By Julian Cribb
Contrary to appearances, Donald Trump might just be the best thing that ever happened to climate action.
The presence of a climate denier in the White House and his obtuse, coal-funded minions in key government posts is liable to ignite such fury among sensible people across America and around the world as to accelerate the demise of coal, oil and gas (“the fossils”) and the adoption of climate-saving policies at every level from home to city to industry, to nation, to the world itself.
Trump might be just the bitter medicine we needed to jerk us out of our complacency about what a 4 or 5-degree world will really be like: approaching uninhabitable.
Depending on the rate at which Arctic methane is released, the world has somewhere between 15-20 years to do away with fossil fuels completely. After that, a hot world of +4 or +5 degrees, with all the food, water, conflict and migration crises for billions that entails, becomes almost unavoidable.
The US election result has gifted the sedate pace of climate action from Paris COP22 with a fresh urgency as, around the world, people wake up to the brutal fact that if they wait for government action then Hell will not freeze over but engulf the planet in a conflagration that will consume their children and grandchildren.
Waiting for governments to agree on the necessity of saving civilisation is, in a phrase, a mug’s game.
Their hearts aren’t in it, and there are far too many juicy bribes and sinecures for individual politicians not to mention political parties paid off by the coal lobby to posture and then sit on their hands.
In Australia, for example, a recent count (by Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham) tagged more than 40 retired MPs, their staffers and former public servants as working for the dark side – that’s the side that doesn’t care if your grandkids burn. There are scores of closet Trumps among us.
Not even Trump can defy world market reality. The one thing that can destroy the price and profitability of coal, oil and gas is low-cost renewable energy. As they well know – hence all the campaigns against wind turbines and solar farms.
Put solar on your home, support your city or local government in taking your community off-grid.
Invest in tidal, wave, geothermal and the new energies to balance the power supply.
Resources companies have the option to go green themselves – they just don’t want to. They will end up with stranded assets and bankrupt, like many US coal majors already are.
Don’t put your life savings into anything that might destroy your grandkids. It’s not a formula for human survival. Ethical and green investment services are mushrooming. Concerned citizens can compel their bank, super fund, university, local government etc to invest ethically by demanding accountability, including divestment in fossil fuels – and by shifting their accounts. In the Trump years, there will be massive global divestment by hundreds of millions in the source of the greatest hazard facing humanity.
Sue the bastards
Though they may look like pinpricks for now, there is a rolling wave of lawsuits around the world against their governments for failing in their duty of care, and against the oil and coal majors for risking human lives and destroying the environment. Every lawsuit adds to the sovereign risk of investing in fossil fuels – and scares other, less ethical, investors. Shrewd investment analysts are already advising their clients to bail out of fossils, and there’s not a darn thing Trump and his acolytes can do to stop it.
Many people still underestimate the power, in a social media age, of peaceful citizens’ protests to change minds, values and perceptions within communities and countries. The way the world, especially its indigenous communities, has rallied behind the Sioux nation to oppose the Keystone tar sands pipeline is a case in point. As are the citizens’ protests over the Liverpool Plains and Adani. Local protests over just causes reverberate worldwide. There is a global movement building that responds instantly.
Trust the youth
Following the US election, the electoral map of how 18-24 year olds voted gained currency. Young Americans, at any rate, are not willing to be pawned to the interests of the fossils. Globally, many of the lawsuits against government or the fossils are led by youngsters, even teenagers – and for similar reasons. This is a demographic that can only grow and, aided by social media, can do so at lightspeed and universally.
Change your habits
The food industry contributes roughly 30 per cent of global climate change drivers, and wastes about 40 per cent of all food. So stop wasting food, and buy it from farmers who care, not from supermarkets who don’t. Don’t buy your kids plastic toys – you are only funding the very petrochemical industry that threatens their future. Likewise look for organic food, clothing and household products, which are produced without petrochemicals (pesticides, dyes, preservatives etc). Again, there’s nothing the Trumpists can do to stop you eating and shopping more safely and sustainably – and contributing your dollar signals to a burgeoning global marketplace.
Electric cars are only a climate solution if the electricity they run on is renewable not fossil – but some stunning technologies are just around the corner, including using vehicles themselves as generators of green energy into the local grid. The worldwide spread of high voltage DC (HVDC) cables over thousands of kilometres is the genesis of an international grid for moving energy efficiently around the planet: one day your home may help run a factory in China. Sunlight in the Sahara will help power Europe, etc.
In the face of universal threats like climate change, people often feel powerless to influence the future. This is no longer the case, as these six examples show. You can have quite a big impact simply by choosing where you shop, bank, mortgage your home and save your money. Aligned with hundreds of millions of others, equally concerned, equally empowered, you can change the world.
If humanity itself forms a consensus to prevent and mitigate climate change it will be a political act like none other in history. No nation, corporate, religious order, political party or belief system can stop it, because they will have no power over it. It will unleash the next great phase of global economic growth and development, the new industries, jobs and opportunities that transition us into a sustainable, prosperous world.
So, thanks Donald, for supplying the wake-up call.
Julian Cribb is author of Surviving the 21st Century
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