready threaten Navy in­stal­la­tions along the mid-At­lantic Coast. And as the Arc­tic ice melts, Rus­sia is open­ing bases in the re­gion.

Higher tem­per­a­tures worsen drought in Africa, un­leash­ing mass mi­gra­tions and spawn­ing ter­ror­ists. Adm. Sa­muel Lock­lear III has called cli­mate change the “big­gest long-term se­cu­rity threat” in the Asia-Pa­cific re­gion.

Trump may not know this, but China, the big­gest pro­ducer of green­house gases, has been slash­ing its car­bon emis­sions. How big is this? Gi­nor­mous. In the first four months of 2015, China cut emis­sions by an amount roughly equal to Bri­tain’s en­tire emis­sions for the same pe­riod.

The smaller car­bon foot­print is merely a byprod­uct of China’s ef­fort to clean up its pu­trid air. Get­ting rid of car­bon emis­sions also gets rid of dirty air. That’s why states are still go­ing af­ter them even though the green­house gases them­selves spread evenly around the globe.

As for Trump, he’s done lit­tle so far other than to em­bar­rass re­al­ity-based Amer­i­cans. But again, we can work around him.

Last sum­mer, Brown told cli­mate change de­niers: “Bring it on. We’ll have more bat­tles, and we’ll have more vic­to­ries.”

Can Jerry Brown be our alt­pres­i­dent?

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