A scene from “The Measure of a Fog,” a film on climate change. (Undark Magazine / Vimeo)

Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord this week may be a foreign policy mistake, but one climate policy expert sees a potential silver lining in the move.

Basav Sen, who directs the Climate Policy Program at the Institute for Policy Studies, writes in Newsweek:

It turns out that the faction of the Trump regime that wanted to stay in the accord — led by Secretary of State and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson — was motivated not by concerns about the environment, but by a desire to undermine global climate talks to advance the fossil fuel industry’s agenda.

Already, Energy Secretary Rick Perry has used an international forum, the G7 energy ministerial meeting in April, to press for language in the declaration advocating “high efficiency, low emissions coal and natural gas.”

Leaked documents show that the U.S. also attempted to water down climate change language in the declaration issued by the eight-nation Arctic Council at its biannual ministerial meeting last month.

Reportedly, major coal companies such as Peabody Energy and Cloud Peak Energy have pressured Trump to remain in the agreement. They see coal exports as their best future business prospect as the domestic market declines, so they need international climate terms that still leave space for dirty fuels like coal.

They want the U.S. to use its clout to renegotiate global climate treaties to allow for the expansion of untested technologies such as carbon capture and storage.

As an unnamed coal company official put it to Reuters, they don’t want “the most powerful advocate for fossil fuels to be away from the table.”

Given the questionable motivations of those inside the administration urging the U.S. to stay in the agreement, maybe the U.S. exit is good news for the rest of the world. After all, Trump was never going to advance the meaningful reductions at the federal level that would have fulfilled the U.S. commitments under the deal.

No one knows what the future holds—just as no one can say whether Trump still thinks climate change is a hoax. Maybe one of his aides could show him this film by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Ian Cheney about the challenge facing humanity.

—Posted by Eric Ortiz


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