Trump and Buggy Whips

This week Donald Trump withdrew the United States support and leadership in the Paris Climate Accords, demonstrating that he prefers buggy whips to automobiles.

There is overwhelming agreement by scientists and most of the world’s leaders that climate change is real and is occurring. It is not a “hoax” as Trump asserts. The consequence of doing nothing is catastrophic for the planet and for all people.

Rising sea levels will drown cities which will cost billions of dollars to move or protect. A warming climate will allow tropical diseases to spread northward, resulting in growing health costs. Unpredictable weather will create more famines and spur more mass migrations. This, in turn, will spur more wars and other global tensions.

Trump’s decision to oppose climate agreements to protect the coal industry is like trying to protect buggy whip makers in the age of the automobile. Coal as a fuel source is declining.

California, alone, has more than 10 times the jobs in the solar industry as entire employment in the coal industry across the nation. Solar is the future. Coal is the past.

That is why the CEOs of many of America’s largest corporations support the Paris Accords, even Exxon Mobile recognizes that the future is not with fossil fuels and the United States’ economic future is increasingly dependent on renewable energy.

And it’s not just in the US that a shift in energy sources is occurring. China announced it is canceling more than 100 coal-fired generation plants because they just don’t make economic sense anymore and increasingly they are becoming the global leader in renewable energy.

India has set a target of meeting 40% of its energy needs by 2030 from solar.

These countries are turning away from coal for practical reasons—solar is increasingly less expensive than coal—even without calculating the environmental costs of coal mining and burning.

Declining cost of renewable energy such as wind and solar, as well as lower natural gas price, is driving the coal industry’s decline, not international agreements like the Paris Climate Accords. The market is speaking loudly, but Trump is not listening.

By withdrawing the US from the Paris agreement which was supported by almost 200 other countries, he has alienated our allies in the developing world, which will only make future negotiations on other critical issues like trade and military alliances more difficult.

But there are consequences beyond the economic, ecological and political.  There are ethical reasons for remaining in the Paris agreement.

The US is the second largest polluter on the planet. Our per capita use of energy exceeds all other countries. While our country is home to 5% of the global population, we use 25% of all energy.  We Americans release on a per capita basis twice as much CO2 as China and 8 times more than India. And we, more than any other country, have contributed to the current crisis because we have been the number one polluter for decades.

While Trump is always trumpeting about personal responsibility, he is shirking responsibility for the mess we have created. We Americans have benefited tremendously from past burning of fossil fuels and polluting the global atmosphere, now it’s time to pay the piper.

From a moral and ethical perspective, we have a responsibility and moral obligation to assist the rest of the world in their efforts to reduce our fossil fuel burning and, we owe it to poorer countries to assist them in developing alternatives to fossil fuels so they can reduce global poverty.

Lest we forget, we owe to the people and communities in this country whose jobs and livelihood are dependence on fossil fuels to help them develop alternatives to digging up coal or drilling for oil. Telling them delusional “fake facts” that the world is going to continue to rely on fossil fuels will not help them make this transition.

Trump’s policies in many areas are backward looking, not forward thinking. We don’t need buggy whips anymore, and it’s time for Trump to recognize the future does not belong to the fossil fuel industry.


George Wuerthner has published 38 books including Energy: Overdevelopment and Delusion of Endless Growth.






  1. Birdpond Avatar

    Good article but bad title/premise. Buggy whips would be better for the planet than automobiles. Autos use oil/gas. Right? If that comparison can be updated to something like, oh, I don’t know, Trump chooses Big Polluters over People- then I’ll share on my page. I know what point you’re trying to make, but in fact, he IS choosing automobilesover greener energy. I can’t think of the right analogy though – Anyone else? (I was thinking leeches over antibiotics but that’s a mine field too LOL, as leeches are coming back into style in some medical circles, as being safer than over-prescribed antibiotics). lol

  2. Joanne Favazza Avatar
    Joanne Favazza

    Trump is a complete and utter disgrace.

George Wuerthner is an ecologist and writer who has published 38 books on various topics related to environmental and natural history. He has visited over 400 designated wilderness areas and over 200 national park units.

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George Wuerthner