Trump pulls out of Paris climate accord
Left, demonstrator in Paris - Thibault Camus/AP; right, Trump - Evan Vucci/AP

President Trump made a decision that will widen a rift between the U.S. and its allies and take an enormous step backward in the fight against climate change. Trump has withdrawn the country from the climate accord agreed upon during the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference, in keeping with the promise made during his 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump’s decision was announced June 1 at 3 p.m. in the White House Rose Garden, where he remarked, “The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord. We’re getting out.”

The history-making, legally-binding global pact to fight global warming made in Paris, where 195 nations committed themselves to rectifying greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, has just lost one of its strongest participants. The deal strives toward an eventual shift away from the fossil fuels responsible for climate change, but the abdication of the U.S.’s responsibility to take part in these efforts could undo the very aim of the accord.

During his campaign, Trump claimed that the agreement came at too high of a cost to the U.S. economy, “with no tangible benefit.” Such a statement is in line with previous statements and tweets by the President calling climate change “a hoax,” while its very effects – heat waves, droughts, wildfires, violent storms – continue to occur throughout this very country.

Pulling out of the climate deal “was a colossal mistake,” said Nick Burns ahead of Trump’s announcement. Burns served as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs during the George W. Bush era. “It would also devastate our international credibility. We are one of the two largest carbon emitters, [along] with China. We are the ones who put this deal together. It’s the first step to try and do something about climate change. For President Trump to take us out, it’s anti-science.”

A look at public opinion shows that many people share the sentiments of experts. According to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll, conducted from June 2-4, 59 percent of Americans oppose the President’s decision to exit the agreement, with just 28 percent supporting it.

Former president Barack Obama had previously credited the Paris accord with establishing “the enduring framework the world needs to solve the climate crisis; the best chance we have.” He said, “It creates the mechanism, the architecture, for us to continually attack this problem in an effective way.”

To that end, his administration aimed to reduce carbon emissions by 26-28 percent within a decade after signing on to the agreement. The thrust behind that goal was Obama’s Clean Power Plan, which strove to shut down coal-fired power plants and which could produce “net climate and health benefits totaling $48-82 billion,” according to the EPA. Trump, however, is currently reviewing that plan, which means it isn’t likely to stay alive for much longer, especially with Republicans accusing it of being a job and economy killer, even though Obama has already legitimately dismissed that criticism.

Pulling out of the Paris agreement, on the other hand, will indeed have economic repercussions. “The actions of the U.S. are bound to have a ripple effect in other emerging economies that are just getting serious about climate change,” remarked Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton and a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The nations that could be adversely affected by a U.S. pullout include “India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines,” he said.

The withdrawal will also risk “breaching the danger limit of 3.6 degrees,” he explained, referencing the average atmospheric temperature increase above which climate change is thought to be unfixable. “We will see more extreme heat, damaging storms, coastal flooding, and risks to food security. And that’s not the kind of world we want to live in.”

 


CONTRIBUTOR

Blake Skylar
Blake Skylar

Blake is a production manager, responsible for the daily assembly of the PW home page. He also writes on environment and culture. He has covered issues including the BP oil spill and the UN Climate Conference in Paris. His coverage has earned him awards from the Illinois Woman’s Press Association and the International Labor Communications Association. He is currently in Weehawken, in his home state of New Jersey. He likes cats, wine, books, music, and nature. He writes a blog that can be found at blakedeppe.com.

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