“Details on precisely what President Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris accord on climate change means, and how this decision will be implemented are lacking, but it was already clear that the United States had little intention of meeting its emissions goals. The
proposed dismantling of the Clean Power Plan to limit carbon emissions from power plants would essentially ensure that outcome.
“But pulling out of Paris also means the U.S. will refuse to make any additional contributions to the
UN Green Climate Fund. The fact that the world’s largest economy and the largest per capita emitter will decline to take on policies to curb greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously refuse to contribute to a fund largely devoted to adaptation measures in the world’s poor countries is dangerous and unprecedented.
“The impacts of climate change are not hypotheticals to be worried about far in the future. The last several IPCC reports – the international scientific
assessments on climate change done through the UN – have made it abundantly clear that impacts are happening now. And even more recent science has shown that the probabilities of even individual extreme weather events (e.g. heat waves) can be attributed to climate change.
“The international and domestic U.S. scientific assessments have concluded that climate impacts are
disproportionately felt by poor populations both among and within countries – including our own. But such impacts significantly hamper poor countries, which tend to be very dependent on their agricultural sectors, have larger proportions of poor people, and typically do not have resources available for recovery from climate-driven damages.
“The desires in the developing world to improve quality of life in a sustainable way will not go away. Programs such as the
UN Sustainable Development Goals, are evidence of a deep commitment to those improvements. But with the US decision to abandon the Paris Accords, delivering on those commitments just got significantly more difficult.”
“Having the US remain under the Paris Agreement would reveal the weaknesses of the agreement, prevent new opportunities from emerging, and gift greater leverage to a recalcitrant administration.
“The Paris Agreement is procedural: it requires a new pledge every five years, but doesn’t limit the actions of the US. The US will likely miss its target and cut climate financing regardless of Paris.
“Countries are more likely to withdraw or renege on their actions because the US misses its target, eliminates its financing and reveals how weak the Paris Agreement really is.
“A US withdrawal could trigger new opportunities to emerge, such as carbon border adjustments and forceful leadership from the EU and China.
“While the Paris Agreement is fragile, international climate action can be anti-fragile: the shock of Trump could make action stronger by allowing trade measures and new, emboldened leadership to blossom.”
“The best outcome for both the US and the rest of the world is for the US to remain in both the Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC and to play a constructive and progressive role.
“Obstructive behavior in the climate change negotiation arena is likely to reduce support for other key US agendas from key diplomatic blocs. And aligning US domestic energy and innovation policy with its stance on the Paris Agreement policy will result in large opportunity costs from missing the wave of innovation that is emerging to address climate change issues.
“A US withdrawal may also act to energise not only other countries but also states, cities, businesses and communities who wish to take up the baton of positive and constructive leadership and the economic, social and environmental opportunities that addressing climate change could bring.”
“There is no doubt in the science. The greenhouse gases that we are putting into Earth’s atmosphere are changing our climate. Heatwaves are worsening, oceans are rising, rainfall patterns are being altered. The Paris Agreement recognises the very ambitious global efforts that are needed to rein in the problems we have caused.
“There is one certainty in this: regardless of whether or not the US leaves the Paris Agreement, if we keep polluting our atmosphere then climate change will continue to worsen. And the worse we let it get the more destructive and expensive it will be.
“More than a quarter of the carbon dioxide that has been added to our atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution has come from the US. So there is a very strong moral obligation for the US to be part of the global solution.”
Industrial powerhouses like General Electric and 3M, have urged the president to stay in the plan. [Image: Richard Schneider/flickr
“If ever there was a decision contrary to our country’s business and economic interests – never mind our global standing and the impact on the poor countries most vulnerable to climate change – this may be it.
“Corporate America already knows this. That’s why a
cross-section of leading companies, including industrial powerhouses like General Electric and 3M, have urged the president to stay in the plan, which would allow the U.S. a greater say in how the agreement evolves. Even oil companies like ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips have expressed support.
“That’s in part because American companies have been
leaders in developing clean energy, which has given U.S. manufacturing a competitive advantage in a sector that will only grow in importance. Withdrawal from Paris undermines this.
“Besides ignoring the pleas of U.S. CEOs, Trump also rejected the advice of his secretary of state and the wishes of the
195 signatory countries, including American allies such as Germany and France, who pressed hard during the recent G-7 meeting to persuade Trump to stay in. They even suggested that the U.S. might have some leeway to reduce rather than increase its efforts on CO2 reduction – the accord, after all, is voluntary. Rather, we’ve thrown in our lot with Syria and Nicaragua, the only other countries that have rejected the accord.
“It is not hard to imagine the hostility Trump showed our allies could adversely affect the outcome of bilateral trade talks with those countries, the kind Trump says he prefers over multilateral deals. In a full-page Wall Street Journal ad,
30 CEOs argued that “there is strong potential for negative trade implications if the United States exits from the Paris Agreement.”
“If this is the way of putting American interests first, then look for the sun to rise in the West tomorrow morning.”
Potential carbon tax on US imports
Dr Christian Downie, ANU School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet)
“The US position on the Paris climate agreement will likely have ramifications around the globe. In the absence of US leadership, the question is: who will step up?
“If Europe and China together decide to fill the vacuum left by the United States, they could form a powerful bloc to lead global efforts against climate change. Leaders in Europe have already hinted at retaliation should the United States withdraw from the Paris Agreement, including a carbon tax on US imports.
“Should China follow the same path, together they would represent the largest import market in the world, giving them a very large stick to wave at America. An EU-China bloc could also help to ensure that there is less potential for other nations, including Australia, to follow the United States down the do-nothing path.”
Dr Jonathan Pickering, Visiting Fellow at the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy
“If the US were committed to acting on climate change, the case for staying in the Paris Agreement would be clear. But given the current Administration’s savage rollback of Obama-era climate policies, the choice is much tougher. Which is the lesser evil for global cooperation on climate change: to have a recalcitrant major power in the Agreement or out of it?
“There’s a major risk that continuing US participation in the Agreement will upset the delicate balance of commitments that countries reached in Paris.
“But withdrawing from the Agreement altogether could be even worse. It will provide cover for reluctant countries to exit, water down their targets or simply fail to join, just as Australia used US non-participation as an excuse to stay out of the Kyoto Protocol. And the violation of trust resulting from US withdrawal could further jeopardise prospects for global cooperation on other priorities.”
US emissions will decline more slowly than they should
Professor John Quiggin is an Australian Research Council Laureate Fellow in the School of Economics at the University of Queensland
“Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord is not based on scientific evidence or on the economic interests of the United States, but on the political imperatives of the culture wars being waged by the political right in the US, imperatives that led to his nomination and election.
“The announcement itself is primarily symbolic, but other actions of the Trump Administration mean that US emissions will decline more slowly than they should. However, the preliminary evidence is that this action will not be taken as a signal for other countries to follow, but rather as a further indication that the US has abandoned its leadership role in the US economy. The impact will be further reduced by the commitment of California and other state governments to pursue ambitious policies for emissions reductions.”
Farmers will be hurt
Matthew Russell, Resilient Agriculture Coordinator, Drake University
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement fails farmers, one of the major constituencies that helped him win the White House. Arguably, U.S. farmers are the most capable of developing systems to both reduce and remove greenhouse gas emissions. But the Trump administration is ignoring our nation’s farmers as a strategic national asset in the global fight against climate change.
“For nearly a century, U.S. agriculture has been the uncontested leader in agricultural innovation. Farmers have had three important sources of support that helped them create the green revolution, which allowed production to keep up with global population growth. These include public research and education from land grant universities; private industry; and public policy, especially the federal farm bill but also state level policies.
“While there are still production challenges, the bigger challenges facing humanity are not increasing yields but maintaining productivity in the face of an increasingly hostile climate and a need to stabilize the climate before it deteriorates further.
“Farmers all over the world must innovate to develop environmental services focused on greenhouse gas emissions and sinks. Unfortunately, the general attitude of U.S. farmers prevents them from embracing this new and emerging challenge. Many of them share President Trump’s
skepticism about climate change.
“Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement is focused on energy policy and doesn’t consider American farmers. Yet agriculture is emerging as one of the most promising players in addressing climate change by
sequestering carbon from the atmosphere in the soil. One can argue China, Europe, Australia, and possibly even Brazil will start investing in agricultural innovation similar to the way China and Europe are investing in renewable energy.
“For the last 100 years, American farmers, their elected officials, industries that serve them, and great innovators like
George Washington Carver, Henry Wallace, and Norman Borlaug have led the world in developing agricultural solutions to big problems. The next big problem is climate change.
“American farmers can be at the vanguard of finding agricultural solutions to sequestering carbon. But by abandoning the Paris Agreement, President Trump has shown that he is not going to help American farmers work on these solutions and, thus, reap the benefits. American farmers could still do it, but the President just made it much more difficult for them to do so and much more likely that farmers in another part of the world will lead the next agricultural revolution.
Pulling out of the Paris Agreement is Unconscionable
Travis N. Rieder, Research Scholar at the Berman Institute of Bioethics, Johns Hopkins University
“Like many, I have worried ever since the 2016 election that this day would come – that Donald Trump would formally announce his intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement. As an ethicist, I have been occupied by a very particular question, which is whether withdrawing from the agreement, itself,
“Some have suggested that
the policies to lower emissions matter, not the agreement to enact such policies. If Trump has no intention of holding up America’s end of the deal, then does the actual withdrawal from the agreement make a difference? I think that it might, because staying in the agreement and going through the motions (but failing) means something fundamentally different from formally withdrawing.
“Presumably, many countries will fail in their climate obligations at one time or another. Other parties to the agreement will have the opportunity to admonish them for this failure, and to work together to form a new plan that is more likely to succeed.
“But, announcing America’s intention to withdraw from the agreement sends a clear message to the rest of the world that the
second-highest emitting nation has no intention of doing its part to save the world’s most vulnerable people from impending harm. Indeed: the U.S. government takes the problem so unseriously, and values the lives of those at risk so little, that it will try desperately to undermine the already far-too-modest climate actions that the Obama administration set in motion.
“The game-theoretic puzzle here is a common feature of collective action problems: abandoning an agreement (or ‘defecting’) changes the rational deliberation of other parties to the agreement. It may be rational for some nations to sacrifice for the greater good when they believe that everyone will do likewise. But, is it still rational when one of the major players – one who has gained most from causing the problem, and will pay least as the problem becomes more serious – announces his intention to defect?
“My hope is that every other party to the Paris Agreement will believe that the answer is ‘yes’, and that they will count on us, the American people, to right this wrong as soon as we can. But my most desperate fear is that this announcement will confirm the world’s suspicion that America cannot be trusted to do its part, and that this will make it harder for them to justify making any sacrifice at all.
“This sort of scenario will not likely mean the end of the Paris Agreement, but it could weaken it considerably, as other nations’ leaders become less willing to make sacrifices on the backs of their people.”
Dr Pep Canadell is the Executive Director of the Global Carbon Project
“Regardless of whether the US is part or not of the Paris agreement, its current downward emissions trajectory is unlikely to change significantly, given it is driven by the economics of falling prices and abundance of natural gas and renewable energies.
“Where we can expect a large impact from the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is in building the necessary level of funding (the Green Fund) to support developing and emerging economies towards decarbonization.
“These economies are responsible for more than 2/3 of the global carbon emissions and about 100 per cent of all new growth in emissions. Lack of financial instruments to engage with the countries responsible for such a dominant fraction of emissions will fail to bring global emissions down quickly enough. This will require many other countries to increase significantly their level of contributions to the Green Fund and global engagement.”
In short: Trump’s actions today may further slow our already-too-modest climate action and threaten the health and lives of the most vulnerable. This would be a serious injustice, and its commission by our elected leader is unconscionable.
Portions of this article were originally published on The Conversation.