An American not in Paris.
(NB: Semi-opinion piece)
Joining Syria and Nicaragua* as the only countries in the world not to sign the Paris Agreement on climate change, President Donald Trump has officially announced that the US will be withdrawing from globally agreed goals to slow the warming of our planet.
“Not only does this deal subject our citizens to harsh economic restrictions, it fails to live up to our environmental ideals,” declared the ‘America First’ President as he delivered a speech in the Rose Garden of the White House yesterday.
He claimed that adhering the US to the climate goals would result in 3 trillion dollars of lost GDP for the country, and the loss of 6.5 million jobs in the fossil fuel and other high-carbon manufacturing industries — claims which are hotly contested by leading economists, not to mention a good many of his advisors, large companies and two-thirds of the American people.
Interestingly, there are more than double the number of people employed in the solar industry than the coal industry in the US today.
Does Trump believe in climate change?
Notoriously capricious with his opinions, Trump’s views on climate change have never been particularly clear, both before and during his presidency, with the White House unable or unwilling to comment on what the most powerful leader in the world actually thinks on the matter.
When asked for the President’s views on climate change, Press Secretary Sean Spicer declared on Wednesday that “Honestly, I haven’t asked him that. I can get back to you.”
Thankfully, the science takes away the need for opinions — it’s happening whether we believe it or not. It’s concerning that at such a vulnerable time for our planet, with the future effects of climate change resting on a knife-edge between bad and terrible, that such a powerful, high-profile figure seems unable to see that.
Where does the world go from here?
The door to sensible US climate policy may not have totally closed, with Trump stating his intention to “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris Accord or a really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.”
Those concerned about the future of the planet shouldn’t get their hopes up too high though — not much further detail was given about these potential “negotiations”, and there is little evidence to suggest anything will actually come of it.
The fallout from this decision might not be fully felt for a few years, with the wording of the Agreement meaning the US cannot officially withdraw until late 2020, around the time of the next presidential election.
However, the Agreement is non-binding — containing no methods of ensuring its terms are upheld — and the US is free to continue burning up its dwindling supply of fossil fuels with no legal ramifications in the meantime.
Whether or not the world’s second-largest producer of carbon dioxide eventually decides to rejoin the rest of the world in combating climate change remains to be seen, but this decision did draw immediate condemnation from around the world, including from the European and African Unions, China, India and even North Korea.
*Nicaragua chose to opt-out because it didn’t feel the Agreement went far enough. So really just the US and Syria.
UPDATE, JUNE 8: Several US states (and Puerto Rico), including New York and California, have since formed the self-styled United States Climate Alliance. The Alliance are committed to meeting the original aims of the Paris Agreement for the US on a state level.
Photo by Alex Gindin on Unsplash