President Donald Trump followed through on a campaign pledge this month, announcing the United States will begin withdrawal from the historic Paris Accord on climate change. The walkaway sends the startling message that our country is not committed to combating climate change or curbing carbon emissions.
Of equal importance, it sends a message that America will put its parochial interests ahead of its responsibilities as a global leader. The consequence, to the world and to the nation, could be dire.
In a speech that sounded much like Trump’s campaign speeches sounding the theme of “America First,” the president set up an “us vs. them” narrative, complaining of “harsh economic restrictions,” and repeatedly portraying the Paris agreement as unfair to America, for decades one of the leading polluters on the Earth.
“In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or an entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers,” Trump said.
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While the exiting of the full agreement could take years, the ultimate result will not be good for the country, either economically or environmentally.
Each country pledged to curb heat-trapping emissions, such as from coal-fired plants, gasoline-burning automobiles and other sources. The U.S. had set a target for reducing emissions by 2025 at 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels – or about 1.6 billion tons of annual emissions. Though recently China has become the largest single emitter of greenhouse gases, historically – since the Industrial Revolution – that distinction has gone to the U.S.
In short, this nation has contributed mightily to the heating of the planet. Thus, it bears a great responsibility not only to be a part of curbing harmful emissions, but in taking a leadership position in doing so.
President Barack Obama understood this when he helped negotiate the Paris Climate Accord. Now, with this turnabout from Trump, the United States is abdicating its responsibility as a leader on this issue, and diminished its standing around the globe.