The economic insecurity of US voters contributed to the election of Donald Trump as president. Alarmingly, he has pledged to support coal usage, withdraw the US commitment to the 2015 Paris climate agreement and reverse the Clean Power Plan, which aims to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Although the scientific community cannot back away from climate change, researchers could pay more attention to the economic needs of voters and develop strategies that manage climate risks while bolstering employment and the US economy.
For example, cheap domestic natural gas delivered by fracking has created economic benefit and made the United States an energy exporter. As long as operators control fugitive emissions, gas from fracking will drastically reduce US carbon emissions. If appropriate environmental and social control were to be combined with carbon capture and storage — a technology best implemented by repurposed oil companies — cheap gas could provide both an economic and a climate solution.
The few countries that have already decarbonized their electricity systems have done so by relying on nuclear power. A revitalized US nuclear industry could deliver large amounts of safer and cheaper carbon-free nuclear power — and provide jobs in design, construction and maintenance.
A focus on emissions and technology coupled to economic development, not to ideology and causation, might be more successful with future voters.
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