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Can Trump Make Trudeau Put His Money Where His Mouth Is?

The president’s move gives our prime minister a chance to walk the walk on climate.

Crawford Kilian 2 Jun

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord was not in the great tradition of presidential oratory from Lincoln through Obama.

But he did indeed change the world climate. By pulling the United States out of the accord, he joined just two countries, Syria and Nicaragua — and Nicaragua’s out because it doesn’t think the accord goes far enough.

Everyone else now has to figure out how to cope when the world’s richest, best-educated country has defected to the 19th century. That’s especially true for the Americans’ loyal, long-suffering sidekick, Canada.

One response is tempting: if Trump wants to play hardball, throw at his head. Find different suppliers for what we usually buy from the U.S. Sell softwood lumber anywhere but the U.S., or stockpile it until a wiser regime takes power in Washington. We used to require visas for Mexicans; how about requiring them for American visitors?

Tempting but wrong. Most Americans (and American corporations) dislike Trump and his climate folly as much as we do. In any case, we’d hurt ourselves more than we’d hurt the Trump administration.

Imagine Messi on the Whitecaps

Trump’s defection is like Real Madrid and Barcelona deciding to abandon football for croquet. An awful lot of talent would suddenly be available to other teams. (Imagine Messi playing for the Whitecaps and Ronaldo for Toronto.)

France’s new President Emmanuel Macron was way ahead of everyone else in the Great American Headhunt of 2017. In a memorable speech on Thursday, he leaped out of the blocks, inviting American scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to move to France to carry on fighting climate change.

Macron’s read his history. Hitler’s anti-Semitism drove countless Jewish scientists to Britain and the U.S., where they helped ensure Germany’s defeat. And as that war ended, Americans and Russians scrambled to grab every German rocket scientist they could lay hands on.

Canada’s already discreetly doing something similar. Our universities are attracting a lot more international students than usual, including Americans. And we’re also luring experts in artificial intelligence to settle here.

This is a trend worth encouraging, and no doubt both federal and provincial governments are thinking fast about how to accelerate it. It’ll cost them: universities will need more funding to hire new faculty and build new student housing, startups will clamour for more support, and corporate Canada will need a kick in the ass to rouse it to its new opportunities.

Trudeau as Scott Fitzgerald’s genius

Trump’s defection will cost Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government even more. Ever since he declared support for the Kinder Morgan expanded pipeline, while insisting he was still a climate warrior, he has embodied F. Scott Fitzgerald’s definition of a first-rate intelligence: “The ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”

Trudeau has said: “No country would find 173 billion barrels of oil in the ground and just leave them there.”

This is like an opioid addict saying, “No one would find a million bucks’ worth of fentanyl in their basement, and just leave it there.” Even if the addict thought he could fund his own detox and rehab with that million bucks, he’d be deluding himself (as well as killing many of his fellow addicts).

Trump has now obliged Trudeau to fish or cut bait. Is he a climate warrior like Macron, or a shit merchant like Trump? Can he stand with the Paris accord while shipping oil out of Burrard Inlet to Asian markets? And will those markets decide to buy Chinese solar panels instead of Canadian gunk?

Trudeau would do better to promote western Canada as a single world hub of climate-fighting technology. B.C. and Alberta have a lot of smart scientists and engineers (and businesses) that would love to give China a run for its money on renewable energy resources. I doubt they find petroleum and bitumen so beautiful in themselves that no other energy sources could offer similar consolation.

Without Trump’s speech on Thursday, Justin Trudeau could have dithered on both sides of the issue at least until 2019. Now he’s really got to get his act together. Does he support the Paris accord? Or does he support Donald J. Trump? He can’t support both.  [Tyee]

Read more: Politics, Environment

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