It was a surreal scene straight out of “Brave New World”. A shirt sleeved crowd, composed in part of representatives of climate change deniers like the Koch Brothers’ “American Energy Alliance” and the “Competitive Enterprise Institute”, waited in the “Rose Garden” for Trump’s announcement of withdrawal from
the Paris Climate Accord. Meanwhile the US Marine Jazz Band – part of the institution (the US military) that burns more oil than any other on the planet – played Gershwin’s “Summer Time and the Livin’ is Easy.”
Then the senile old president – apparently recovered from having ridden golf carts around Europe – came on and made his announcement, complete with all his usual blather about jobs, etc.
Paris Accord no Solution
It’s not that the Paris Accord accomplished anything spectacular. As if to mock capitalism’s attempt to deal with this crisis of its own making, on the very same day that Trump made his announcement, the Wall St. Journal reported that oil prices fell to a three-week low due to the fact that US oil output rose to its highest level since August, 2015. As the Wall St. Journal editors pointed out, even if every “intended” (meaning voluntary) step is taken, “the temperature increase will be in the range of 1.9 – 2.6 degrees Celsius by 2050” according to an MIT study. And according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), last year recorded the second biggest jump in annual CO2 levels in history. NOAA also reported large increases in concentration of methane and nitrous oxide, leading to a 2.5% increase in the heating affect of all greenhouse gases last year.
In fact, the Paris Accord’s weaknesses are so huge that even Exxon/Mobil – which has spent $33 million on global climate change denial – called on Trump not to withdraw from them! Why? As their comrades-in-crime, ConocoPhillips – the world’s largest independent gas and oil producer – explained “It gives the U.S. the ability to participate in future climate discussions to safeguard its economic and environmental best interests.”
The day after the announcement was made, Foreign Policy – online journal of the highly prestigious Council on Foreign Affairs – published an article denouncing Trump’s decision. In “Why Abandoning Paris is a Disaster (our emphasis) for America” they explained that “the genius (and reality) of the Paris agreement is that it requires no particular policies at all…. Pulling out of the Paris deal in a fit of pique is an empty gesture.”
Weakening US Capitalism vs. its Rivals
Foreign Policy explained that, for one thing, this withdrawal weakens US capitalism in its rivalry with Chinese capitalism, which is becoming the global leader in the “green energy” field. “In recent days, as Trump dithered about whether or not to stay in, the Chinese quickly seized the opportunity to claim the mantle of global leadership and have made clear that they will stay in…” They also point out that this will weaken the US tie with European capitalism, which gives the Russian capitalists an opening.
As they put it: “Withdrawing from Paris will damage U.S. standing in the world. Pulling out of Paris will call into question the word of the United States and weaken our ability to call on other countries to work with us on other global threats…. Trump can bluster that he’s putting America first, but climate change is real and will become far more dire in the coming years…. The rest of the world won’t be standing still and neither should we if we want to advance American security and prosperity.”
This particular conflict between Trump and the great majority of the US capitalist class is symptomatic of the larger conflict he has with them. The Los Angeles Times explained it: Trump “is encouraging Americans to reject facts, to disrespect science… and instead to simply take positions on the basis of ideology and preconceived notions.” This makes it difficult for the tops of the US capitalist class to convince people of their policies if the people’s views are based on an ideology that is opposed to the global interests of US capitalism.
The great majority of the capitalist class recognizes the immense danger that global climate disruption represents to their profits and stability. But, as worshipers at the altar of “freedom” – meaning freedom of capital to go anywhere and invest in anything, as long as it brings a profit – they cannot do anything to stop this train wreck that is global climate disruption. That’s what the Paris Accord proves. And what Trump represents is the most extreme, the most crazed sector of this class run amok. Whether the mainstream of his class will be able to get him under control – or failing that to oust him – is very much an open question. After all, their base in society is nowhere near as deep and strong as it used to be and he has a base of diehards who (in the words of the LA Times) are willing “to reject facts, to disrespect science, documents, nonpartisanship and the mainstream media — and instead to simply take positions on the basis of ideology and preconceived notions. This is a recipe for a divided country in which differences grow deeper and rational compromise becomes impossible.”
In other words, Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord is another example of the difficulty the mainstream of
the US capitalist class has in maintaining stability at home and pursuing their interests abroad. We should have no illusions in the alternative; never forget that during last year’s election campaign Hillary Clinton and the moderators of the “debates” between her and Trump never once mentioned the words “climate change.” They all swept the issue under the rug. The answer is to start building a mass working class alternative – a working class political party based on socialist policies. If we have to start doing this from the ground up – with independent local working class candidates, then so be it. But it must start somewhere.