Quora Question: How Will Republicans Fight Climate Change Under Trump?

1123_Pollution New York Climate Change
Vehicles drive past a carbon counting sign on the Deutsche Bank building in New York June 18, 2009. Eric Thayer/Reuters

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Answer from Richard Muller, professor of physics, UC Berkeley:

The chances of fighting climate change may be better under Donald Trump than they were under President Obama. It doesn't really matter what the administration believes; what is important is what it does. Two of the three key technologies to slow carbon dioxide into the atmosphere are nuclear power and shale gas/oil. Although the Obama administration never actively opposed these approaches, they did not ease the barriers to their development. That could happen under Trump, and if it does, it could have a very beneficial effect on slowing warming.

Most of the programs in the U.S. to fight climate change put forth in the current administration were, in my opinion, wrong-headed. They emphasized the U.S. reducing its emissions. But if the US emissions were cut to zero, world emissions would rise to the same level in just four years, due to the economic growth of China, India and the developing world. Any policy that is not directed at helping the developing world reduce emissions, is not a policy that will slow global warming; it will only make us feel good, and it shouldn't.

Particularly bad were the roadblocks to new nuclear power. That set exactly the wrong example. We need to tell the world that nuclear can be made safe and that we can store the waste adequately, and encourage them to replace their coal with nuclear. South Korea can build good nuclear plants at one-third the cost in the U.S. Their "trick" is reduced but adequate regulation. Delays and uncertainty drive up the cost of nuclear in the U.S.

We need a triad: improved energy conservation, development of nuclear and development of shale. Shale produces half the CO2 of coal; we need to help China make the switch. Nothing could help more in the fight against global warming.

All programs in the U.S. must be done in a way that facilitates their adoption in the developing world. Doing it this way is possible. Nuclear and shale are approaches that I expect Trump to support, so I do indeed think our chances of fighting global warming are improving. Under the Democrats, there was too much ideology, too much belief in solar prices coming down. In the U.S. the low solar prices are largely an illusion due to direct but mostly indirect subsidies. (For example, utilities are required to buy excess solar power from consumers at retail prices. That makes solar, to them, the most expensive energy they purchase. That law, which we have in California, is actually a hidden subsidy, paid for by higher utility bills.)

Trump may argue that the U.S. should not have limits unless China does too. Under the agreement with Obama, China has no limits until 2030, and then it is not committed to reduce, only to cap. They can abide by their promise by increasing emissions rapidly for the next 14 years and then capping. That's not good. We need to help them develop energy conservation, nuclear and shale. If he abandons the agreement with China, little harm will come from that. What we really need to do is to help them get off their coal habit. Seventy percent of their electric power comes from coal. War on coal in the U.S. accomplishes nothing; China coal is far more of a CO2 producer than is U.S. coal. Let's help the Chinese engage on a war on coal by sharing technology and know-how. Their incentive to do this is to reduce their air pollution. We need to help them learn how to frack. We have some small programs in place under the democrats, but they are very limited in value. We can do much more.

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Quora Question: How Will Republicans Fight Climate Change Under Trump? | Opinion