In the final days of his term, President Barack Obama is keeping busy. Last month, he banned drilling in parts of the Arctic and Atlantic and created two national monuments, including one championed by Native peoples. Add publishing an article in a leading scientific journal to the list—and not his first since serving as president either. The topic? Renewable energy.
Published in Science yesterday (January 9), the article stresses that clean, renewable energy is the future, and that it’s “irreversible." President Obama writes:
“Putting near-term politics aside, the mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue and that the economic opportunity for our country to harness that trend will only grow.”
He makes four points:
- If we accept that renewables is no longer an option, the economy will grow. This is true in that decreased carbon emissions have shown to align with economy growth and that investing in climate resilient infrastructure will save U.S. taxpayer money.
- Businesses should reduce emissions—especially through energy efficiency, which will save them money. This move can also lead to job creation as more people are needed to provide the service.
- The market is shifting away from dirty energy like coal and toward renewables as costs fall for wind and solar.
- The rest of the world is headed toward renewables, so why not the United States? If the U.S. holds up its end, it can demand—using the Paris Agreement treaty as support—that China, India, Mexico, the European Union and others do too.
Obama ends the article by raising the U.S. to the challenge of leading this transition. He calls on the president-elect by writing, “[E]ach president is able to chart his or her own policy course. And President-elect Donald Trump will have the opportunity to do so.”
Trump, however, has made it clear that he’s supportive of the coal industry and critical of the solar and wind industries. And as his Cabinet nominees show, he's comfortable with the fossil fuel industry.