A Republican victory in 2024 will be a climate disaster

Mar 25, 2024
Democrats vs republicans are in a ideological duel on the american flag.

After the Super Tuesday results signalled Trump would become the Republican presidential candidate in November, a first promise was that “We’re going to drill baby drill.” One of the most important reasons to watch American politics this year is that a Trump victory will push the world faster towards catastrophic climate heating.

The global community is currently failing to meet this challenge. Petrostates have become the venue of choice for COP meetings, signalling governments accept that the forces of disruption will allow no interruption to their profits until the crunch. Whether that crunch is some technological breakthrough or the start of civilisational collapse remains to be determined.

We have, however, the global structures where the majority might choose to cooperate to steer the Titanic away from the iceberg.

If America finds itself governed by the Republican Party in 2025 the chances become very slim indeed. The GOP now consists of Tea Party disrupters and rank opportunists, all dedicated Trumpists. Fact-based policy is irrelevant. Antagonism towards climate concerns is intense, one aspect of the loathed “woke” threat they intend to destroy.

Project 2025 has been depicted, with caveats, as the game-plan that Trump’s government would follow as it did in 2017, when it enacted two-thirds of the earlier iteration. Trump himself has little interest in any project apart from his own revenge. A set of policies, structures and people that will effectively enact his vengeance will prove attractive if he wins.

Project 2025 is hosted by the Heritage Foundation, a preeminent Atlas Network thinktank. Heritage has consistently fought climate action adhering to the Network’s fossil-fuel donor’s goals. Its new Christian Nationalist president, Kevin Roberts, has made it more extreme. Heritage brought in key actors from Trump’s previous administration to run Project 2025 so that it would look duly MAGA, and not like an establishment body trying to hijack Trump’s victory. As a result, this is the most radical Roadmap in four decades of production. The 800 pages of the 2025 Mandate is the sum of work by 400 contributors with 50 thinktanks from the Atlas Network and the Christian Nationalist Council for National Policy cooperating. It represents the merged thinking of the Trump-complicit Right.

There will be no global action on climate, or any other goal: they are not so much isolationists as unilateralists who want to act unchecked by international bodies or allies. Robert’s introduction to the Mandate states that the Left’s “supranational organisations” seek a world “bound by global treaties they write, in which they exercise dictatorial powers over all nations without being subject to democratic accountability.” He demands that the next Republican administration will abandon “International organisations and agreements that erode our Constitution, rule of law, or popular sovereignty”.

This fossil fuel-funding is evident. Roberts enjoins that “The next conservative President should go beyond merely defending America’s energy interests but go on offence, asserting them around the world. America’s vast reserves of oil and natural gas are not an environmental problem; they are the lifeblood of economic growth. American dominance of the global energy market would be a good thing: for the world, and, more importantly, for ‘we the people.” Environmentalism is depicted as “anti-human.” The overwhelming scientific evidence is meaningless. Roberts preaches: “‘Cheap grace’ aptly describes the Left’s love affair with environmental extremism. Those who suffer most from the policies environmentalism would have us enact are the aged, poor, and vulnerable. It is not a political cause, but a pseudo-religion meant to baptise liberals’ ruthless pursuit of absolute power in the holy water of environmental virtue.”

Biden’s crucial Inflation Reduction Act which “unleashes at least hundreds of billions of dollars in federal subsidies for renewable energy sources, electric vehicles, batteries, heat pumps, and more” is likely his most significant achievement. Repealing it has become a Republican obsession. Project 2025 aims to dismantle the American administrative state: all departmental action to constrain pollution would be under attack alongside laws.

Fossil fuel corporations have long shown that they cannot be trusted to act in our interests without government regulation. Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) goals which had pushed some companies to consider broader stakeholder wellbeing have fallen out of fashion. This is in part because they have been prone to cynical deployment, functioning as “greenwashing” rather than a driver of actual change.

More concerning, however, is that corporate interests have been directing campaigns to discredit ESG investing as “woke” and an intrusion on their corporate liberties. Sky News, like Fox News in the US, has campaigned against the attempt to introduce corporate morality. Rowan Dean, for example, railed against it as “just pure socialism being introduced through the back door.” The scope of plutocrat campaigns against morality in business was revealed in emails from an Atlas Network-interlinked junktank in America recently. It was not just the ability to act regardless of environmental considerations these corporations and plutocrat foundations were funding: it was also campaigns to free up child labour, even to strip healthcare and food support from America’s most desperate.

These “conservative” actors demand adherence to Milton Friedman’s “shareholder theory” that insisted a corporation’s sole concern must be to maximise returns to shareholders. Putin’s war on Ukraine has enabled huge profits for fossil fuel companies and they are being driven by “insistence from shareholders that companies keep record profits flowing and stick to their core business.” Thus Shell has become the latest company to announce that it has resiled from its zero carbon commitments, extending timelines and lifting limits.

Even the 2.5% of the global oil and gas industry’s capital spending currently investing in renewable energy is resented by shareholders. BP was threatened by a hedge fund for depressing its share price by this “irrational” spending.

Lacking any moral framework, this shareholder model demands government regulation to behave responsibly.

It is likely that a Trump victory at the end of this year will leave one of the world’s largest economies expanding its fossil fuel sector, cutting back every limit on carbon energy and stripping incentives promoting clean energy. Any regulation mitigating the immorality of shareholder capitalism will be stripped away. It is possible that China or India might step into a gap left on the global stage by America, but the damage to international cooperation will be extensive.

The world’s fate might rest on this election.

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