Trump expected to step back from Paris climate agreement


The landmark 2015 accord helped us step back from the brink of climate change disaster. Will the United States withdraw from the agreement?

While some of Trump’s campaign promises are heinously difficult to fulfill and were, perhaps, more bluster than anything else (don’t hold your breath for a massive border wall any time soon), others are easier to produce. We’ve already witnessed two ill-considered immigration bans, the rumblings of controversial healthcare reform, and a general sense of unease and disarray wafting out of the White House.

Now, it appears, Trump will also be fulfilling one of his more alarming promises – withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

The Paris Agreement is an accord within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It deals with emissions, mitigation of and adaptation to climate change, and financial responses to looming climate-related disasters.

The Agreement was proclaimed to be a “historic turning point” with regards to global warming by Laurent Fabius, then France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. Proponents hope that the climate deal will make avert serious climate change disasters, such as famines, wars over water rights, extreme weather patterns, and subsequent financial fallout.

Recently, three officials close to the White House have stated that Trump is expected to withdraw from the agreements. This will make the United States only the third country to step back from the historic agreement (the others are Nicaragua and Syria).

With the threat of climate change growing ever larger on the horizon, why withdraw? First of all, numerous officials within the administration, including Trump himself, are vocally skeptical of climate change. For example, Scott Pruitt, a former attorney general who routinely sued the Environmental Protection Agency, is now heading the same agency.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses delegates before he signed the COP21 Climate Change Agreement on Earth Day, April 22, 2016, at the United Nations General Assembly Hall in New York, N.Y. [Image via Wikimedia Commons – State Department photo/ Public Domain]

Why withdraw?

However, there is a more straightforward, though no less frustrating, explanation for the withdrawal: economics. In 2015, the Obama administration committed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25%. It also pledged up to $3 billion in aid to foreign countries via a climate fund.

During his campaign, Trump repeatedly promised to “make America great again” via, among other things, restoring the American job market. Within the logic of the current administration, too much regulation hampers the economy. Obama-era rules governing the coal industry – one of the more obvious sources of greenhouse gases – came under particularly intense scrutiny.

To restore American jobs, then, requires that officials dismantle all the rules and requirements standing in their way. Then, one assumes, we will see all the coal jobs magically reappear. America will be once again full of robber barons. Perhaps we’ll see them floating high above the coastal floodwaters and hoarding their tanks full of precious freshwater. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Never mind that the United States boasts both the world’s largest economy and emits the second-largest amount of greenhouse gases. While its withdrawal will not necessarily spell the end of the Paris Agreement, the U.S. is undoubtedly a major player. Our nation’s path can irrevocably affect lives around the globe.

No official word yet

Trump has not currently made an official statement regarding U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement. Indeed, given the volatility of the President, it’s hard to determine what will happen.

He could plow forward with the incredibly ill-advised plan and cause unpredictable harm. Or, he might listen to other voices within his administration and beyond and step away from the brink.

The truth is that withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would be a disaster on multiple levels. Not only could it start our species on the path towards its own downfall, but it would be a supreme blow to the integrity of the United States.

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We would be selling out the future of innumerable generations to resuscitate an already dying industry and fulfill the bluster of a charlatan who made his way to the presidency. How is that possibly a good deal?