Whatever you think of the rest of his political stances, it’s fairly clear that French President Emmanuel Macron is keen to portray France as a defender of science, both rhetorically and practically. This theme carried over to his Wednesday address to a joint session of Congress, in which he spoke to a full House and Senate, as well as Trump’s Cabinet and Vice President Pence.
After somewhat placating Trump earlier this week at the White House, the French offered an eloquent rebuke to the American President and much of the GOP – not just politically, but on a scientific level too. Here’s what he had to say on the subject.
On The Fight Against Ignorance
“I believe that against ignorance, we have education. Against inequalities, development. Against cynicism, trust and good faith. Against fanaticism, culture. Against disease, medicine. Against the threats on the planet, science.”
On Climate Change
“We are just citizens of the same planet, so we will have to face it… With business leaders and local communities, let us work together in order to make our planet great again, and create new jobs, and new opportunities, ones safeguarding our Earth.”
Apart from repeating a common refrain against Trump’s isolationist “Make America Great Again” motif, Macron here is inferring, quite rightly, that investing in environmentally sensitive jobs, including solar and wind power for example, more jobs will be created.
In fact, it’s an oft-quoted fallacy by climate skeptics or deniers that dealing with climate change will cost jobs and hurt the economy, when data clearly shows that the opposite is true. Not only is solar, for example, one of the fastest growing industries in the US, but investing in this industry – and related industries – will provide way more revenue and savings that the costs of implementation and operation themselves.
That’s not to say that the inherent threat of climate change, and the urgency required to address it, wasn’t also emphasized in Macron’s speech as well.
Saying that he hears people’s economic concerns, he nevertheless stressed that “we must find a smooth transition to a low-carbon economy.”
“By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions, and destroying our biodiversity, we are killing our planet. Let us face it: There is no planet B.
“What is the meaning of our life if we work and live destroying the planet, and sacrifice things for the future of our children? What is the meaning of our life if our decision, our conscious decision, is to reduce the opportunities for our children and grandchildren?”
On The Paris Agreement
“I’m sure, one day, the United States will come back and join the Paris agreement. And I’m sure we can work together to fulfill with you the ambitions of the global compact on the environment.”
Despite Trump’s half-hearted assertions that any renegotiations of the Paris agreement could tempt the current administration – which represents the sole nation on Earth to reject the climate accords – to not abandon the pact, the other signatories have clearly signaled this won’t happen. It’s demonstrably clear that the President has no idea how the agreement actually works, and in this case, it’s likely Macron is referring to a future administration’s actions.
Overall, the speech was as eloquent as it was pointed; large parts of it were a rallying cry for science and scientific cooperation, a rare display on The Hill these days. Although he's clearly doing his part for climate change mitigation back in Europe, Macron is also quite content stealing the President’s thunder and undercutting his anti-scientific attitude right in front of the American political class too.