Brian Deese was President Obama's top White House climate adviser for his final two years in office — a busy time that included the Paris agreement.
On-the-record: An extensive interview that Deese, now a senior fellow at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, gave to the U.K.-based Carbon Brief went up this morning. A few highlights from the 7,000-plus word chat.
Mixed emotions: Deese uses the words "damaging" and, internationally, "embarrassing" to describe Trump's moves to unwind Obama's climate policies. But... at several points he also argues that Trump has limited ability to alter the underlying expansion of low-carbon sources.
- "I anticipate that they will have significantly less impact on those market trends than some of the more dire predictions suggest," he said.
Economic risk: A common theme in the interview is that the U.S. stands to lose out economically if it backs away from the Paris agreement, missing out on markets for tech including carbon capture and nuclear.
Strategy: Deese highlights a consistent trend in polling — there's support for carbon emissions limits but, at the same time, climate isn't a priority for voters.
- "The question is, 'How do you overcome that?' Increasingly, the answer is connecting this to local issues that affect people in their lives today," he said, noting issues like western wildfires and frequent flooding in Florida and elsewhere.
Deese points out that the world is not on track to hold the rise in global temperatures to under two degrees celsius above pre-industrial levels, the target of the Paris climate accord. But he believes there are still "real, credible" pathways to get there that don't require belief in "unicorns and fairytales."