Hi everyone, welcome back to Net Zero.
After Donald Trump’s sweep of the Iowa Republican caucus this week, it’s an appropriate time to ask: How damaging would Trump 2.0 be for the climate?
There’s reason to be concerned. The former president remains committed to diehard climate-science denial, a position that’s increasingly rare in Republican circles. Politico reported this week that his advisors are already plotting ways to tone down the findings of federal climate-science reports. With little effort, a second Trump administration could walk back emissions regulations drafted during the Biden administration; stop financial regulators from finishing long-overdue carbon disclosure rules; and, perhaps most damagingly, slow-walk the rollout of grants and loans from the Department of Energy and other agencies that are providing irreplaceable support to scaling up cutting-edge climate tech. His administration, anticipating lame-duck status by its third year, would be highly motivated to move quickly.
But, as outgoing climate envoy John Kerry noted at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, there’s a limit to the damage Trump can cause: “This economic revolution is underway and it’s much bigger than any politician, any one person.” At least $225 billion has been invested in clean energy ventures in the U.S. in the last year alone. Investors aren’t going to walk away from those bets, and few members of Congress will ultimately be willing to vote against tax incentives that are creating working-class jobs in their districts. And from the private sector perspective, any change in U.S. federal policy will be backstopped by other jurisdictions that have no intention of slowing down on climate. Obstructing the energy transition will only hurt how competitive U.S. companies can be in it, not change its course.
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