By Anders Lorenzen
The Trump Administration is waging a war on climate change action. They have said they would exit the world’s first global climate treaty, the Paris Agreement, undo many of Obama`s climate rules and regulations, and they have pledged to bring the coal industry back. Trump also frequently steps up to question the reality of climate change.
In the wake of the decision to exit the Paris Agreement, there was a battle in the White House about whether to do so, with key advisers split on the issue. One of those who wanted the US to exit the agreement was his now former Chief of Staff, Steve Bannon, who has since returned to being the editor of Breitbart, an extreme right-wing publication. During a controversial and much-hyped interview with Bannon during The Economist’s Open Future festival, he did not hold back on his displeasure at the agreement but did appear to stop short of denying climate change.
The Open Future festival was held simultaneously across three different locations, London, New York and Hong Kong, and it was billed as a defence of liberalism.
Zanny Minton Beddoes, the Editor-in-Chief of The Economist, asked Bannon about climate change: “Let’s turn to one of the biggest problems we face and one issue that cannot be handled by one country alone, and that is climate change. You were instrumental in the US in pulling out of the Paris climate agreement. How does an economic nationalist cope with climate change or do you simply think it is not a problem?” To which Bannon replied: “You got to have a coming together of individual nation states, whether that is through the EU – because I haven’t said break up the EU. All these parties we support in the movement want to have the EU as a collection of independent nations not as a United States of Europe. I think it has to come together.”
Steve Bannon moved on to criticise the agreement reached in Paris in 2015: “But I don’t know how you come to an agreement that essentially gives China a free ride to pollute and restricts the West”. Here Minton Beddoes interjected, saying: “You know the Paris Agreement did not give China a free ride to pollute”. Bannon hit back: “It absolutely gave China a free ride. China has an absolutely totally free ride. The Paris Accord is a debacle as far as the deal goes. Trump was very open if there was a better deal that actually works he was very open to doing that as am I.”
He then went on to hint that climate change does not really matter: “I think you miss that the threat is not climate change. The threat is the rise of a totalitarian merciless China. It is the conversion of automation, robotics and genetic engineering, that will happen during the lifetime of three-quarters of the audience here. This is going to be the greatest challenge we face in the 21st century, and I think the greatest challenge to mankind”.
The interview demonstrated Bannon’s shrewd style of operation, and why he is such a dangerous person He highlights issues that have mass appeal, scapegoats China with very simplistic arguments while exaggerating and scaremongering around issues about the impacts of technology. These are two problems that many people are concerned about and which are not discussed in mainstream politics, and they are the key to the surge in populist movements across the world.
And one shouldn’t be fooled that he stopped short of denying climate change because, in the way he positions the two other issues, he does not need to. He has laid out the road map to anyone worried about globalization. “China and technology are what you need to be worried about, not climate change”.