This weekend the Trib has devoted a generous amount of ink and paper to differing views on President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord. Those opinions range widely, from Washington Post journalist Ben Adler’s concern for both environment and economy, increasingly dependent on renewable energy and green initiatives, to conservative Texas scholar Merrill Matthews’ fears that the accord made too many demands of developed nations for environmental change, which he suggests (and with strong evidence) is already being positively affected by free-market forces. Today Baylor University administrator Smith Getterman places his hope in coming generations, rather than any politician, to act as devoted stewards of our planet.
The politicians are naturally all over the map. Democratic U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders describes Trump’s decision last week as “an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace” and advocates against turning our backs “on efforts to preserve this planet for future generations.” Republican Congressman Bill Flores, an oil and gas industry veteran who represents Waco, acknowledges the hard reality of climate change but says the Paris agreement would have “driven up energy prices for low- and middle-income families, stifled our economy and slowed job growth for hard-working American families.”
So where is the correct path through all these admittedly relevant concerns? Probably where it generally is — in the unpopular, buttoned-down, ultimately reasonable middle ground — somewhere between the passionate environmentalist who warns we must straight-away convert to renewables and scrap fossil fuels and the unhurried, thick-skinned skeptic who quibbles over how many scientists signed off on global warming — and how many were bought off by George Soros or some other liberal bogeyman. Yet even the most intelligent cynic must accept basic dynamics of earth-space science: greenhouse-gas emissions do not “float” off into space and industrial activity has enormously complicated our planet’s natural cycle of warming and cooling. Of this, there can be no doubt.
Our survival in the long run counts on embracing at least some elements of each of the above insights, without exclusion or prejudice. It likely relies on the cities, universities, states, entrepreneurs, corporations and everyday folks rushing to fill the vacuum President Trump has created. This includes industry leaders such as SpaceX brainchild Elon Musk, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt (who presumably knows a thing or two about energy generation and CO2), Disney CEO Robert Iger, Mars CEO and corporate neighbor Grant Reid and even Shell Oil officials. To those crestfallen by the president’s further abandonment of global leadership and any moral high ground, we must take hope in all the entities, public and private, big and small, making clear their own plans to continue reducing emissions and more. Nothing is stronger than the heart of those who step forward when craven political leadership fails us once again.