A dan­ger­ous cli­mate change

Los Angeles Times - - OPINION - ith

Whis an­nounce­ment Thurs­day that he will pull the coun­try out of the 2015 Paris cli­mate agree­ment, our petu­lant pres­i­dent has put the world on a path — po­ten­tially, but in­creas­ingly in­evitably — to ir­re­versible catas­tro­phe. The de­ci­sion ful­fills Don­ald J. Trump’s mis­guided cam­paign prom­ise to with­draw from the pact un­der which nearly 200 na­tions (led, at the time, by the U.S.) pledged to try to re­duce global warm­ing by cur­tail­ing green­house gas emis­sions.

Trump’s de­ci­sion, while ex­pected, is none­the­less stunning in its short-sight­ed­ness, its re­jec­tion of clear sci­ence, and its ut­ter dis­re­gard for the na­tion’s role as a world leader. To their credit, China and the Euro­pean Union are pledg­ing to con­tinue the fight against cli­mate change, a move that places them in a prime po­si­tion to reap the eco­nomic ben­e­fits of the fu­ture of re­new­able en­ergy. And al­though the ac­cord has no for­mal en­force­ment mech­a­nism, the U.S. could find it­self fac­ing car­bon-re­lated tar­iffs on ex­ports to the EU and coun­tries that keep their com­mit­ments. That’s a bad deal for Amer­i­can busi­nesses and their work­ers.

The fight to counter global warm­ing will be all the more dif­fi­cult with­out the U.S., which pumped more green­house gases into the at­mos­phere than any other na­tion — grow­ing rich in the process — and con­tin­ues to be the sec­ond-high­est an­nual emit­ter be­hind China.

This page has been ar­gu­ing since well be­fore the 2016 elec­tion that Trump is un­fit in de­meanor and back­ground to be pres­i­dent, and much to the na­tion’s detri­ment, he keeps prov­ing us right. In fact, what bet­ter proof that Trump is ir­re­spon­si­ble and reck­less, and that his poli­cies are de­press­ing, de­mor­al­iz­ing and scary, than this em­brace of fool­ish iso­la­tion­ism — and this dou­bling down on an en­ergy source that is in all like­li­hood go­ing to cause mas­sive dis­rup­tions in how hu­mans in­habit the planet. With­draw­ing from the Paris ac­cord may be the clear­est sign that Trump is not just re­treat­ing from decades of Amer­i­can lead­er­ship on the global stage, but that he is ac­tu­ally mak­ing the United States a force for bad and for wrong in the world.

Trump’s re­jec­tion of the agree­ment — over the ob­jec­tions of not just global po­lit­i­cal lead­ers and the pope but even of Exxon Mo­bil, for God’s sake — means this coun­try will not just cease to be part of the so­lu­tion to the prob­lem, but will put it­self squarely on the other side, bol­ster­ing the cred­i­bil­ity of the cli­mate-change de­niers, the anti-sci­ence huck­sters and the ir­re­spon­si­ble corporate cyn­ics. It will strike a pow­er­ful blow against the com­mon good from the coast of Cal­i­for­nia to the melt­ing per­mafrost of north­ern Alaska to the flood-prone low­lands along Amer­ica’s rivers to the hur­ri­cane-rav­aged com­mu­ni­ties along the Gulf of Mex­ico and the At­lantic Ocean. Glob­ally, it could set us on track to what cli­mate sci­en­tists agree will be in­ten­si­fied floods, famines and storms, ris­ing seas and mass mi­gra­tions fu­el­ing strife over wa­ter scarcity, de­clin­ing food pro­duc­tion and epi­demics.

Fur­ther, the de­ci­sion causes enor­mous in­jury to this coun­try’s rep­u­ta­tion and to its role in the world. It’s no­table that only two na­tions didn’t sign on to the Paris agree­ment. Nicaragua, to its credit, said no be­cause the agree­ment is non­bind­ing, and the goal of cap­ping emis­sions at 2 de­gree Cel­sius over pre-industrial lev­els is too low. It didn’t sign be­cause the deal wasn’t good enough, com­pared with Trump’s claim that it’s a “bad deal” for the U.S. The other non­signer is war­rav­aged Syria. And now Trump’s Amer­ica.

Get­ting out of the agree­ment will take time. The agree­ment went into ef­fect Nov. 4, 2016, and Trump said he will fol­low the pact’s pro­ce­dures for drop­ping out, which in­clude a ban on with­drawal by any na­tion for the first three years. So Trump can’t take the first for­mal step un­til Novem­ber 2019, and can’t with­draw the U.S. un­til a year later — just af­ter he pre­sum­ably stands for re­elec­tion.

That might seem like po­lit­i­cal breath­ing room, but Trump also said he would im­me­di­ately re­nege on Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion pledges to re­duce emis­sions, and would can­cel a promised $3-bil­lion con­tri­bu­tion to help poor na­tions de­velop sus­tain­able, rather than car­bon-based, en­ergy sources. And yet, bizarrely, Trump held out the pos­si­bil­ity of ne­go­ti­at­ing a new cli­mate agree­ment — as if the rest of the world might be wait­ing, breath­lessly, to see what new ideas he could bring to the ta­ble.

But Trump has lost his mo­ment. The world al­ready has a global agree­ment and more re­al­ity-based and re­spon­si­ble lead­ers to show the way. Let’s hope it’s not too late.

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