President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement has been portrayed in some press coverage as a decision driven by either his personal idiosyncrasies or the policy agenda of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. And while there's an element of truth to that, it misses the big picture.
The reality is that this isn't just a story about Trump — it's a story about the Republican Party and the conservative movement, which has adopted a rock-solid, widespread consensus in opposition to any serious action aimed at the US reducing carbon emissions. This has become a bedrock belief of the modern GOP.
While we can't know if any other Republican president elected in 2016 would have for sure withdrawn from the Paris agreement, many institutional actors within the GOP and the conservative movement — from members of Congress (including the Senate majority leader) to think tanks to activist groups to media outlets to conservative donors (including many with fossil fuel wealth) — strongly support this move and have in fact been urging Trump to make it.
Furthermore, even leading Republicans who might have supported sticking to the Paris deal — it is, after all, non-binding — would have likely supported an agenda of weakening environmental regulations and taken little if any action aimed at reducing carbon emissions.
The party simply does not believe climate change is a serious problem. The talking points differ: Some deny humans are causing the planet to warm at all and say the very idea is a liberal hoax (their number includes President Trump). More nuanced pundits and politicians acknowledge that the science is real, but argue that even if it is accurate, the consequences might not be so bad, or that action would simply be too costly.
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But beyond a few notable exceptions, the upshot is generally the same no matter where someone sits in the GOP: that addressing climate change shouldn't be anywhere near the top of the president's agenda. This is the consensus that the vast majority of the Republican Party, from donors to politicians to intellectuals to voters, has arrived at. Which makes it the crucial context for Trump's move Thursday.