Who says President Trump doesn’t have a coherent foreign policy? Pundits and critics across the political spectrum have chided him for failing to articulate and implement a clear international agenda. Look closely at his overseas endeavors, though, and one all-too-consistent pattern emerges: Donald Trump will do whatever it takes to prolong the reign of fossil fuels by sabotaging efforts to curb carbon emissions and promoting the global consumption of US oil, coal, and natural gas. Whenever he meets with foreign leaders, it seems, his first impulse is to ply them with American fossil fuels.
His decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, which obliged this country to reduce its coal consumption and take other steps to curb its carbon emissions, was widely covered by the American mainstream news media. On the other hand, the president’s efforts to promote greater fossil-fuel consumption abroad—just as significant in terms of potential harm to the planet—have received remarkably little attention.
Bear in mind that, while Trump’s drive to sabotage international efforts to curb carbon emissions will undoubtedly slow progress in that area, it will hardly stop it. At the recent G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, 19 of the leaders of the world’s 20 largest economies reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris accord and pledged to “mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through, among other [initiatives], increased innovation on sustainable and clean energies.” This means that whatever Trump does, continuing innovation in the energy field will indeed help reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions and so slow the advance of climate change. Unfortunately, Trump’s relentless drive to promote fossil-fuel consumption abroad could ensure that carbon emissions continue to rise anyway, neutralizing whatever progress might be made elsewhere and dooming humanity to a climate-ravaged future.
How the two sides of the ledger—green-energy progress versus Trump’s drive to boost carbon exports—will balance out in the years ahead cannot be foreseen. Every boost in carbon emissions, however, pushes us closer to the moment when global temperatures will exceed the two-degrees Celsius rise from preindustrial levels that scientists say is the maximum the planet can absorb without suffering catastrophic consequences. Those would include rising sea levels that could drown New York, Miami, Shanghai, London, and many other coastal cities, as well as a sharp drop in global food production that could devastate entire populations.
Spreading the Cult of Carbon
President Trump’s pursuit of increased global carbon consumption is proving to be a two-front campaign. He’s working in every way imaginable to increase the production of fossil fuels domestically, even as he engages in a diplomatic blitzkreig to open doors to American fossil-fuel exports abroad.