Last week President Trump announced he was pulling the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. Signed on October 5, 2016, over 145 nations from around the world have agreed to work towards the goals stated in the pact of “keeping global temperature rise below 2° Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and “to strengthen the ability of countries to deal with the impacts of climate change”
While there are those who have argued against the existence of man-made climate change, including our president…
NASA reports that “Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.” I’m going to go with the scientists, not a reality TV personality turned politician on this one.
We love our planet and we love cars, so here’s why walking away from the Paris Agreement is a bad idea for the earth and the United States’ automotive industry.
Man-made climate change exists, it’s caused by CO2 emissions, and it will cost us $44 trillion if left unchecked according to CitiGroup. This is an existential threat to both our species and our planet. The auto industry played a role getting us into this mess, and it is already working to help us get out of this mess.
Even before climate change was a thing, we knew automotive emissions were bad for our planet. Who can forget the smog alerts that forced the people of Los Angeles to stay indoors for many days at a time back in the ’70s. No one can argue against the fact that advances in emission control and fuel efficiency have made our air cleaner and easier to breathe. China recognizes this and has been on a tear recently pushing for cleaner vehicles and moving quickly away from coal and other fossil fuels in their power plants in an attempt to clean up the air in its megacities.
Countries the world over have set strong carbon reduction targets for vehicle emissions which will require a significant percentage of vehicle fleets to be powered by hybrid, electric, hydrogen, or some other reduced emissions technology. And while the U.S. government seems to be spineless when pressured by lobbyists from the legacy energy industries, that’s not the case in the rest of the world. They are moving forward.
The purists in our capitalist system argue that our government shouldn’t be picking winners and losers; that the market will decide which technologies are best for the people and planet. These people are wrong on two counts. First, given the choice, people will do what’s cheapest in the short-term not what’s best for the long-term. This study from Princeton University demonstrates this behavior is hardwired in the human brain.
Second, the government has always picked winners, and in fact has been investing in the fossil fuel industry for generations to the tune of an average of $5 billion per year since 1911 in direct subsidies and tax credits. That doesn’t begin to include the even higher indirect subsidies like our diplomatic and military expenditures in the middle east and Asia supporting questionable regimes to ensure the free flow of foreign oil into our country.
While coal and petroleum executives may be shaking in their boots as they stare into the new energy future, the auto industry is not. Leaders from Ford, BMW, Tesla, and many other manufacturers have issued statements in support of the Paris agreement and will be moving forward to create cars that can be sold in a global market. This means their long-term product planning won’t change. They’ll continue to develop cars for a clean energy future regardless of whether our political leaders continue to stick their heads in the sand or not.
The bottom line here is this; the auto industry is not going back. It will continue to move towards cleaner, more efficient technologies and we as consumers and citizens of the world will benefit from this in cars that are safer and cleaner while being just as satisfying to drive. Even a powerful government led by a luddite can’t stop it from happening.