No laid-off coal miners will get their jobs back if President Trump pulls the United States from the Paris accord on climate change. No extra oil rigs will sprout in the Gulf. There is no employment upside to an "America First" retreat from global leadership on one of the few issues that can accurately be described as a potentially existential threat to humankind.
There is only the profound immorality of abdication — of gleefully passing a mounting problem on to our children, and on to the poor.
Reports suggest Trump is set to fulfill a campaign promise and withdraw the US from the agreement, which aims to put the world on a path to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius. Trump tweeted on Wednesday that he will announce a decision soon; when he makes it, he will almost certainly cast the departure in terms of job growth, particularly for the coal industry.
@realDonaldTrump: I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
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There is no evidence, though, to suggest the Paris deal is holding back coal or any other industry in America today. Trump's position amounts to nothing more than a dollop of false hope for downtrodden coal communities, in exchange for a ton of additional risk heaped on everyone, particularly the poorest people in the world.
As more carbon accumulates in the atmosphere, and global average temperatures continue to rise, the odds of calamitous future environmental outcomes increase. Swamped cities, scorched crops, pandemics — nothing you would wish upon your children, or anyone else's
"It is a decision made for domestic political purposes that puts the livelihood and lives of millions of people in developing countries at risk," says Trevor Houser, a former climate negotiator for President Barack Obama who is now a partner with the Rhodium Group. "This is a craven, symbolic political move without any direct benefits for the constituents he's targeting."
The Paris agreement is only a step toward the reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions that scientists roundly agree is necessary in order to reduce the most catastrophic risks of climate change. But it is a crucial step, won through years of diplomatic grunt work, including a sustained effort to rebuild American climate credibility that had been torched by the Bush administration.