The following editorial was published in the Wisconsin State Journal on June 4, 2017:
The president’s rejection of an international climate agreement last week was disappointing but expected. He already had signed executive orders in March to dismantle the previous administration’s limits on carbon emissions from power plants, which was central to America’s compliance with the Paris Accord.
Yet as much as President Donald Trump, with all his bluster, wants to steer America backward — pretending our nation’s future can run on the dirty coal of the past — reality will prevail.
Trump won’t have the last word on protecting our environment and economy for future generations. Instead, private businesses, entrepreneurs and energy users will continue to innovate and adapt. And to prosper in the global economy, our nation will have little choice but to pursue increasingly affordable clean energy solutions.
Here’s reality: Lots of power companies, including Madison Gas and Electric locally, are still planning to meet the goals for lower carbon emissions to ease climate change, as set by former President Barack Obama. And some utilities are going much further, doing today what Trump seems to think is impossible.
Iowa’s largest utility, MidAmerican Energy, is investing billions of dollars in wind energy with the goal of increasing its renewable power production from 55 percent today to 90 percent within a few years. And it’s promising not to raise its rates for more than a decade.
At the same time, Iowa — a state Trump won in 2016 but will have a hard time winning in 2020 by touting coal — counts more than 6,000 jobs in the wind industry.
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Nationwide, wind power employs more than 100,000, while solar energy accounts for 374,000 jobs, compared to coal’s 160,000. Jobs in bioenergy now top 130,000.
Further expansion of renewable energy will help ease our warming climate, which poses serious risk to our economy and way of life. The conservative approach should be to plan ahead and to hedge against risk. Instead, President Trump is recklessly ignoring scientific evidence of a serious and growing threat.
His own secretary of state, Rex Tillerson — the former CEO of an oil company that supports the Paris agreement — had recommended Trump stick with the international accord. Doing so would allow America to lead on the issue, rather than cede global influence to China, as the president is doing.
In Trump’s dark vision, America will suffer blackouts, businesses will halt and millions of jobs will be lost unless our nation clings to the dirty coal that powered the Industrial Revolution more than a century ago. Trump oddly views international cooperation on a nonbinding goal of reducing the carbon emissions linked to climate change as a devious plot, rather than part of the solution it is.
Because the Paris agreement is largely symbolic, Trump’s rejection won’t halt our nation’s or the world’s progress. As Tillerson said Friday, America will continue to reduce its emissions. It also must invest in research and technology.
Trump predictably got it wrong last week. But America will still get it right.