In fulfillment of his campaign promise, President Donald Trump has defied the world and pulled our country out of the Paris Accord. The United States will now join Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries outside of the agreement. You really cannot include Nicaragua because it did not sign in protest of the agreement not going far enough (a valid objection). That leaves us and our environmental fellow traveler, Syria.
In terms of delivery, I thought this was one of Trump’s stronger speeches though MIT scientists say that he got their data wrong. Other experts noted that Trump was wrong on the details of the agreement regarding China’s commitments as well as its costs to the United States.
Trump has declared climate change to be a “hoax” despite the virtually unanimous opinion of the scientific community and many Republicans who now acknowledge the reality of climate change. (Though some appear to accept climate change while insisting that God will take care of it). He started calling the theory a hoax in 2014: “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps, and our GW scientists are stuck in ice.” As evidence mounted and the science community unified on the role of man in causing climate change, Trump became more and more firm on the idea that all of these scientists and studies promulgated a myth.
While Trump did not repeat his view of climate change as a hoax, he declared the agreement as “very unfair at the highest level to the United States.” In fairness to Trump, I was highly critical of the agreement in the deal given to China and India. I was also critical on the low level of achievement set by the countries. However, the world united behind American leadership on the most important environmental agreement in history. We are now withdrawing and placing our country in the position of a global spoiler.
At the same time, Trump is ramping up coal reliance while downgrading alternative energy programs. As we have previously discussed, our allies are making huge advances in reducing their reliance on fossil fuel energies. From this transition, Europe is taking a lead in new technologies. We on the other hand are rushing in the opposite direction like an investor doubling down on buggy whips despite the rise of automobiles. This point was driven home by an impressive collection of companies and CEOs, including companies like Exxon, who fought to keep the United States in the agreement and rejected the economic claims made by Trump.
Again, in fairness to Trump, it is worth noting the Obama administration also expanded coal production. However, countries like Germany are showing how to lead on this new technology while shifting to solar and other energy sources. Part of benefit of the Paris Accord is to create incentives for technology and alternative fuel advancement.
The irony is that, in the name of protecting the United States economy, Trump has taken the country toward greater dependence on fossil fuels and an economic model linked to the last century rather than the next century. We will be all the poorer for it not just in terms of the environmental damages but also the economic losses.