America Deserves Better

Why Leaving the Paris Agreement Was the Right Decision 

Dani Fauzi

Opposing Opinions

Photo: The American Tribune

Another Step Backwards

Why Leaving the Paris Agreement Was a Huge Mistake

Martin Werner

July 8th, 2017


Donald Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris Agreement was condemned by environmentalists worldwide as a step backwards in the interest of environmental health. However, the Paris Agreement only marginally served to protect the interests of environmental health. It was non-binding, and no repercussions existed for nations that failed to meet the agreed-upon goals for reduction. Worst of all, even if all nations abide by the agreements set forth in the accords, by the year 2100 there will only have been a 0.3 degree Fahrenheit reduction in temperature.

 

Trump backed his decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement by reasoning that the agreement sacrificed the economic needs of the United States for too little environmental reward. Trump’s main points criticizing the Paris Agreement were that the agreement was far too costly and unfair for the United States and that the agreement would only produce negligible positive results. According to president Trump’s talking points, the Paris agreement would end up costing American taxpayers $3 trillion, with other nations shouldering a far smaller burden. Though 196 nations were present at the accords, the United States would have ended up paying a third of the agreement’s cost. Other climate change actions in the past have also cost America a disproportionate amount of money, Trump pointed out: the Green Climate Fund, has already drained $1 billion in taxpayer funds to support energy projects in foreign nations. Trump also announced a decision to reduce funding to the Green Climate Fund, affirming his campaign promises to put American development first.

 

Not only is the cost of the Paris Agreement to the United States too high, a loss of jobs as a result of regulations is unfair to Americans. 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025, according to the National Economic Research Associates, are not what the already-struggling American middle class needs. 440,000 jobs would be lost in the field of manufacturing, a workfield that is already declining.

 

The Clean Power Plan is an Obama-era policy that set guidelines for states’ reduction of carbon emissions in line with the Paris Agreement and encouraged an investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency, nuclear power, and a transition away from coal-fired power. President Trump signed an executive order in March calling for a review of Obama’s policies, including this plan. It is true that eventually, we must replace non-renewable sources of energy, like coal, but the Clean Power Act proposes changes that many regions are unprepared for. Regions and states throughout the United States vary in their technological and economic readiness to adopt renewable energy, and have not yet considered how to address workers displaced by such a shift in energy sources.

 

According to Trump, the United States is already a leader in renewable energy and greenhouse gas reduction. This is due to America’s tradition of private sector innovation, which would only be hampered by more regulation and taxation. President Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement is a choice of innovation over regulation in order to limit climate change.

 

Finally, President Trump’s decision to pull out of the current Paris Agreement was not a full repudiation of action to protect against against climate change or the Paris Agreement. In his remarks condemning the Paris Agreement, President Trump announced that he looked forward to “begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or really entirely new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States….” These words are a clear sign that Trump is not entirely against climate protections, but is actually open to climate protection agreements that would be more fair to his American constituency.

 

American taxpayers deserve better than a deal that was poised to limit our nation’s economic growth, raise energy costs for families nation-wide, and stymie job production with little expected benefits to the environment. Obviously, we must look to the future to preserve America’s resources for future generations, but the quality of life for Americans in the present must also be considered.

 

On Thursday, June 1st, 2017, Donald Trump made the United States the first country to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Trump saw the agreement as economically unfair towards the United States, but his claim is far from reality. Leaving the Paris Agreement was a terrible decision for the United States and the world, economically and environmentally.

 

In his address, Trump painted the agreement as an attack on United States economics, saying that the agreement prohibited the U.S. from building coal plants while encouraging other countries, like China and India, to continue. This, however, is blatantly false, as the Paris Agreement does not restrict coal production in any country; under the agreement, each country individually sets its own goals to combat climate change and its effects. The United States was not obligated to reduce any coal production, and contrary to Trump’s assertions, China has begun to actively reduce its number of coal plants.

 

Trump’s argument also used coal as the basis of economic power, but this is misleading. Coal is quickly becoming obsolete; as the world moves towards it, renewable energy is becoming cheaper. The world is becoming more aware of climate change and the finite nature of non-renewable resources. China, a developing country, has already surpassed the United States in both solar and wind energy. Many businesses in the United States also support renewable energy, as they realize that staying with coal is not the answer.

 

Coal is also dirtier, and its continued use as supported by Trump will only further the effects of climate change. On Thursday, Trump assured the country that it would remain the world’s leader on environmental issues, but by withdrawing from this agreement and supporting coal, Trump has ensured the United States’ failure as a future leader in renewable energy.

 

One of the only other countries to not be a part of the Paris Agreement is Nicaragua, a country that only disagreed because it felt the agreement was not effective enough. Nicaragua, while not signing the agreement, set even more ambitious goals for itself. The United States’ withdrawal can not be compared to this country, as under the current administration, such goals will surely not be set, and as previously explained, the United States will surely now fall far behind when it comes to the environment. Various governors and businesses have expressed intent to continue to follow the agreement, including the mayor of Pittsburgh, but this is not enough. For the United States to recover from this withdrawal, the whole country must do so together.

 

Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement also sends a strong message to the rest of the world. First of all, one of the most powerful countries in the world withdrawing from an international agreement weakens its legitimacy. Second of all, experts on international diplomacy warn that “the U.S. withdrawal also threatens to undermine international cooperation with the U.S. on issues unrelated to climate change.” With various world leaders disparaging the decision, Trump has isolated the United States.

 

If it seems like only one country withdrawing from the agreement is not a big deal, think again; it’s a big deal when said country is the United States. One of the richest countries in the world, the United States is also the world’s largest historical emitter of carbon dioxide. Without this country’s unified help in the fight, the challenge becomes much bigger than before.

 

So withdrawing from the agreement is neither beneficial for the economy, nor the environment. But Trump did express intent to renegotiate the United States into the Paris Agreement, as long as it was more fair in his eyes. Still, various world leaders that are still a part of the agreement have asserted that it cannot be renegotiated. In his speech, Trump said, “if we can’t [renegotiate], that’s fine.” Evidently, we can’t—and it’s not fine.

 

As Nicaragua has shown, the Paris Agreement alone may not be enough to end climate change. But end it we must, and the world needs to take a first step towards fighting it together. The Paris Agreement was this first step, and by withdrawing the United States, Donald Trump has taken a much larger step in the other direction.