In an opinion article in the journal Science, Barack Obama made the case that the fight against carbon emissions and climate change is already irreversible. The piece is one of a number of articles the president has written for academic journals attempting to preemptively disprove arguments that may be used by Trump and other republicans to roll back measures to slow climate change. The Science article makes an economic argument in favor of such measures, arguing that lower energy prices coinciding with the adoption of cleaner energy production proves that economic growth can occur alongside emissions reduction.
“Despite the policy uncertainty that we face, I remain convinced that no country is better suited to confront the climate challenge and reap the economic benefits of a low-carbon future than the United States.”
The article made a number of fairly direct references to Donald Trump and his climate change skepticism, saying that debate over such issues was “very much on display during the current presidential transition”.
Just in the last week, Obama has published articles in the Harvard Law Review, about criminal justice reform, and in the New England Journal of Medicine offering a defense of his healthcare policy which Republicans are gearing up to repeal. These articles represent an attempt to defend his legacy before Trump and the Republican controlled congress do their best to undo such policies. However, academic journals seem an unlikely medium to reach Trump and his supporters, who rose to a power on a wave of anti-intellectualism, and anger towards what they saw as the liberal elites.
The article in Science points out the fact that the plummeting cost of renewables has made them a more appealing option for businesses now seeing the advantage of moving away from dirty and emissions heavy power sources. With the fight against climate change gearing up around the world, Obama says the US could “lose its seat at the table,” with policies that refuse to address climate change.
The president points out that in the US political system, a president has a great deal of leverage to determine policy.
“President-elect Donald Trump will have the opportunity to do so,” he said. “The latest science and economics provide a helpful guide for what the future may bring.”
On the other side of the aisle, Trump, who expressed great skepticism about climate change during the campaign, is under pressure from republicans in congress who argue that robust environmental regulations risk stifling business growth and job creation.
Since the election, Trump has signaled some willingness to reconsider environmental policies, such as his commitment to pull out of the landmark 2015 Paris agreement.