Willson: Local efforts to uphold Paris Agreement are nothing without federal support

Lauren Willson

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board.

On June 1st, President Trump announced the U.S. would leave the Paris Agreement. Trump’s move is one of many supposedly made in support of his campaign promise to put “America first,” even if that means neglecting the planet as a whole.

Ad

In response, many U.S. cities have pledged sustainability efforts. Fort Collins mayor Wade Troxell released a press statement asserting that the city will continue striving to meet goals outlined in its Climate Action Plan (e.g. carbon neutrality by 2050).

Although admirable, it is unlikely these local efforts will elicit the same level of change.Change must be achieved through national cohesion and federal commitment.

The U.S. is the second largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, out-polluted only by China. The U.S. could have acted as a strong leading force for other nations in pursuit of sustainability if included in the plan.

Yet, Trump believed Paris was a “draconian” deal, stating he was going to negotiate a better one. Other nations such as France and Italy soon responded that the accord was not open to further debate. This is a confusing given that Paris is inherently nonbinding: specific pledges of emission reduction are voluntary.

Why Trump believed Paris to be a “bad” deal is really quite baffling, Overall, Trump’s logic—or lack thereof—behind withdrawing appears to have little soundness.

First, Trump believes the agreement would bind the U.S. to supporting strict environmental policy, which we already know to be false. So he incorrectly feared that his administration’s ecological policy would be threatened.

Secondly, Trump emphasized job losses and hindered economic growth as cons of the climate accord. He cited a report by the National Economic Research Associates that estimated joining the Paris Agreement would result in 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025. The report, however, has been criticized, not just by environmentalists but economists as well.

According to the World Resources Institute, the job losses were calculated under the assumption that the industrial sector would be the only domain to reduce emissions. This placed a disproportionate burden on the field and produced inaccurately high job losses. WRI also pointed out that NERA failed to account for clean energy innovation, an expanding sphere that has and will continue to produce work opportunities.

A third reason for Trumps withdrawal may have been his unfounded skepticism over scientific consensus. A crowning example: Trump infamously tweeted about China fabricating global warming as a hoax to deter American manufacturing, a claim that most third-graders could recognize as laughable.

Trump also seems to misunderstand that climate change affects both extremes of the thermal spectrum, tweeting in 2014, “This…GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop. Our planet is freezing, record low temps…scientists are stuck in ice.”

Ad

A final explanation for leaving Paris can be found in Trump’s past critiques of participation in global treaties and pacts.

In 2016, Trump stated that NATO was “obsolete” due to diminished Russian threats, its lack of emphasis on counterterrorism, and the financial burden of the organization. Since NATO’s priorities didn’t exactly align with his own, he lost interest in the alliance.

Perhaps the strongest argument for withdrawal is that Trump sees the development of renewable energy as a poor investment. He appears interested solely in reviving a dying coal industry. Since Trump sees no immediate national gain (read: money) in the agreement—other than saving the air, land and water that we need to live—he dismissed it as unimportant.

Trump claims he is putting “America first,” but the line between domestic prioritization and isolationism seems to be getting blurry. The more we close off other nations, the more we shut our doors to progressive ideas and innovations. In hubristic fashion, Trump asserts the U.S. will be just fine at managing its environment without an international alliance with which to communicate and work.

Unfortunately, this won’t be possible because climate change is literally a global issue.

Environmental trends are not limited to the confines of America’s borders, which is why participation in the Paris Agreement was so crucial, and supported by so many. A study by Yale University found that 69% of registered voters (representative of all political affiliations) approved of joining the accord.

Politics aside, there is overwhelming scientific consensus that climate change is occurring on a worldwide scale and humans are a contributing factor. Climate change has already raised sea levels, eroded arctic ecosystems, and exacerbated the intensity of natural phenomena like hurricanes and heat waves. Moreover, the cost of living will rise as it becomes increasingly difficult to reside on a dying planet.

Perhaps when the smog in Mar-a-Lago blocks his views of rising ocean waters, the President will finally reconsider. Until then, Trump has ensured that it will be “America Last” in the race for a better future.

Lauren Willson can be reached at letters@collegian and online at @LaurenKealani