Despite vocal opposition from businesses, advisers, and prominent members of his own party, President Donald Trump announced today that he would take America out of the Paris Agreement. The historic climate deal was developed in 2015 and signed by over 190 nations. The U.S. now joins Nicaragua and Syria as the only nations within the United Nations not subject to the agreement.
Trump argued that the Paris Agreement would hurt the American economy, especially the fossil fuel industry. But Roberton Williams, director of academic programs for the nonpartisan environmental and energy analysis group Resources for the Future, says that overall, the economy would remain relatively balanced. “[The jobs losses would be] noticeable,” he said, “but small enough that you wouldn’t even see it in the numbers. And the reason for that is it’s really, the effect would be much more of a job shift, rather than a job gain or a job loss.”
Williams explained that while some industries would be hurt (like coal mining or oil production), other industries (like the renewable energy sector) would gain new jobs as America came into compliance with the agreement.
Trump’s decision will only deepen the growing rift between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Exiting the deal shows that the U.S. is unwilling to follow through on its promises and hurts America’s reputation on the world stage.
Just prior to Trump’s official announcement that he would take the U.S. out of the agreement, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said, “Ignoring reality and leaving the Paris agreement could go down as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our nation’s history, isolating the U.S. further after Trump’s shockingly bad European trip.”
The U.S. contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than any other nation except China. Climate scientists have warned that even with the passage of the Paris Agreement, average global temperatures are expected to rise by at least 2 degrees Celsius (about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit). Warming greater than that would lead to catastrophic flooding, drought, extinctions, refugee crises, and war.
Now that the U.S. is out of the deal and on track to completely eliminate its environmental protections, the painful effects of climate change will likely accelerate.
Some observers are more sanguine. They cite recent economic trends – namely, the falling cost of natural gas and renewables against the high cost of fossil fuels – as reason for optimism. In a recent interview with NBC, J. Timmons Roberts, an environmental studies professor at Brown University, said that the U.S. might meet its emissions reduction targets even in the absence of a binding agreement. “I actually think we might meet our target,” Brown said. “The technology is making the choices easier for people more quickly than expected.”
California and some other states have pledged to increase their environmental regulations in response to Trump removing the U.S. from the agreement.
In his comments, Trump did leave open the possibility of renegotiating the deal along lines that he finds more amenable. But it remains unclear what such a renegotiated deal would look like, or if such a deal is even possible.
Trump will have to wait until November 2019 to begin the formal process by which the U.S. exits the deal. The American exit would be finalized at the earliest by Nov. 3, 2020, the day after the next presidential election. But Trump could accelerate the exit process by canceling the domestic climate treaty linked to the Paris Agreement.
By ending environmental protections in the U.S. and canceling America’s commitments under the Paris Agreement, Trump has further endangered not only the country, but the world.
Featured Image via YouTube video.