The President said today that he will withdraw the United States from the Paris Accord.
This is just plain wrong-headed thinking.
We all live on this planet. So every one of us is also responsible for cleaning up our messes. Didn’t your mom tell you as much? She was right, and is in a united front with Big Mama: Mother Earth herself.
Reducing the burden of environmental regulations on businesses does not guarantee economic growth and new jobs. In the long term, reversing the United States’ commitments to a clean environment will hurt Americans and hurt our neighbors.
China’s commitment is “to lower carbon dioxide emissions (compared to its 2005 level) by 60 to 65 percent by 2030 and India’s commitment to lower emissions by 33 to 35 percent by 2030.” The deadline the U.S. set for its own reduction is 2025. In so doing, America would be first in leading the world at cutting emissions!
The President wanted a deal that is more “fair;” that puts America first. What on earth is fair about sustaining actions that soil the planetary nest for us all?
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are all impossible if we are ill. We lose our liberty to choose the life we want to live if our air and soil and water are contaminated with things that make us sick. The theoretical prosperity businesses will achieve from spending less to comply with regulations will be outstripped by the costs of a faltering environment that will fail in part because those regulations were rolled back.
Which jobs are going to grow by backing out of the Accord? America’s natural gas, wind and solar industries today employ over five times as many American workers as the coal industry.
If the Administration is looking for a big win, this isn’t it. Leaving the Paris Accord is a colossal, irresponsible, error. Is it possible that the point of making a big statement that has no immediate impact but gets a wide swath of people upset is look like you had a big win? To declare the intent to withdraw from the Accord costs no money up front, takes no Congressional approval, and appeals to Trump supporters because Their Guy is telling the whole world to get stuffed.
Could the White House simply want to create more uncertainty and distraction from myriad other issues that are much closer to hand and on which it’s much harder to accomplish anything of substance?
I’ve stopped trying to guess what the White House is up to. Plenty of people who are smarter than I am are investigating that already. I’m not impressed by either of the arguments offered by twenty-one Republican Senators who support the President on this issue. Their first argument is that participation in the Accord will generate litigation that will prevent the President from rolling back the Clean Power Act. I’m not mollified by the idea that even if the United States were to withdraw from the Paris Accord, it still holds a permanent seat at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), out of which the Accord arose.
Three things this week give me great heart: Big Industry, Big Cities, and Big Thinkers.
Watch Big Industry. Leaders of 30 of America’s largest corporations, spanning transportation, energy, agriculture, manufacturing, banking and technology urged the President to support the accord. ExxonMobil shareholders directed their company to publish reports that document how climate change is likely to affect its business. Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric, said the President is wrong. Lloyd Blankfein, head of Goldman Sachs, used his first-ever tweet to say that the President is wrong on this one.
Related: Harvard Business Review details on U.S industry support for the Accord
Watch Big Cities. Today, mayors of 68 American cities announced their plan, to independently align their efforts, representing over 36 million Americans, with the other 194 nations that adopted the accord. Ironically, that list includes Pittsburgh, PA…despite the President’s announcement that his decision to withdraw from the Accord supports a brighter future for cities like Pittsburgh.
Watch Big Thinkers. Today, Elon Musk, the last of the Silicon Valley CEO’s on the President’s advisory boards, today resigned, tweeting, “Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson opined, “If I and my advisors had never learned what Science is or how & why it works, then I’d consider pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord too.”
I just finished the latest book by author and NYT columnist Tom Friedman. It couldn’t be better timed. Thank You For Being Late: An Optimists’s Guide To Thriving In The Age Of Accelerations, concludes with 17 policy options that Mother Nature would support if she led a political party.
And closer to home, literally: As I was writing this, a young man came to the door asking me to get in touch with Senator Warner, to oppose 31% funding cuts to EPA and support programs that sustain the Chesapeake Bay. I was glad to chat with him.