Editorial: China leads, Trump withdraws

With all the other headlines this week, you might have missed the news Tuesday that China and the European Union were convening in Beijing for the eighth annual meeting of the Clean Energy Ministerial, an international forum on clean energy. America, under President Obama, used to be the leading force in that group. 
But Because President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, the three-day conference is being held against what the New York Times called “a new global backdrop: China and the E.U. are now expected to lead worldwide efforts to limit the effects of climate change.”
The U.S. is being left out, with President Trump leading the Republican Party as it denies the existence of global warming, just as the world is making huge advances in alternative energy.
Solar’s rise is just starting to pay off with 370,000 Americans now working for solar companies, while tens of thousands more work in other alternative energy fields — far more than the nation’s 50,300 workers in the coal industry (and that includes coal miners, as well as all those working in offices and administration throughout the country. That number has declined from about 76,500 workersin the coal industry reported in 2014, and down from 131,000 a quarter-century ago. But the number still pales in comparison to alternative energy jobs, or other sectors of the economy. For comparison, there are more used car dealers (138,058), workers in travel agencies (99,888), or workers in bowling (69,088) as reported by the Department of Labor in 2014. Arby’s alone hires more with 80,000 employees. 
Jobs related to alternative energy, on the other hand, now surpass jobs related to the fossil fuel industries by 5 to 1. All told nearly 1 million Americans are working in the energy efficiency, wind, solar and alternative vehicle sectors. And while solar is the largest of those, the number of wind energy employees exceeded 100,000 this year, twice the number recorded in 2013. In short, alternative energy jobs are on the rise, while jobs related to fossil fuels are on the decline and have been for years.
But it’s the contrast between Trump’s leadership and China’s that could not be more stark: China has been making big steps recently to acknowledge its environmental pollution and degradation and its role causing climate change. China is now the leading polluter of carbon dioxide, eclipsing that of the United States which is second. 
Yet Trump is taking the United States backwards, while China’s leaders are assuming a global role not only in tackling climate change, but in becoming the leading manufacturer of alternative energy machinery and technology, and embracing the need to move away from fossil fuel consumption. China’s President Xi Jinping has promised that 20 percent of China’s energy will come from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030, and he is shutting down coal-fueled power plants because of the crippling amounts of air pollution over the rest of the country. 
Trump wants to bring back coal use, thus increasing the air pollution, acid rain and increased release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Not only is Trump’s decision bad for the environment, it’s bad for the U.S. economy. 
Meanwhile, the big question for the Chinese leadership is how proactive they dare be in setting ambitious climate commitments for themselves and pushing other nations to do the same — the very role the United States had assumed under President Obama when the Paris climate accord was created and signed to international acclaim. 
For Trump, the big question is how many lies can he tell about the impact of climate change on American jobs before American voters realize he was shilling for the coal industry executives and fooling those few coal miners, and the small towns that depend on them, into believing there’s a future in coal — one of the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. That’s sad, because it hurts the very workers Trump says he wants to help and imperils the Earth’s environment and the millions of people who will be hurt by the climate-related disasters to come. That’s reprehensible.
Angelo S. Lynn
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