Donald Trump has finally made good on his signature campaign promise to withdraw from the Paris climate change accords, a move that has been pretty much condemned by everyone except his die-hard base of climate-change deniers, the US fossil-fuel industry, and those business leaders who see this as yet another step in removing all those pesky restrictions that prevent them from squeezing ever more profits at the expense of people’s lives and the planet’s health.
But other nations are not going to stop taking actions to limit climate change, and even some US state leaders say that they are going to form a pact to take action despite the abdication of the federal government. What Trump’s move does is to ensure that the US government is no longer involved in any future discussions. Why is this significant? Because as Naomi Klein reports, it was the US that in previous discussions had demanded the watering down of proposals, and other nations went along with its demands just in order to keep the US on board.
The fact that the agreement only commits governments to keeping warming below an increase of 2 degrees, rather than a much safer firm target of 1.5 degrees, was lobbied for and won by the United States.
The fact that the agreement left it to individual nations to determine how much they were willing to do to reach that temperature target, allowing them to come to Paris with commitments that collectively put us on a disastrous course toward more than 3 degrees of warming, was lobbied for and won by the United States.
The fact that the agreement treats even these inadequate commitments as non-binding, which means governments apparently do not have anything to fear if they ignore their commitments, is something else that was lobbied for and won by the United States.
The fact that the agreement specifically prohibits poor countries from seeking damages for the costs of climate disasters was lobbied for and won by the United States.
The fact that it is an “agreement” or an “accord” and not a treaty — the very thing that makes it possible for Trump to stage his action-movie slow-mo walk away, world in flames behind him — was lobbied for and won by the United States.
I could go on. And on. Often the U.S. had help in this backroom bullying from such illustrious petro-states as Saudi Arabia. When aggressively lobbying to weaken the Paris accord, U.S. negotiators usually argued that anything stronger would be blocked by the Republican-controlled House and Senate. And that was probably true. But some of the weakening — particularly those measures focused on equity between rich and poor nations — was pursued mainly out of habit, because looking after U.S. corporate interests is what the United States does in international negotiations.
Now freed from the need to accommodate US foot-dragging, other nations can address the problem of climate change more meaningfully and take the steps that the world should have taken long ago. Will those work without the US on board? That remains to be seen. While some US industries will undoubtedly rejoice in being able to increase their carbon pollution, we should be aware that coal-based energy and jobs are on the way out and nothing is going to bring them back despite Trump’s grandiose promises. The future is in alternative energy and as the rest of the world surges ahead in its development and utilization and adopts stricter standards, US industries will no longer be competitive.
The European Union has rejected Donald Trump’s offer to renegotiate the Paris climate agreement and pledged instead to bypass Washington to work with US business leaders and state governors to implement the historic accord’s commitments.
Less than 24 hours after the US president announced his decision to withdraw from the 2015 agreement and strike a new, less ambitious deal with the world, Brussels declared its outright refusal to engage in such talks.
EU officials will instead cut out the White House to deal directly with the US states and major corporations, many of whom who have already pledged to live by the terms forged in Paris.
The US has maintained its economic power by being the leader in science and technology and forcing other nations to play catch up. That lead has shrunk considerably over the years but this move can lead to the US actually falling behind as some of its best scientists and engineers move to countries that are not anti-science the way that the US is. French president Emmanuel Macron has already invited them to come to his nation and adopted the slogan “Make Our Planet Great Again”.
Macron additionally called on “scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs [and] responsible citizens who were disappointed” by Trump’s move to make France their home.
“I call on them, come, and work here with us. To work together on concrete solutions for our climate, our environment. I can assure you that France will not give up the fight.”
European leaders are saying that they will not renegotiate the Paris accord as Trump says he wants. In effect, the rest of the world is going ahead without the US. The US has long wielded clout by claiming to be the one essential nation without whose involvement nothing meaningful can happen. What this development might reveal is that the emperor has no clothes, that the rest of the world can function quite well without the US and that it will be left on the sidelines as progress marches on.
Some business leaders realize the long-term dangers of Trump’s move not just to the planet but to US business interests as the resignations of Tesla’s Elon Musk and Disney’s Robert Iger from Trump’s business advisory panel suggests and the fact that 30 major US business leaders, even including Goldman Sachs chief executive Lloyd Blankfein, signed on to a letter to Trump that began, “We are writing to express our strong support for the United States remaining in the Paris climate agreement. Based on our vast experience doing business all over the world, we believe there is strong potential for negative trade implications if the United States exits from the Paris agreement.”
But of course, here in the US we don’t need to worry about the planet being destroyed because Jesus will take care of the problem.
John Oliver looks at how people in the US get a distorted view of the seriousness of the climate change problem and what should be done to change that perception.