We saw it coming, even before his election as President of the United States of America. Few gave this man any credence as he campaigned against Republican after Republican for the GOP nomination. His ideas lacked substance, his policies were threadbare, even nihilistic, and his persona unbefitting such high office. He was bereft of the attributes necessary to become the world’s most powerful person. Not many gave him a chance; even the pollsters wrote him off.
Yet against the odds he prevailed and assumed the mantle, to the astonishment of most of the world, but to the delight of the millions who voted him in on the strength of his promise to ‘Make America Great Again’, to restore her to her former glory, to retrieve American jobs lost to other countries, and to restore prosperity to those who felt emasculated and disaffected: the unemployed middle class male workers in America’s rust belt. Desperate for a job and a better life, they grasped at his promises, clung to his garments, believed his every word. Most of them still do.
Since his election though they have been confronted by many moments of truth. Now his supporters are beginning to realize that Trump’s promises are without substance.
They saw him try yet fail to demolish Obamacare and replace it with Trumpcare. The saga goes on even now. They saw him retreat from building the Mexican wall at Mexico’s expense, a massively expensive and pointless project that will never be funded by Mexico, and will likely never eventuate. They saw him promise to block the immigration of people from six predominantly Muslim countries, saw him flamboyantly sign an Executive Order to action this, only to have it blocked in court after court as unconstitutional. Now he’s threatening to appeal to the Supreme Court where he has a majority of Republican appointees, hoping it will uphold his Orders. To do so though will require the learned judges to deem that his Orders are in fact constitutional – a massive ask of these high ranking and very responsible public officials.
His supporters will be watching him as he presents to the House a gargantuan budget that is exceptionally punitive to the least well off, while giving massive tax cuts to the top end of town. They will be watching him as he tries to fulfill his promise of gigantic infrastructure spending. Yet all along the way he is encountering resistance from his own party as well as the Democrats. At town hall meetings GOP members are reeling from the reactions of their constituents to Trump’s agenda, and already fear an electoral backlash at the mid-term elections.
Just when it seemed that Trump was incapable of keeping any of his promises, along came the Paris Climate Change Accord, which he promised America would abandon. This time though, with these historic words uttered on 2 June 2017 in bright sunlight in the White House Rose Garden, Trump fulfilled his promise to pull out of the accord, which he has described as a job killer: “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. So we’re getting out but we’ll start to negotiate and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”
Trump, at his paranoid worst, claimed that other nations were ‘laughing’ at America and that the accord was “about other countries gaining an advantage over the United States.”
He added that the US would endeavour to either re-enter the Paris accord or propose a new deal: “…on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers. As President, I can put no other consideration before the wellbeing of American citizens. The Paris climate agreement is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers, who I love, and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories and vastly diminished economic production.”
The decision means the US will pull out of the Green Climate Fund, which Trump insisted cost the country ‘a vast fortune’.
Immediately the fractures began to appear.
Even the White House is divided. While his daughter Ivanka, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all opposed Trump’s exit, neo-fascist adviser Stephen Bannon of Breitbart ill repute, climate denier Scott Pruitt, Trump’s so-called Environmental Protection Agency Administrator, and even ‘alternative facts’ Kellyanne Conway manoeuvred to have Trump withdraw, and when he did, applauded his move, as did the hand-picked crowd in the Rose Garden. Dutifully, Vice President Mike Pence defended Trump’s decision, calling the issue of climate change ‘a paramount issue for the left’!
Throughout the world, leaders expressed disappointment and dismay at Trump’s announcement, and vowed to continue their efforts to combat global warming as per the Paris Accord. Their message was clear: if you want to go it alone, count us out. Here is an abbreviated account of their reactions extracted from the Sydney Morning Herald
of 1 June:
“EU climate action commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, said: ”…the bloc deeply regrets the unilateral decision by the Trump administration” but went on to vow: ”…the world can continue to count on Europe for global leadership”.
“Following his announcement, Trump spoke by phone to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and British Prime Minister Theresa May to explain his decision.
“Italy, France and Germany said they regretted Trump's decision and dismissed his suggestion that the global pact could be revised. In a rare joint statement they said: "We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies."
“In a five-minute direct exchange French President Emmanuel Macron told Trump that while France would continue to work with Washington, it would no longer discuss climate issues with the United States.
“Macron, who made a televised address in French and English, said Trump had “…committed an error for the interests of his country, his people and a mistake for the future of our planet. I tell you firmly tonight: we will not renegotiate a less ambitious accord. Don't be mistaken on climate; there is no plan B because there is no planet B.”
“German Chancellor Angela Merkel and India's leader, Narendra Modi, pledged their support for the climate accord during meetings in Berlin.
“Justin Trudeau said he was deeply disappointed at the US decision. “Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth.”
“The Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, called it ‘a brutal act.’ Five Nordic countries wrote a last-minute letter to Trump, saying the Paris accord was a commitment ‘to our children’. “We must reduce global warming”. The leaders of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden said in a short, joint missive: “The effects are already visible in all parts of our planet. It is of crucial importance that all parties stick to the Paris Agreement.”
“The Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, called it ‘a brutal act’.
Argentine Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, told the Italian daily La Repubblica that a withdrawal from the agreement amounted to “a disaster for everyone”.
“Premier Li Keqiang of China, in Berlin for meetings with Merkel, said before Trump's decision that his country remained committed to the fight against climate change and to participating in international efforts for a greener world. China, the world's biggest emitter of carbon dioxide, stands to gain international credit for standing by the Paris Agreement, but it would not be able to fill the void on its own with the US abandoning the treaty. “China will continue to uphold its commitments to the Paris climate agreement”…confirming a position his country agreed to alongside the United States in 2014, in what proved to be a watershed moment for the ultimate passage of the landmark accord the following year.
“Jane J. Chigiyal, ambassador from the Pacific island nation of Micronesia, said her people were already feeling the acute impact. She called sea rise “…an existential issue. Our contribution to this problem, this challenge, is very small, yet we will continue to do our part.”
At home, Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, fearful of upsetting Trump, said that Australia was ‘disappointed’, but remained committed to the Paris Agreement, and confirmed that they still believe Australia's targets are achievable.
United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric said: “The decision was a major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “…remains confident that cities, states and businesses within the United States - along with other countries - will continue to demonstrate vision and leadership by working for the low-carbon, resilient economic growth that will create quality jobs and markets for 21st century prosperity”.
Even in the United States, significant people spoke out strongly.
Picking up on his attempt at alliteration: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”
, the Mayor of Pittsburgh reminded him that in Pittsburgh only 20% voted for Trump, adding: “I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy, and the future.”
The Mayor of Pittsburgh was not alone. Washington Governor Jay Inslee told reporters that states are free to act on their own to reduce pollution and added that Washington State, New York and California are forming the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene states committed to working to uphold the Paris climate agreement. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said Mr Trump’s decision was a ‘disgrace’.
The US Conference of Mayors said it strongly opposed Trump's action and vowed that American mayors would continue efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming.
There is more, as reported in news.com.au
”Barack Obama said the withdrawal meant the Trump administration had made the US one of “a small handful of nations that reject the future…I’m confident that our states, cities and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got”.
“Al Gore, who created the climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth, said the decision was “reckless and indefensible, undermined America’s standing in the world and threatened to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time… but make no mistake: if President Trump won't lead, the American people will.”
“Even oil companies voiced opposition to pulling out of the agreement, with Exxon Mobil Corp and ConocoPhillips arguing that the US is better off with a seat at the table so it can influence global efforts to curb emissions.
“Walt Disney CEO Robert Iger and Tesla boss Elon Musk both announced their resignation from the President’s Council over the withdrawal.
“Weather.com mocked the President today with sarcastic headlines splashed across its homepage. “Hmm, I did not see a forecast for shade when I checked the Weather Channel app this morning. Yet here it is!, tweeted Politico senior editor Alex Weprin.
“UK environmental law firm ClientEarth’s chief executive James Thornton said: “Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement is an act of vandalism that has the potential to do great harm to current and future generations.”
“Critics argued that Mr Trump’s decision amounts to the US shirking its responsibility as the leader of the free world.”
Applause for Trump was confined to a handful of his advisers, his ardent followers in Trumpland, and disappointedly, to a handful of climate denier conservatives here, the usual suspects: Eric Abetz, Craig Kelly, Ian Macdonald, Chris Back, Tony Pasin, Ian Goodenough, George Christensen and of course the arch-denier, One Nation’s Malcolm Roberts, all of whom would have Australia follow Trump.
Adam Bandt was the only politician who exhibited guts, calling Trump a ‘climate criminal’ who should become a ‘world pariah’. "Trump has just threatened our security and our way of life. Time to dump Trump. Trump's 'axis of denial' is a greater threat to global security than terrorism."
So where does Trump’s action leave him? The Emperor with no clothes?
Hans Christian Anderson’s tale is an allegory that portrays a situation where many people believe something that is not true. The nub of the story is that, knowing the Emperor’s love of the finest clothes, two swindlers claiming to be weavers entered the Emperor’s city and proclaimed they were capable of making the finest, lightest, most magnificent cloth the world has ever seen. So extraordinary was this cloth it was invisible to anyone who was incompetent or stupid.
The latter day Emperor, Donald John Trump, believing the climate denier swindlers, dressed in their invisible ‘climate change is a hoax’ finery and appeared before the people of the world to announce his retreat from the Paris Accord. His ardent supporters, not wanting to be seen as incompetent or stupid, wildly applauded his bold announcement.
But far from it being left to a small boy to exclaim: “But the Emperor has no clothes”
, leaders from around the world, and even in his own country, seeing how naked was Trump, and knowing that they were neither incompetent or stupid, quickly pronounced in unambiguous language: “The Emperor has no clothes”.
Although nominally the most powerful person in the world, he now stands naked and exposed.
Trump has become irrelevant.