Here’s some less-bad-than-it-could-be news for coral reefs, polar bears, and humans in coastal cities who don’t want to drown.
It turns out that President Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Accord (you know, that giant agreement that 195 countries signed promising to reduce carbon emissions and limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius) might end up being kind of an empty gesture in the long run.
That’s according to an analysis by Morgan Stanley, which found that the economic benefit of going all-in on renewable energy is becoming too large to ignore and the U.S. will most likely meet its goals under the agreement after all:
“By our forecasts, in most cases favorable renewables economics rather than government policy will be the primary driver of changes to utilities’ carbon emissions levels. For example, notwithstanding president Trump’s stated intention to withdraw the US from the Paris climate accord, we expect the US to exceed the Paris commitment of a 26-28% reduction in its 2005-level carbon emissions by 2020.”
Basically, it doesn’t matter that President Trump agrees with the terms of the Paris Accord or not. As long as building solar and wind plants is better for the bottom line than burning coal, oil, and natural gas, power companies in the U.S. (and around the world) will naturally gravitate toward those clean energy sources anyway.
The analysis predicts that renewables will be the “cheapest form of new power generation by 2020,” Business Insider reports.
Solar panel prices fell 50% between 2016 and 2017 thanks to a global oversupply, and wind turbines continue to become more cost effective and efficient to build.
Does that mean we can kick back, crack open a beer, and enjoy the deliberate-yet-inevitable march of progress?
No. Climate change is still a huge deal.
Even hitting those Paris targets might not be enough to stop really bad things from happening. Didn’t you read that New York Magazine article?
You didn’t? Well, here’s what the world could look like in a century or two, even if we do meet our Paris goals:
“Cities like Karachi and Kolkata will become close to uninhabitable, annually encountering deadly heat waves like those that crippled them in 2015. At four degrees, the deadly European heat wave of 2003, which killed as many as 2,000 people a day, will be a normal summer. At six, according to an assessment focused only on effects within the U.S. from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, summer labor of any kind would become impossible in the lower Mississippi Valley, and everybody in the country east of the Rockies would be under more heat stress than anyone, anywhere, in the world today.”
So … like, call your senator.
What it does mean is that climate change deniers and skeptics have less power than they used to.
Regardless of how many of the rich and powerful refuse to believe the Earth is warming, as long as the price of clean energy keeps falling, the argument for burning more fossil fuels is weakening.
Meanwhile, 70% of Americans support the Paris Agreement.
Back in June, the Trump administration touted its withdrawal from the accord as good for American business.
By following the money, American business might just prove him wrong.
For once, thank goodness, that’s what they’re good at.