It is disappointing to learn that on Monday, President Trump took the bold and shocking step he promised in 2017 to officially withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change to fruition. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the notification on Twitter and issued a statement saying the accord would impose intolerable burdens on the American economy.
It needs no emphasizing that the withdrawal of the United States would not only disrupt the system of international coordination that is central to the agreement but also the move will throw cold water on momentum to initiate climate change countermeasures.
The Paris Agreement, the successor to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, aims to keep rising global temperatures to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius which is higher than preindustrial levels, so as to limit the occurrence of droughts, floods, melting glaciers, rising sea levels and other results of global warming. The Obama administration was one of the main drivers behind Paris Accord but over the last years Trump has shown super reluctance in terms of working on that. Instead he is leading the nation in the opposite direction by expanding oil and gas production, ratcheting back fuel standards for motor vehicles and ignoring both the moral and economic imperatives of combating global warming. In the Paris agreement, the US agreed to cut its heat-trapping pollution at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025. But later in 2017, Trump decided to withdraw US from the Paris Climate Accord.
Over the last years, the global climate situation has become more serious. Global warming is threatening people's food, clothing and shelter. "Abnormal" weather has become routine, and food shortages and deterioration of people's living environments have forced people to migrate, producing so-called "climate refugees. Despite all these, Trump has shown no care for tackling the consequences of climate change in concert. Over the last years, Trump scuttled Obama’s plan for cleaner electricity, weakened regulations on methane, froze fuel-economy standards (that Obama had scheduled to tighten), eased fracking regulations, and lunged at every opportunity to bolster domestic fossil fuel production, including offshore drilling. Those changes alone represent giga-tons more carbon in the atmosphere, now and for years to come. The next president must repay this extraordinary climate debt by rapidly moving America to 100% clean energy and financing the decarbonization of the Global South.
However, of late, John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, President Barack Obama’s secretaries of state and defense respectively in a Washington Post op-ed, called Trump’s pull out from Paris Accord a “dark day for America”. “Climate change is already affecting every sector and region of the United States, as hundreds of top scientists from 13 federal agencies made clear in a report the White House itself released last year,” they said. “The past five years were the warmest ever recorded. Without steep pollution reductions, climate change will risk tens of thousands of US lives every year by the end of the century.” They called the Paris agreement, “a start, not a finish line,” but “the best ignition switch the world could agree on to spark international cooperation on this critical issue”.
However, staying on par with those more advanced countries would require the US government to eliminate pollution from coal and natural gas powered electricity plants, transportation, manufacturing facilities and agriculture.
By pulling out US from the Paris Climate Accord President Trump is abandoning global allies for the sake of misplaced political gain. Now America stands alone – nearly 200 countries have joined this global commitment to fighting climate change, even global pariahs like North Korea and civil war-torn countries like Syria. Trump has alternately ignored or denied the climate crisis. His agencies are nixing regulations for power plants and cars, and bolstering fossil fuels whenever possible. He promised, to widespread dismay, to exit the Paris agreement during his campaign.
US is still far off track from its commitments, regardless of whether Trump pulled out. The US is also far from neutralizing climate emissions by the middle of the century, which as many experts say will be necessary for all countries in order to avert the worst of the crisis. But the irony is climate change is already affecting every sector and region of the United States, as hundreds of top scientists from 13 federal agencies made clear in a report the White House itself released last year. The past five years were the warmest ever recorded. Without steep pollution reductions, climate change will risk tens of thousands of US lives every year by the end of the century. Rising seas, increased storm surge and tidal flooding threaten $1 trillion in public infrastructure and private property now along US coastlines. The United States has experienced at least $400 billion in weather and climate disaster costs since 2014. The recent hurricanes that slammed America’s southern coasts, as well as historic wildfires in California, resulted in more American victims of severe weather juiced by climate change than ever before.
At this time when the world is gripped by
a shared sense of urgency, Trump's act of turning
his back on a crisis of a global scale can only be
described as a farce. Since the consequence of
the latest pull out will be weighed in the US
presidential election next year, Trump should
be aware of the danger of his self-centered attitude
resulting in serious consequences for humanity
The clean-energy economy already employs 3.3 million Americans, with solar employing twice as many people as coal. But the United States is lagging far behind other countries that are determined to capitalize on this low-carbon market. For every dollar the United States invests in renewable energy, China puts in three. That’s why globally 99 percent of electric buses on the road are in China. India has the largest solar and wind targets in the world, and the nation is making steady progress in achieving them. And the European Union announced last year that at least 25 percent of its next budget will go toward transitioning to a low-carbon economy.
It isn't beyond imagination for the world to act in concert against a global environmental threat. After all, it has happened before. When scientists found that chemicals used in refrigeration and aerosol cans were depleting a protective layer of ozone over the Earth, risking widespread skin cancer and death, nations agreed under the 1988 Montreal Protocol to a solution. It is worth mentioning that the 1988 Montreal Protocol worked it helped the world to cut down the use of chemicals drastically.
However, global warming is a far greater and more complex threat and in order to control it he world must act in concert. At this time when the world is gripped by a shared sense of urgency, Trump's act of turning his back on a crisis of a global scale can only be described as foolish behaviour. The pros and cons of his decision will no doubt be weighed in the US presidential election next year, but Trump should be aware of the danger of his self-centered attitude resulting in serious consequences for humanity.
The president's every move seems designed to spite climate activists and mollify his political base. Every action that flies in the face of the climate crisis further demonstrates how willing Trump is to antagonize a movement historically identified with the left, and how much he is dedicated to fossil energy dominance. It will be no help to climate protection if the debate about who does it best or whether climate change exists at all, continues to heat up.
Sayeed Shuvro is a member
of the editorial team,
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