President-elect Donald J. Trump’s choice of a fossil-fuel advocate and climate-change denier to head the Environmental Protection Agency comes at a moment when the American energy market has already shifted away from the most polluting fossil fuels, driven more by investors and economics than by federal regulations.
Those market forces could make Mr. Trump’s promise to create at least half a million energy jobs a year in the nation’s coal mines and oil shale fields all but impossible.
But if Mr. Trump’s promised jobs are unlikely to materialize, the impact on the planet from his policies would be significant. Without additional government policies, energy and environmental experts say, the shift from coal, oil and natural gas will not be rapid or substantial enough to stave off the worst impacts of a warming atmosphere, including rising sea levels, more powerful storms, more devastating droughts and food and water shortages.
“The good news is that on its own, the U.S. economy has become less carbon intensive, and that trend will continue overall,” said Robert N. Stavins, the director of the environmental economics program at Harvard University. The bad news, he said, is that markets alone will not lower emissions enough to offset the worst impacts of global warming.