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In Science’s Policy Forum column, President Barack Obama has penned an article arguing that the world is quickly replacing fossil fuel-based energy with clean energy.

That momentum, he asserts, will not be stopped by “near-term” policy changes from Donald Trump’s incoming administration.

The current president writes that, although climate change is undeniable, the incoming administration might do nothing about it.

That would be a political mistake, but it might not effect on the economics of clean energy, Obama argues. “Mounting economic and scientific evidence leave me confident that trends toward a clean-energy economy that have emerged during my presidency will continue,” he wrote, adding that “the trend toward clean energy is irreversible.”
The president cites recent studies from national and international agencies showing that energy emissions are decoupling from economic growth, a trend that “should put to rest the argument that combatting climate change requires accepting lower growth or a lower standard of living.” And the potential damage to the economy is vast: a 4°C increase in global temperature could “lead to lost US federal revenue of roughly $340 billion to $690 billion annually.”
Despite Trump’s baseless denial of climate science, local governments and businesses will be the ones dealing with climate change in the coming years. Obama predicts that these organizations will continue making the investments necessary to protect people and investments from the effects of climate change. He cites Google, Walmart, and GM as companies that have promised to move large portions, or all, of their energy consumption to renewable power.
The president notes that momentum is also found on the labor side of the energy equation.

Approximately “2.2 million Americans are currently employed in the design, installation, and manufacture of energy-efficiency products and services,” he writes, as opposed to “roughly 1.1 million Americans who are employed in the production of fossil fuels and their use for electric power generation.” The president adds that fossil fuel industries receive nearly $5 billion in federal subsidies a year, “a market distortion that should be corrected on its own or in the context of corporate tax reform.”
Obama then turns to the Paris Agreement—a global agreement to reduce emissions such that the globe stops short of a 2°C increase in global temperature.

Donald Trump has promised to back out of the Paris Agreement, but Obama argues that such a folly would only harm the US rather than help it:

Were the United States to step away from Paris, it would lose its seat at the table to hold other countries to their commitments, demand transparency, and encourage ambition.

This does not mean the next Administration needs to follow identical domestic policies to my Administration’s.

There are multiple paths and mechanisms by which this country can achieve—efficiently and economically—the targets we embraced in the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement itself is based on a nationally determined structure whereby each country sets and updates its own commitments. Regardless of U.S. domestic policies, it would undermine our economic interests to walk away from the opportunity to hold countries representing two-thirds of global emissions—including China, India, Mexico, European Union members, and others—accountable.
This should not be a partisan issue.
It is good business and good economics to lead a technological revolution and define market trends.

And it is smart planning to set long-term emission-reduction targets and give American companies, entrepreneurs, and investors certainty so they can invest and manufacture the emission-reducing technologies that we can use domestically and export to the rest of the world.

Ultimately the message is: deny climate science if you want, but regions, states, and businesses will still be moving to eliminate greenhouse gases to protect their own futures.

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