President Donald Trump’s disappointing and harmful decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate change accord will have far-reaching implications for the nation and for the world.
The planet’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases now joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations not part of the agreement. It’s a wrongheaded, short-sighted and deeply worrisome move that likely will weaken the overall deal and other countries’ resolve to remain in it, while damaging the country’s standing in the world by reducing our leverage and influence in other negotiations.
And pulling out won’t boost the U.S. economy or add American jobs, as Trump claimed last week.
Trump’s Rose Garden speech, in fact, was replete with misrepresentations — about the accord itself, the related economics, the science of climate change and the impact on the United States of staying in Paris. And it ignored the job growth and economic gains posted by clean energy industries. The reality is that the United States won’t be able to fully withdraw from the Paris accord until November 2020, at which point the issue probably will be a focus of the next presidential campaign.
But the backlash already has begun. Resistance to Trump’s move quickly bubbled up in statehouses, city halls, corporate boardrooms and homes across America. Forceful promises were made to keep the United States on a path of protecting the environment by limiting emissions and expanding renewable energy sources. That’s encouraging. More governments, company executives and American citizens should join that effort.
Most notable last Thursday was the announcement by Govs. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, Jerry Brown of California and Jay Inslee of Washington of the creation of the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition of states pledging to uphold the Paris accord and to aggressively fight climate change. The alliance can begin to fill the void left by Trump and mitigate the damage of his Paris withdrawal. Mayors such as New York’s Bill de Blasio made similar promises, as did Pittsburgh’s Bill Peduto, whose city Trump singled out as an example of the people he was elected to represent. Peduto said he supports the Paris deal, and noted that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won nearly 80 percent of the vote in the city.
Many U.S. companies have concluded that fighting climate change is good business. Top executives in a host of key industries, including energy, encouraged Trump to remain in the Paris accord, and still more denounced Thursday’s decision. Now they should continue their advocacy. So should their shareholders, such as the ones from Exxon Mobil Corp. who voted Wednesday to support a proposal to analyze the impact that reducing carbon emissions and reaching temperature targets would have on the company’s business model and resources.
Individuals can act, too, through the choices we make about the cars we drive, the trains and bikes we could ride, and the energy we save.
Trump kept a campaign promise last week, but he broke the nation’s promise to America’s children and grandchildren to leave them a better world.