Anticlimatically, we`ll always have Paris
This past week, the President of the United States Donald J. Trump, followed through on his often repeated campaign promise and unilaterally withdrew America’s participation in the landmark Paris Climate Change Accords.
Environmentalists were chagrined by the president’s action while fossil fuel producers were elated. Forebodingly, our European allies were further alienated by this act, which piggy-backed on the open condescension of the European Union nations by Trump at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization meeting in Belgium the week before. On a geopolitical basis, one must worry that a pattern of isolation is being forged with the Donald’s behavior, which will drive other countries and trading partners to favor the Far East rather than the United States.
Expectedly, Trump attempted to relate extracting the U.S. from the agreement to a preservation of jobs in America. This characterization is way too simplistic and in error.
Credible members of his cabinet, and Trump’s beloved daughter warned him against this move. Yet, Trump yielded to high-powered special interests and an internal need to demonstrate his resolve in the face of European leaders.
One can also argue he was keeping a campaign promise to West Virginia miners. Even though the withdrawal from the agreement will not have the desired effect sought.
So, what effect will this change have on the country? Also, how will this policy change affect our relationships abroad? We should examine those key questions.
In December of 2015, over 190 nations agreed to take strides to curtail the growing amount of carbon emissions that are slowly poisoning the planet. The United Nations Framework Convention yielded the Paris Climate Change Accords. With the United States responsible for 15 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions and China responsible for 25 percent of that toxic effluence, those two great nations led the way in creating a template for conscience action toward preserving the earth for further generations. All nations involved pledged to reduce carbon emissions each in accordance to their output. And all richer developed nations agreed to assist third world developing nations in becoming greener through monetary and technological contributions. Voluntary pledges named Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC) would once ratified within a particular country’s legislative system become Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), which is a permanent commitment to reduce the effluence amounts. The overall goal would be to reduce global warming escalation in temperature to no more than 2.0C degrees over pre-industrial levels and hopefully even 1.5C degrees if possible.
The binding aspects of the pact were supposed to commence in 2020 with a review in NDC every five years afterward for each member country. They agreement stated the following goals: to “achieve a balance between antropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the century”. In simpler words, they want net carbon emissions brought to zero, no increase from current levels. Member nations agreed that countries should aim to “reach global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible.”
Climate change deniers who were enlivened by Trump’s decision are simply science deniers. Sea levels have risen, the Polar Ice Caps are melting, and meteorological records show more frequency of severe storms in recent years. The question is not is the climate changing, there is too much evidence to support the fact. More aptly, how much of the climate change is related to the activities of man and how long does mankind have before dramatic climate changes forever adversely effect the earth? Whereas scientists do not differ on the fact that climate change is occurring, they do differ on the amount of man’s effect on it and whether its effects will become catastrophic to livability in 20, 50, 100, or 200 years.
Those issues aside, our European friends are angered with the president not only for his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, but for his criticism of them at the recent NATO conference. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed that the day of American leadership in the world community is over. The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister Teresa May criticized Trump as being irresponsible. While newly installed French President Macron has questioned whether Europe’s faith can ever be restored in the United States. What Trump is not adequately considering is that international agreements and alliances like NATO and the Paris Accords lead to economic and trade partnerships. If other nations are complying, particularly China, while we are not, countries are going to have a tendency to isolate America and gravitate toward Asia.
Furthermore, India (a top five nation in carbon emissions) has taken it upon itself to go farther from being a signatory to the agreement and has committed to have only electric powered passenger cars in their gigantic nation within 13 years. This move will further entice environmental conscience countries to involve themselves with the subcontinent in preference over the U.S.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and Special Adviser to the President (and first daughter) Ivanka Trump all implored the president to stay in the accord, as did champions of the burgeoning alternative energy industries. Contrarily, the Koch Brothers and other Big Oil Industry principles advised the president to take a stand against the agreement, as doing so served their profit interests.
Ultimately, the president’s decision had more to do with his defiance of the leaders of Europe, his antiquated perception of the American energy sector, and his want of fulfilling his campaign promises to coal miners than any legitimate objection about our nation committing to reducing its emissions.
Many chief operating officers including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blackfein, General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, and Google CEO Sunchar Pichai have all decried Trump’s action. Some may have voiced their dismay on an altruistic basis. However, these champions of industry have been reported to be heavily invested in new domestic companies producing solar power, wind power, recycling based power, and other alternative source production that they were obviously hoping would flourish. Trump’s alienation of potential foreign customers especially helps China and India gain more market share in the alternative energy industry.
Ridiculously and repeatedly, Trump has stated that the withdrawal will bring back mining jobs. More than a century ago, the majority of country’s energy usage was coal related. A decade ago 37 percent of our nation’s energy was coal related. Currently, it is 30 percent and it is diminishing. This decline in coal has more to do with the success and lesser overall costs of hydraulic fracking. The coal industry is not returning to its past glory any time soon and Trump’s promises to West Virginia miners were indeed presumptuous.
Agreement or not, United States companies should protect the environment as best they can with the most advanced technology available. We should have incrementally better CAFE (car emission standards) for our automobiles. We should try to leave as clean a planet as we can for the generations to come. Climate change is happening, at what pace it is occurring is a question. How much man affects that pace is a question. The lack of those answers should not prevent us from being conscientious.
Tweaking America’s participatory goals in the agreement made much more sense than abandoning our commitment altogether.
Additionally, our president should be careful not to isolate America from its rightful place in the community of nations. We are intertwined economically and defensively with our fellow nations. We cannot flourish as a great country without those crucial relationships. Trump’s alienation of other nations will dangerously relegate the United States to lesser relevance in the world community. If the Donald truly wants to make America great again, we will need to sustain our relationships with other nations to accomplish that goal in the modern interconnected world.