By Miriam Raftery
Photo: NASA satellite: Arctic ice reached an all-time record low in March, due to record temperatures.
June 2, 2017 (San Diego)—President Donald Trump’s announcement yesterday to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord means the U.S. joins Syrian dictator Bashar Assad as the only other world leader who does not believe climate change is a serious threat to the planet. Every nation on earth signed the Paris agreement calling for aggressive action to combat climate change, except for Syria and Nicaragua, but Nicaragua wanted even stronger actions to protect planet Earth.
Trump stated he was withdrawing due to the "draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country."
“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said, adding, “We want fair treatment for its citizens and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers. We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won’t be.”
But Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted that Trump does not represent his city’s values. “As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy and future.” Criticism swiftly poured in from leaders of nations around the world, many top industry officials, environmental experts and members of Trump’s own inner circle including two who resigned in protest, though some politicians and energy company representatives praised the move.
Decision puts profits ahead of planet and defies science, critics contend
Climate change skeptics have been predominantly funded by the oil and coal industries and by think tanks funded by the fossil fuel industry. The 22 Republican Senators who signed a letter last week supporting Trump in withdrawing from the climate change agreement took millions of dollars from the fossil fuel industry. Of those 22 Senators, their contributions from fossil fuel interests ranged from over $281,000 to Senator John Boozman of Arizona more than $3 million paid to Senator John Corwyn of Texas.
Trump’s actions defy the 71% of Americans who support the Paris agreement, according to a recent survey and the 99.9% of the world’s top climate scientists who agree that climate change is real, a serious threat to our planet, and accelerated by the actions of mankind in burning fossil fuels such as oil and coal. That includes a consensus on global warming in 24,210 articles published in peer-reviewed journals by 69,406 scientific authors – vs. only 4 authors who reject global warming (0.006%, far less than 1%.)
Carbon dioxide levels from burning fossil fuels have risen sharply since the industrial revolution and are now the highest in history, as the NASA chart shown here demonstrates, a fact that skeptics ignore or simply lie about, much as the tobacco industry funded medical "experts" to spread lies despite rock-solid research proving without doubt that tobacco caused many forms of cancer and other serious health problems. Then as now, there were politicians and paid shills in the medical world and even media who took large sums of money to distort the truth.
Trump has claimed he cares about the environment. But his actions show otherwise. In his first 100 days, he has approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, lifted a coal moratorium on public lands and moved toward opening vast U.S. coastline areas to offshore oil drilling. He appointed Exxon-Mobile’s former CEO, Rex Tillerson, as Secretary of State and climate change denier Scott Pruitt to head up the Environmental Protection Agency; Pruitt has sued the EPA in conjunction with oil companies and has clear conflicts of interest that the President ignored. (Note:Tillerson, despite his industry ties, reportedly urged Trump to stay in the Paris accord; Trump ignored the advice of his own Secretary of State as well as 99.9% of scientific experts and 72% of the U.S. public.)
World leaders condemn Trump action
World leaders offered universal condemnation and in some cases, ridicule of Trump’s action, which also drew harsh criticism from the Vatican, tech leaders, celebrities, prominent politicians in both parties, resignations by two members of his advisory council, and a broad coalition of U.S. mayors and governors pledging to forge their own agreements on climate change.
French President Emmanuel Macron, a moderate, said that there is “no planet B" then chided Trump with a twist on his campaign slogan, stating, “"We all share the same responsibility to make our planet great again."
France, Germany and Italy promptly issued a joint statement denouncing the action and adding that the accord is “irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that Europe can no longer rely on the U.S. as an ally.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the U.S. withdrawal a “major disappointment.”
Sweden’s minister for foreign affairs Margot Wallstrom tweeted, “The US decision to leave the #ParisAgreement is a decision to leave humanity's last chance of securing our childrens future on this planet.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “We must not steal something that rightfully belongs to the next generation.”
A Vatican statement slammed Trump’s climate accord decision, stating, “Saying that we need to rely on coal and oil is like saying that the earth is not round. It is an absurdity dictated by the need to make money.” Last week, Trump met with Pope Francis, also a chemist, who gave the U.S. president a copy of the Pope’s climate change encyclical; Trump’s decision ignores the Papal findings.
Felipe Calderon, former President of Mexico and Honorary Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Crisis, issued a statement that Trump’s administration made a “grave mistake by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement,” noting that 195 countries signed the agreement, with nations such as China now stepping up to fill a leadership void left by America’s withdrawal. “By abandoning the Paris Agreement, the U.S. could find itself left behind as the sustainable economy marches inevitably forward,” Calderon warned.
Canadian leader Justin Trudeau said, “"We are deeply disappointed that the United States federal government has decided to withdraw from the Paris Agreement," then added, "Canada is unwavering in our commitment to fight climate change and support clean economic growth."
Environmentalists blast action
Gene Karpinski, President of the League of Conservation Voters, called Trump’s withdrawal from the international climate change pact “one of the worst decisions ever made by any president ever. Period.” He adds in a letter to members, “This outrageous, immoral decision is a new low, even for President Trump, who has prioritized polluter profits over our environmental future every step of the way.” He notes that the U.S. is one of the biggest contributors of greenhouse gases in the world, yet even polluters such as China have agreed to abide by the Paris agreements to sharply curtail their use of fossil fuels. “China just opened the world’s largest solar farm, and it could very easily end up the world’s green superpower,” Karpinski notes.
Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune called the action a “shameful mistake of historic proportions” that abandons millions of Americans who will “bear the brunt of climate disruption – from record floods to droughts and hurricanes that destroy people’s homes and livelihoods.”
The Center for Biological Diversity’s executive director Kieran Suckling had this to say. “Trump just confirmed his total contempt for our planet’s future. With this reckless rejection of international climate cooperation, the administration took a giant step toward turning our country into a rogue nation.”
The environmental leader vowed to take legal action, noting Trump has “stepped on the gas” despite the world “speeding toward a climate catastrophe.” Suckling adds, “We’ll battle his dangerous agenda in the courts, in the streets and at the state and local level across the country.”
White House Advisory Council members quit
Elon Musk, head of Tesla and SpaceX, as well as Disney CEO Bob Iger announced they will quit the President’s Advisory Council in protest over his withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord. Musk tweeted, “Am departing presidential councils. Climat change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”
Energy producers largely praise action
Some large energy corporations such as Exxon-Mobile and Shell had actually come to support the Paris Climate Accord, seeking uniformity in regulations as well as acknowledging the seriousness of climate change after years of denial and in Exxon’s case, paying for reports that documented climate change, then suppressing that data for years.
However the U.S. Energy Association, which represents 150 small and large energy companies, applauded Trump’s ation. USEA executive director Barry Worthington issued a media statement which reads, “Arbitrary targets for U.S. industry could harm growth and harm our GDP.” Worthington concluded, “We are confident that President Trump took the right step today, putting U.S. interests first.”
Worthington, in his statement Thursday, said he believe a renegotiated plan would be superior for U.S. interests. But despite Trump indicating he would be interested in renegotiating the Paris accord, European leaders have made clear that that is not an option they would support.
Former Kyoto delegate for U.S. denounces decision
James Rubin is a partner at the international law firm Dorsey & Whitney. Previously hen served for 15 years in the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he was an assistant chief in the Law and Policy Section, a trial attorney in the Environmental Defense Section, and an agency representative to the White House Climate Change Task Force. He was on was on several US delegations from 1995-2000, including at Kyoto. He coordinated the division’s international program and worked on a wide variety of domestic and international environmental policy and litigation matters.
Rubin called Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord “unnecessary and very ill-advised.” He cautions that the cost of withdrawal will be “considerable – great harm to US diplomacy, trade and the global environment. A lower target or reduced US financial commitments would itself send a powerful message, but not one so very unhelpful, unnecessary our unwise as complete disengagement from the rest of the world on one of the most critical issues of our time.”
California takes action, along with other states and cities
California Governor Jerry Brown said Trump is “wrong on the facts. America’s economy is boosted by following the Paris Agremeent. He’s wrong on the science. Totally Brown,” a statement from the Governor indicates. “California will resist this misguided and insane course of action,” Brown declared. “Trump is AWOL but California is on the field, ready for battle.”
Hours after Trump’s announcement, Califiornia joined New York and Washington states to form the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene states committed to upholding requirements of the Paris Cliamte accord and acting aggressively to reduce climate change, Times of San Diego reported.
In addition, mayors of 76 U.S. cities have agreed to honor the Paris Climate Change goals in their own cities.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer has also come out against Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate pact.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra recalled growing up in Los Angeles when there were smog alerts that prevented children from going outside to play due to risks of asthma and lung damage. “We’ve made a lot of progress since then,” he said. “Our state intends to move forward on protecting our air and our climate regardless of what the federal government does or does not do. We will defend all of our laws, including California’s vehicle emissions standards, anywhere they are challenged.” He noted that California is already feeling impacts of climate change including droughts that cost farmers billions of dollars, rising sea levels that will threaten coastal cities in the near future, and record-high temperatures. Hot, dry weather has also resulted in increased firestorms in California.
California Insurance Commission Dave Jones walled Trump’s withdrawal “one of the worst abdications of United States Leadership” but pledged, “California will work with other nations, provinces, states, localities, businesses and investors to meet the Paris Climate Agreement objectives while President Trump sticks his head in the sand.” He is also requiring insurers to disclose investment in oil, gas and coal.
Labor speaks out
Mary Kay Henry, president of Service Employees International Union , denounced “lack of leadership” by Trump on climate issues that will impact working families. “SEIU members and our families live with the realities of climate change every day,” she said, citing destructive wildfires and hurricanes, spread of tropical diseases, as well as air and water pollution from fossil fuels.
1,000 business leaders had urged Trump to stay in accord
“Pulling out of the Paris agreement is bad for business, plain and simple,” said Bob Keefe, executive director of Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), a nonpartisan group fo business leaders, investors and professionals from all sectors of the economy who advocate for pro-enviornmental policies. E2 sent a letter signed by 1,000 business leaders to Trump urging him not to axe the climate agreement. He notes that withdrawal from the Paris agreement could “cede clean energy opportunities to China, Germany and other countries, hurting U.S. companies and 3 million Americans who work in solar, wind, energy efficient and other sectors” also exclusing U.S. comapnise from an estimated $19 trillion in global clean energy opportunities and result in possible carbin tariffs on U.S. goods, a major blow to U.S. companies that do business overseas.
Political leaders split
Republican House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy praised the President’s action as “the right call.” Republican Senator James Inhofe of Okalahoma, an oil-rich state, also defended the decision as “necessary.”
But even some Republicans denounced Trump’s action. Rep. Vern Buchanan of Florida, a state threatened by rising seas, tweeted “Climate change is a serious issue.”
Former President Barack Obama stated, “The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and inudstrise created.”
John Kerry, Secretary of State during Obama’s administration, called Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. from the international climate accord “a self-destructive step that puts our nation last.
Miriam Raftery holds a bachelor's degree in Environmental Studies from the University of California. She studied under climate change experts and as a journalist, has interviewed some of the world's leading climate change scientists from Scripps Institute of Oceanography and universities in San Diego. She has won over 300 major journalism awards including international honors for environmental reporting, a national award from the Amercian Society of Journalists and Authors for community reporting, and top awards from Society of Professional Journalists and San Diego Press Club for invsetigative journalism and reporting that has made a positive impact, as well as the Sol Price Award for responsible journalism.