President Donald Trump issued an executive order curtailing numerous climate initiatives put in place by the Obama administration and instead expanding the use of fossil fuels.

Americans waste $875 billion each year on fossil fuels even though the sun and wind can provide our energy for free. Burning fossil fuels also kills tens of thousands of Americans and causes millions more illnesses each year. If Trump truly wanted to “make America great again,” he would embark on a rapid transition to 100 percent renewable energy. That effort would be strikingly inexpensive and would pay for itself many times over in short order, saving American families almost $1 trillion in energy costs and $600 billion in health costs each year. Instead, Trump is trying to lock American families into forking over more cash to his fossil-fuel cronies.

 

All of this is without considering climate change, from which the economic threat alone is staggering. A 2015 report by Citigroup estimated that the world economy could lose $44 trillion in gross domestic product from climate change by 2060.

The full risks are much more terrible. Runaway global warming will lead to heat, drought, extreme weather, disease and property loss on a scale that could threaten the stability of most governments, and possibly human civilization, as soon as the second half of this century. Despite that grim outlook, there is reason for optimism: As a result of innovations and cost reductions in the renewable energy sector, it has never been easier or cheaper to shift quickly to 100 percent clean and renewable energy, staving off the worst climate outcomes. We can solve this problem. But time is short.

Aside from provoking a large-scale nuclear war, it is hard to imagine an American president taking an action more harmful to the U.S. than Trump’s effort to accelerate greenhouse gas emissions. This day may be remembered as a low point in human history – a time when the world’s preeminent power could have led the world to a better future but instead moved decisively toward catastrophe. It is up to the American public to move the nation in the right direction on climate and clean energy despite the worst efforts of the so-called leader in the White House.