One of the most worrisome outcomes of the 2016 election is the likely “U turn” on efforts to protect the environment. As Vox recently reported,
Unified Republican control of the federal government over the next two years augurs a sea change in US environmental policy like nothing since the late 1960s and ’70s, when America’s landmark environmental laws were first passed.
If Donald Trump and the GOP actually follow through on what they’ve promised, this time around will be a lurch in the opposite direction. Federal climate policy will all but disappear; participation in international environmental or climate treaties will end; pollution regulations will be reversed, frozen in place, or not enforced; clean energy research, development, and deployment assistance will decline; protections for sensitive areas and ecosystems will be lifted; federal leasing of fossil fuels will expand and accelerate; new Supreme Court appointees will crack down on EPA discretion.
Given the rate at which the planet is warming, Trump’s promise to pull America out of the Paris Accords is a prescription for disaster. Local efforts to reduce America’s carbon footprint will be important, but those efforts won’t be universal and they won’t be sufficient.
So I was really heartened by Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposed response.
Sarkozy told the French television channel TF1 that he would “demand that Europe put in place a carbon tax of 1 to 3 percent for all products coming from the United States” if the U.S. refuses to apply the environmental rules that France and other nations are imposing on their companies under the accords.
This seems eminently reasonable to me. Why should companies that are complying with measures intended to reduce a global threat be disadvantaged in the marketplace? The environmental rules benefit the entire planet; companies operating everywhere on the planet ought to share the costs of compliance.
Among the enormous number of things Donald Trump obviously hasn’t learned and doesn’t understand is that actions have consequences.
Foreign countries will retaliate when the U.S. acts in ways that threaten their interests. Senators and Congressmen will balk when a President–even one of their own party–expects them to support measures that they know will be deeply unpopular with their constituents. The Constitution limits a President’s ability to restrain the media or single out citizens for disparate treatment. Etc.
Governing is complex, and Chief Executives in democratic regimes–unlike CEOs–can’t simply issue orders and fire those who refuse to obey them.