There was only one reason for President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Scuttling US participation in the Accord played well to his base. He said he would, so he did. To be sure, the Paris Climate Accord was an imperfect agreement, but it provided an impressive framework for an international consensus and commitment to addressing a very real problem facing the planet that every human being and other known lifeform calls home. But let’s face it, the Accord imposed no legally binding commitments on the United States nor on any other nation. It was a framework for future cooperation and, yes, it was flawed and, in many respects, more demanding of the United States and other developed nations than to most every other country. That modifications would have to be made in the agreement as time went on was a certainty. So what!
We’re not climate scientists, but we have poured over a lot of data. We’ve read endless pros and cons on whether or not the planet is warming, and whether man’s activity is contributing to global warming beyond the routine fluctuations that have always taken place. It seems, to us, undisputable that man-caused greenhouse gases are causing temperatures to rise and will continue to adversely affect climate if we don’t begin to curtail activities that contribute (and trap) greenhouse gases in the very atmosphere on which we all depend. While Methane, Nitrous Oxide, Fluorinated gases and Carbon Dioxide are all referred to as greenhouse gases, the real culprit is Carbon Dioxide. It represents over 80 percent of Greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere and hang around for a long time. These gases absorb energy, and because they do not readily escape into space they act as an insulating blanket causing temperatures to slowly rise. Reducing the level of these insulating gases or, more graphically, this heat-trapping barrier, is not, in our opinion a highly debatable objective. It is a matter of common sense.
A united worldwide effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions offered some hope that responsible nations would take responsible action. The Paris accord was, to be sure, not a panacea, but it was a beginning. It recognized that we are all in this together and that together we might be able to control and begin to reverse what appears to be a frightening global reality.
Most important, the Accord assured the United States a leadership role in determining how the world would deal with a very real problem that threatens us all. Instead, President Trump threw his (and our) lot in with Syria and Nicaragua, in what can now be described as a pathetic troika of truculent naysayers. When the United States, Syria, and Nicaragua all stand together in opposition to the rest of the world, the odds are pretty good that the smart money should be on the rest of the world.
President Trump’s Rose Garden homily was as unimpressive and as breathtakingly sad as we found his inaugural address to be. It was pure Trump, full of misleading hyperbole and bad judgment all wrapped in the flag and his tiresome and vacuous America-first rhetoric. Turning our back on a worldwide effort to rein in global warming is not putting America first. It is putting America with Syria and Nicaragua and with Europe’s losers such as Britain’s Nigel Farage and France’s Marine Le Pen.
The sad reality is that America already has been making real progress toward reaching the greenhouse gas reductions envisioned by the Accord. We are today, already nearly half way to meeting the 2025 goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% from our 2005 levels. President Trump’s facetious nod to the nation’s coal miners that pulling out of the Accord will bring back coal, ignores the reality that coal is suffering because of the abundance of cheaper natural gas, which also happens to be much cleaner and safer.
Setting a new standard for oratorical redundancy, President Trump complained that the Accord would cost the United States “billions and billions and billions” (of dollars), which we assume is meant to suggest a sum somewhat greater than simply billions of dollars. And it is true; America’s contribution would be greater. Then again, we alone have emitted a third of all the carbon dioxide that is straining our atmosphere. Furthermore, focusing on the gross costs is a bit misleading. The Paris Climate accord envisioned America’s contribution at about $9.30 per capita. That’s not exactly pocket change, but compared to Luxembourg’s pledge of $93.60 per capita and Sweden’s pledge of $60.54 per capita, what we would have been contributing was far from inequitable.
The non-binding Paris Climate Accord was a worthwhile and responsible beginning. As a leading contributor of support (not to mention our sizeable contribution to the problem), we not only had a place at the table but more importantly, at the head of the table. But according to President Trump, it wasn’t a good deal for the United States, because we were obligated to put up more early money. Someone needs to explain to President Trump that this isn’t about his favorite zero-sum real estate negotiating philosophy. This is about remediating a growing worldwide problem that is and has been for a long time, disproportionately of our making.
Thank goodness President Trump wasn’t in the Oval Office when the Marshall Plan was proposed. We can just hear him. “We won, they lost. Let them fund Europe’s reconstruction.”
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