Article originally appears in CommonWealth, June 12, 2017
President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement, and the reactions to that retreat, are more theater than substance. Whether the United States is in or out does little to prevent the rise of clean energy at the expense of coal, nuclear, and other traditional sources of electric power. There are two reasons. One is political: all of the major states of the United States – California, Texas, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Minnesota – are committed to clean power. Support is strong, and the president’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord will have the opposite of its intended effect: It will only strengthen the convictions of the leaders of these states to pursue a clean-energy economy.
The second reason is even more fundamental: economic inevitability. Wind and solar energy prices are rapidly transitioning from expensive to irresistible. Twenty years ago, it was commonly believed that nuclear and hydroelectricity were the primary no-carbon power sources. Wind energy was still extremely expensive, and solar energy was a sideshow mainly used to provide lukewarm water for the showers of early adopters.