President Trump’s misguided action withdrawing the United States from the Paris Accord is a blow to the prospects for limiting the damage from global climate change and a blow to U.S. leadership on the world stage.
It will probably take days to parse the profusion of misleading, hypocritical, and outright false statements in the President’s attempt to justify his profoundly counterproductive decision, Here I will make just a few overarching points.
First, the President focused exclusively on the purported economic harm to the United States from remaining in the agreement, never once addressing the harm that human-caused global climate change is causing and will continue to cause in increasing measure to life, health, property, our national security, and the environmental conditions and processes that underpin much of our economy. But the fact is that virtually every respectable analysis suggests that the costs associated with the damages from unabated climate change will be far larger than the costs of abatement would be.
Second, for all his emphasis on U.S. jobs, the President neglected to mention that there are many more U.S. jobs in the renewable-energy and energy-efficiency industries that have helped put this country, up until now, on a path toward meeting our emissions-reduction target under the Paris agreement than in the U.S. coal, oil, and natural gas industries combined. And jobs in these “clean energy” industries have been growing much faster than the economy as a whole. Withdrawing from the Paris agreement is likely cause more harm than good to the U.S. economy.
Third, the President’s assertion that the Paris agreement leaves U.S. industry “tied up and bound down” while other countries can do what they want is manifestly false. All commitments under the Paris agreement are voluntary, and the agreement contains no penalties for failing to meet those voluntary commitments. Other countries are no more and no less bound by their commitments than is the United States. But all (except evidently the Trump Administration) understand that the real penalty for falling short on those commitments is the increased damage from global climate change that shortfalls in emissions reductions is certain to entrain.
Fourth, there will be a penalty to be paid by the United States for its unilateral and objectively unwarranted withdrawal from one of the most consequential and universal international agreements in history. That penalty will be paid in widespread and well deserved opprobrium and in future non-cooperation of other countries with whatever international agenda President Trump believes he will be able to pursue going forward. He apparently thinks he is putting America first, but he is putting this country on a steep downhill slope in terms of international influence and the willingness of others to collaborate with us when we need them.