President Trump today announced his long-awaited decision on whether or not to honor the United States’ carbon reducing responsibilities laid out in the 2015 Paris Agreement (international climate agreement). In the agreement, the United States pledged to the international community that it would do its part to prevent catastrophic global warming. Today, President Trump reneged on this pledge as he signaled intent to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. With this act, President Trump has betrayed American interests, failed commitments to key U.S. allies, and abandoned our nation’s moral obligation to take responsibility for our actions.
Americans, by and large, support the U.S. staying in the Paris Agreement while very few advocate leaving the agreement. The Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, which has tracked American public opinion on climate change for over a decade, polled Americans just a few months ago and found that Americans favor the U.S. staying in the Paris Agreement by a 5-to-1 margin (and still a 2-to-1 margin among Republicans). Only 13 percent of Americans (and just 26 percent of Republicans) support leaving the Agreement. On the other hand, 69 percent of Americans and 51 percent of Republicans favor staying in the Agreement. Among Trump voters, only 28 percent favor leaving the Agreement, while 47 percent say we should keep participating. Furthermore, Trump voters, by a 3-to-1 margin, support taxing and/or regulating pollution that causes global warming (62 percent) vs. doing neither (21 percent).
Leaving the Agreement is very unpopular with the American business community as well. 630 major businesses sent a letter to Trump on the even of his inauguration, urging support for the Paris Agreement and for the U.S. to continue transitioning to a low-carbon economy, to boost American competitiveness, create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and reduce business risks. More than 1,000 businesses have now signed onto that letter, including economic giants and household names such as Campbell Soup, Kellogg, General Mills, Johnson & Johnson, Levi Strauss, Nike, Gap, Adidas, Hilton, DuPont, Dow Chemical, HP, REI, IKEA, L’Oreal, eBay, Mars, Staples, Starbucks, and Monsanto. Earlier this month, a handful of the largest companies in the U.S. took out full-page ads in the Wall Street Journal, and New York Times, urging President Trump to stay in the Agreement. Meanwhile 280 investors, who manage more than $17 trillion in assets, wrote a letter this month to urge implementation of the Paris Agreement. Even oil companies, including Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips, urged the president to stay in the Agreement.
Internationally, President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement ostracizes the United States from the rest of the world. When the U.S. signed onto the Paris Agreement, alongside every single country in the world except two, Americans signaled that we would begin to take at least some responsibility for our significant contributions to past and current climate pollution levels, all of which contribute to climate change. The U.S. is among the top per capita polluters in the world, and has emitted more total climate pollution over the course of modern history than any other country. Our industrialization has fostered immense economic growth and prosperity, even as it set the stage for the climate change we are beginning to experience. As such, we must take responsibility for our past and current pollution with positive policy actions. Meanwhile, many lesser developed nations with large coastal populations are facing catastrophic sea level rise even though they contribute minuscule amounts of carbon pollution. The United States has a moral obligation to take responsibility for its pollution, work cooperatively with almost every other country around the globe, and prevent worst case scenarios from befalling its own citizens as well as those around the world.
Not only does pulling out of the Agreement constitute a moral failure to vulnerable lesser developed countries, but it also jeopardizes U.S. credibility with key allies. For example, after disappointing discussions about climate change with President Trump at the G7 summit in Italy last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that the E.U. can no longer rely on the U.S. as they previously had.
By leaving the Paris Agreement, President Trump is demonstrating that he is out of touch with the majority of American voters – even a majority of his own – as well as the broader interests of American citizens and businesses, and nations around the world. Fortunately for everyone, progress on clean energy will proceed in the United States and globally without President Trump’s backwards rhetoric. American opinion strongly backs the development of renewable energy (73 percent support) over fossil fuel energy (21 percent support). Businesses and investors understand that the best economic prospects are in renewables, and as such renewable energy is receiving twice as much investment as fossil fuels. Likewise, 63 percent of Fortune 100 and 48 percent of Fortune 500 companies have climate or clean energy goals. Solar and wind power are now often the least expensive sources of new power generation, beating natural gas and coal. While President Trump’s decision on the Paris Agreement is careless and reckless, our transition to a clean energy economy can’t be stopped simply with hollow rhetoric.