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How Trump's trade wars could inadvertently benefit the environment

President Trump flanked by members of the business community as he signs a memorandum aimed at what he calls Chinese economic aggression in the Roosevelt Room at the White House on March 22, 2018.
President Trump with business leaders as he signs a memorandum on "Chinese economic aggression" in the White House on March 22, 2018. Photo: Mark Wilson via Getty Images

When it comes to the economy, President Trump's "America First" mantra has meant renegotiating existing trade treaties and imposing tariffs on imported goods such as aluminum, steel and solar panels. Because they prioritize growth, G7 leaders, free-trade proponents and most economists oppose Trump’s anti-globalized stance.

Yes, but: Environmentalists and steady-state economists (i.e., those who study the physical constraints on economic growth) might secretly want to cheer. Why? More global economic activity translates to more natural resource extraction and greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions, and vice versa. If you want to lower GHG emissions, tanking the economy is one way to do so.