Image for NATION: Trump’s Paris exit spells real trouble for Turnbull

*Cartoon: Martyn Turner, used with permission: .

First published June 5

Summertime and the livin’ is easy. A Marine Corps jazz quartet plays Gershwin, amidst the perfumed, delicate blooms and lush lawn trimmed with crab-apple trees, of the White House Rose Garden as a host of VIPs, mostly rich white men in dark suits, bask in balmy June sunshine as they gather to applaud their president’s declaration of war on the planet.

The US becomes the first country in the world to flounce off the dance-floor of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

For many it’s so much more. Can the US so readily cede international leadership? Renounce global citizenship? Hand to China the lead in clean energy?

In the Twittersphere, many are reminded of Titanic’s string quartet’s performance of Nearer My God to Thee, as the unsinkable ship sinks. For others, the formal setting underscores the chaos of Trump’s disaster movie presidency. 

“Re-envisioned” in 1962 for the Kennedys, by Bunny Mellon for whom style was order and order brought pleasure, the WHRG design was inspired by Alice and the Queen of Hearts’ playing croquet in a rose garden using live flamingos for mallets, in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. Trump’s universe of lunacy and arrant nonsense fits in perfectly here. 

Mad King Donald, is a self-styled knight errant.  It’s his duty, today, to beat a strategic retreat from the Paris Accord, although he makes his rout sound like a victory.  He will continue to wage war, moreover, on all elites who use their faith in science to conspire against US prosperity.  Above all, he will seek revenge on European leaders for laughing at him.

“At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?”

I will show them who’s boss, vows the reality TV show boss who became president.

“Europe, you’re fired.”

... no effort to understand the Paris Agreement ...

It’s part of The Donald’s heroic struggle. Being president may be harder than he thought, but he’ll show you who’s in charge. It’s all that matters to Trump. He’s made no effort to understand the Paris Agreement. He reserves his energies for selling his decision. His mission is to misrepresent his decision in deceptively simple yet self-aggrandising terms. 

“I am fighting every day for the great people of this country. Therefore, in order to fulfil my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord ... (which is) simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States …”

Trump skips from disinformation to delusion. He displays the dangerously disordered logic of a resentful paranoiac who seeks to recruit his audience to collude in his fantasies.  The Agreement is a conspiracy to steal American wealth.

“You see what’s happening. It’s pretty obvious to those who keep an open mind.” 

The president’s sole reference is propaganda from the Institute for 21st Century Energy, a fossil-fuel lobby group and an affiliate of the US Chamber of Commerce, a pro-Republican business lobby group independent of government.

Nowhere does Trump repeat his claim that climate change is a Chinese hoax but it’s in there, somehow, in a way that leaves room for the party fearful; the likes of Tony Abbott’s tin-foil hatter Maurice Newman for whom climate change is a United Nations’ “hook” devised to impose a new world order which will upend not only freedom but also capitalism.

Nowhere does Mad King Donald acknowledge the 630 business leaders who wrote in January demanding that he keep Barack Obama’s climate plan and stick with the Paris deal , part of a large group of major corporate leaders opposing his withdrawal. He doesn’t have time for reading, let alone acknowledge those who oppose his edicts.

Nowhere does the fruit loop show he’s aware that the Paris Agreement does not even officially take force until 2020. 

... Trump even decries the Green Climate Fund ...

Alarmingly erratic, Trump even decries the Green Climate Fund, part of a Copenhagen Agreement that he publicly urged eight years ago in a letter co-signed by members of his family. The fund is costing a vast fortune, he claims. In fact the US has contributed $1 billion out of $ 3 billion pledged or .026 percent of the US annual federal budget.

Why did he wait? Trump was just not up to spurning Europe’s leaders personally last week, at the G7 summit in Sicily, where even his sulking was upstaged by Melania’s US$51,500 Dolce & Gabbana “3D flower” jacket, a statement in itself at only $4000 less than the average American family income in 2015 of $55,775, according to The US Census Bureau.

Who can blame him? It’s been such a YUGE nine days. An audience with any pope is tiring - let alone Francis, a Greenie. Trump’s Saudi sword-dance arm sales deal, alone, would exhaust anyone, to say nothing of that collar they put on him.

And who would not be taxed by any Mid-East peace mission based on further weaponising Wahhabism? 

Back in Washington’s rose-scented quagmire, however, in yet another Adams family tribute, Trump vows to stand with Pittsburgh against Paris.  Pittsburgh, meanwhile, a US leader in green infrastructure, is quick to declare itself for Paris.

“President Trump’s decision is disastrous for our planet, for cities such as Pittsburgh.” Many other US cities also rebel.  Sadly for narcissist Trump’s massive ego, the move to cleaner energy sources is underpinned by market forces. 

“The United States will withdraw. From the Paris. Climate. Accord,” Trump says pausing bigly. Theatrically.

“Turn around so I can shoot you in the back”

“Turn around so I can shoot you in the back,” Uncle Fester’s favourite gag, is the President’s considered response to the world; to those leaders who last week sought to engage him on keeping to the Paris climate accord. It could catch on here. 

The Australian government is not to be undone by the shock news. Trump is to honour a campaign pledge? Surely not. 

Yet what is to be done? Only recently our lickspittle PM gushed “We are family” toadying to Trump and to his backers and minders who include Greg Norman, CEO Shark Industries and Keith’s boy, the phone hacker Rupert Murdoch. 

Someone had wangled Malcolm an invitation to a dinner aboard USS Invincible, fittingly, the US navy’s unluckiest ship now stranded on The Hudson’s toxic sludge, a war museum and shrine to all who are up shit creek without a paddle. 

“Disappointing” puffs the PM. His low-wattage energy minister, Josh Frydenberg uses the same talking point. But - in a message to Abbott - Christensen et alia who share the reptilian brain-stem of Australia’s political right-wing, a coal-powered, mining lobby-led Turnbull government publicly trumpets that on climate it’s not for turning. Yet, anyway. 

Having set shamefully inadequate carbon emission reduction targets we will stick to them.  It’s our commitment. Paying homage to Monty Python’s Black Knight, for whom a mortal blow is merely a flesh wound, chief scientist, Alan Finkel, pretends the exit of the US from the global accord on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is “a blow, but not fatal.” 

Turnbull harangues Parliament “we are committed to the Paris agreement and we’re on track to meet our targets”.

It’s an outrageous lie ...

“That’s our commitment, affordable, reliable energy, and meeting our emissions reduction targets in accordance with the Paris treaty,” he rants.  Commitment? It’s an outrageous lie, a fraudulent misrepresentation and a complete hoax.

In August 2015, the Abbott government announced plans to cut emissions by 26-28 per cent by 2030 based on emissions from the year 2005. The Climate Change Authority an independent statutory advisory body then headed by Bernie Fraser revealed the Authority has recommended reductions of 45-63 per cent by 2030.

Apart from seeking weak targets, Turnbull’s vaunted “commitment” includes such initiatives as stacking the Climate Change Authority with pro-government members and opposing any notion of price on carbon or even an emissions intensity scheme.

The Coalition has also been prepared to be the only government in the world to repeal a carbon tax while it has wasted $2.5 billion on its dodgy, woefully underfunded Direct Action deal where polluters are paid to reduce emissions. Or plant trees which they may well have planted anyway. Or which major polluters were not compelled to join anyway .

Reputex warned government for its plan to meet the target, it would need between $3.3 and $6 billion extra per year.

Research conducted by Swinburne University last year concludes “Australia’s largest listed, carbon intensive companies say management lost focus on carbon matters, abandoned energy projects and didn’t have the commercial imperative to produce long-term strategic action on reducing emissions after the carbon tax was repealed.”

Such is its commitment to carbon emissions reduction, moreover, the Turnbull government will take funds from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to finance further research into carbon capture and storage. Despite the funds it has wasted already, despite no CCS ever having been successfully set up anywhere, the Turnbull government continues its pretence that existing plants are a commercial success. 

Worse we should take funds from renewables to invest in them. Frydenberg has just returned from the $1 billion Petra Nova plant in Texas and gushes on ABC Radio about its success. He doesn’t mention that the maximum that the plant has been able to capture is a mere 6% of the output of an adjacent station.  No-one challenges his assertions.

... a scheme that has never worked ...

Another CCS plant will open after a three-year delay with a staggering total cost of $ 7 billion.  Yet, insanely, the Coalition proposes that we continue to invest in a scheme that has never worked commercially; a money-burning pipe dream.

It’s as mad as Tony Abbott’s “axe the tax” attack where lamb roasts would cost $100 and Whyalla would be wiped off the map. His government’s abandonment of any carbon pricing scheme boosted our carbon emissions.

While it may have inspired then Environment Minister Greg Hunt to initiate a group hug on the floor of the lower house, Abbott’s “carbon tax” war inhibited investment in the renewable energy industry and helped energy costs sky-rocket.

In research for The Greens, The University of Melbourne’s Climate and Energy College found the average wholesale electricity price soared to $134 a megawatt-hour last summer. It was $65-$67 in the two summers the carbon price was in place.  Queensland prices nearly tripled in one year and NSW, and doubled in South Australia.

Our PM is uneasy. Trump’s last tango in Paris, his withdrawal of the US from the Paris Climate Accord emboldens local denialists and calls the Turnbull government’s bluff. The Coalition has no policy to deliver even its feeble commitments.

Its own ecocidal rump of carbon bandits and environmental vandals urges Turnbull to follow Trump past peak stupid. Backbenchers Ian Goodenough, Eric Abetz, Ian MacDonald, Tony Pasin and Craig Kelly clamour to exit.

Gorgeous George Christensen believes “we should never have been in it.” He worries the Paris Agreement will somehow be used by The Greens to bring in a carbon tax, emissions trading or intensity scheme, while phony Tony Abbott, who negotiated our Paris agreement calls for a freeze on the RET while he works out a way to do another U-turn.

... we have the champagne on ice ...

Trump’s French disconnection is cause for celebration for Craig Kelly, who chairs both his party and parliamentary environment committees. “It’s not confirmed yet but we have the champagne on ice,” he writes on Facebook.

Later he adds “There is a more efficient way to generate energy than using fossil fuels, it’s just that mankind hasn’t yet worked it out yet.” His Facebook also expresses his support for a view that “the communists lost in Viet Nam”.

Trump’s exit is a genie that Turnbull will struggle to put back in the bottle. Or in the words of the old song,

“How ya gonna keep ‘em down on the farm After they’ve seen Paree ... ?”

Former Abbott employment minister, Senator Eric Abetz parrots the US President’s patent nonsense that the Paris Agreement creates local unemployment in a call for withdrawal that can only put the heat on his Prime Minister.

“Australia should similarly pull back ... to allow for an increased focus on supporting families and jobs in Australia”,

Yet, as The Climate Council research indicates, a 50% Renewable Electricity scenario in 2030 will create 28,000 new jobs even after Abetz’ party under Tony Abbott did its best to cripple investment in renewable energy.

Similarly, solar energy industry alone employs twice as many US workers than the coal industry, according to research recently published in the New York Times.  Add wind and renewable energy industries employ three times as many as the coal industry, according to the US Department of Energy’s 2017 energy and employment report.

... no real policy to uphold ...

It’s a disaster for a weak leader. Malcolm Turnbull finds himself wedged between no real policy to uphold and a baying pack of climate junkyard dogs intent on tearing up an agreement that was never worth the paper it was written on.

Intoxicated by the idea of escaping from a commitment that it never understood to a cause it never believed in, the climate-change-is-crap-pack will demand more fossil fuels in its “energy mix”, its ministers’ favourite phrase.

Strengthened will be the pressure on the Prime Minister of dithering to offer even more absurdly unworkable concessions to coal miners and to heed calls for more onshore gas exploration and the lifting of fracking bans.

Yet there is no shortage of gas in Australia or globally.

Turnbull’s government will make patently absurd claims about the need to be “technology neutral” in energy while having a resources minister who follows the Peabody script and pretends it is jobs versus coal.

He will bleat about the need for a “sensible discussion” while he has to suffer a treasurer who plays with a lump of coal in the chamber.

Carbon pricing, emissions trading or emissions intensity schemes will still be forbidden because Kelly and others in the coalition’s climate change denying rump don’t want them - as if refusal is an option. While fossil fuel generators can avoid paying for their pollution the cost of high-emission power generation will remain artificially competitive. 

... jargon for squandering public money ...

Already this week, the government has said it will change the rule of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation so that it can be technologically neutral - evasive jargon for squandering public money on carbon capture and storage.

Expect to hear more spin advancing an expensive, commercially unviable and grossly inefficient experiment as if it were a real option. 

Chief Scientist Alan Finkel will report next week on how to solve the energy policy paralysis with some commentators predicting a low emissions target, a scheme where a percentage of electricity generation is achieved by designated low emissions means but not just renewables, quite possibly gas.

Perhaps, even, that unicorn clean coal will get another canter around the show ring.

No-one in government will mention that if natural gas leaks 3%, the fuel has a bigger climate effect than burning coal. Nor will they explain how the cost will not boost prices.

An existential crisis brews for Turnbull if the Trump default on Paris is construed as a victory for climate sceptics.

A weak leader, whose authority will be further eroded by evidence that his economic plan is leading the nation into recession amidst soaring energy prices he has failed to curb, the prime minister will be sorely tried by a revolt of the right-wing rump for whom, like Trump, climate change means nothing more than a means to assert a mongrel authority.

The best outcome would be for it be quickly understood that Trump’s stand is a bluff. While his turning his back on the Paris Agreement may reveal much about his psychopathology, energy generation in the US is now commercially-driven and beyond his control.

Even a president cannot re-open coal mines which are no longer commercially viable.

Official government energy policy can still do real harm, especially in cuts to clean energy research, as we have seen under Tony Abbott. There is hope, however, in the numbers of cities and states in the USA who have already declared they will keep the Paris Agreement, flawed as it may be. It is vital, above all that Australia does the same.

*David Tyler (AKA Urban Wronski) was born in England, raised in New Zealand and an Australian resident since 1979. Urban Wronski grew up conflicted about his own national identity and continues to be deeply mistrustful of all nationalism, chauvinism, flags, politicians and everything else which divides and obscures our common humanity. He has always been enchanted by nature and by the extraordinary brilliance of ordinary men and women and the genius, the power and the poetry that is their vernacular. Wronski is now a fulltime freelance writer who lives with his partner and editor Shay and their chooks, near the Grampians in rural Victoria and he counts himself the luckiest man alive. A former teacher of all ages and stages, from Tertiary to Primary, for nearly forty years, he enjoyed contesting the corporatisation of schooling to follow his own natural instinct for undifferentiated affection, approval and compassion for the young.

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