Climate Weekly: Paranoid, sociopathic Trump leaves the planet

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A sign at the Womens March in Washington mimics a cover of German magazine Der Spiegel (Photo: Mark Dixon)


In his angriest, darkest speech since his inauguration day, Donald Trump has torn the US away from the global collaboration to fight runaway warming.

Much has been made of the vacuity of Trump’s address. Let’s be clear, this was political theatre designed solely for an audience too betrayed and cynical to care what’s true. Nothing about it was supposed to adhere to the reality of the Paris accord.

In that, Trump exposed the agreement for what it is – a Rorschach treaty, able to distort to any national political desire. Trump took that to its extreme, rewriting it on the White House lawns.

The deal was at once “non-binding” and punishingly unfair. It allowed developing countries off the hook, while targeting US wealth. It would be renegotiated, or not, whatever. It was not about climate change, he said, but about screwing the US.

The rest of the world celebrated the Paris accord (“they went wild, they were so happy”), said Trump, because it put the US at a disadvantage.

“At what point does America get demeaned?” asked the president.

Jumping back to the Rorschach analogy, what stared out of this inkblot was a paranoid, sociopathic worldview.

In the face of this, the Paris deal – with its fragile balance of idealism and self-interest – never stood a chance with Trump. It is tacked together with peer pressure and that doesn’t work on sociopaths.

The challenge now, is not only economic – as some would frame it. The future will be defined by competing ideas of what nations are for and how they collaborate. The Paris accord is an articulation of a globalising, compromising world – that is in no way perfect – and its response to a pending collective crisis.

On Friday the alternative was on full display.

“We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore. And they won’t be. They won’t be,” he said, leaning forward against the lectern.

He was right.

The response

Against the darkness in the Rose Garden, there was much to be encouraged by. Trump’s speech was met with a barrage of rhetoric, some of it derisive – Trump is a lightning rod for it – but mostly it was solemn and resolute. World leaders, businesses, governors, mayors all immediately announced they would stick to the accord.

Our writers have covered much of it in the past 24 hours.

EU and China to the fore?

An alliance between the second and third biggest economies has been mooted as a replacement for the diplomatic clout of the US on climate action. Climate Home was first to release in full a document drafted between the two countries and scheduled for released on Friday at a summit in Brussels.

It was a remarkably strong-worded piece of diplomacy that laid the foundations for a new era of global cooperation, said Jonathan Gaventa. Andy Revkin said the two powers had their own fossilised skeletons to deal with if they were to lead with success.

But on Friday evening, news broke that the two countries had failed to release the document because the summit had become embroiled in a dispute over trade. The reported sticking point was Europe’s refusal to recognise China’s economy as market-driven. If confirmed, this would underscore the real difficulties and differences these two would carry into a joint leadership role in the vastly complex climate talks.


Read more on: UN climate talks