More than a week into the transition into Donald Trump’s presidential administration, we don’t know which of his campaign promises he will actually keep, and which ones will be tossed out the window. On the environment, we know that he’s getting his advice from some dangerous people, including the climate-change denier Myron Ebell, who’s been tapped to help fill top jobs at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. That’s a terrible sign, but it tells us little about how far Trump can actually take his campaign promises to bring back coal, our dirtiest fuel, or to take a dim view of measures that would reduce greenhouse-gas pollution.
Indeed, resistance to the centerpiece of what one might call his anti-environmental agenda — to “cancel” the Paris climate accord that was signed earlier this year by President Obama — is gaining some expected traction. One of America’s best known conservative voices — the Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly — has said that pulling out of the deal would be a waste of time and political energy, while the world’s biggest oil company, ExxonMobil, now says that it supports the deal.
Why is pulling out of the Paris accord such a terrible idea? ThinkProgress has a pretty good rundown on the massive possible consequences of Trump’s campaign proposal:
Since the United States was a leader in making Paris happen, when the country pulls out (and then works to kill climate action at home and abroad), it will suddenly become a global pariah. Think of the sanctions against Putin’s Russia — or, think about a massive, global boycott, like the one against apartheid South Africa, times 10.
Consider how a United States exit will look.
The world will rightly blame the United States for destroying humanity’s last, best hope to avoid catastrophic warming. We will be blamed for the multiple ever-worsening catastrophic climate impacts that befall the planet in the coming years (and decades and beyond). And why not? We’re the richest country and the biggest cumulative carbon polluter, and the pledge we made for Paris was just about the weakest we could offer. And now we aren’t even going to do that.
There’s another aspect of this that very few people have mentioned, which is that Trump’s reckless idea could spark a devastating trade war:
On Sunday, former French president Nicolas Sarkozy (2007–2012) saidEurope should “adopt a carbon tax at the borders of Europe, a tax of 1 to 3 percent for all products that come from the United States.” The center-right Sarkozy, who is running to get his old job back, explained, “We cannot find ourselves in a situation where our businesses have [environmental] obligations but where we continue to import products from countries that meet none of those obligations.”
If that happened, it’s not too hard to imagine the response of the president-elect?—?who has already threatened to put tariffs on a great many foreign countries. The United States will lose all of its so-called “soft power” as the world’s “indispensable nation” goes rogue.
That means any effort Trump makes to keep his commitment to be tough on other countries on trade will find zero support around the world. Indeed, a more plausible response would be for the world to treat us like Russia, Iran or apartheid South Africa.
There’s another issue here, which is that the Paris deal was constructed in a fashion that it’s very complicated, logistically, to withdraw from. But the more important point is that blowing up this international agreement is a terrible idea. Aside from the moral failing of harming the world’s environment, evidence is mounting that killing the climate deal would strangle the U.S. economy as well. Thus, it would hurt the very base of voters — working-class families in America’s Rust Belt — who elected Trump in the first place. If the president-elect is looking to bring his administration closer to reality, saving Paris would be the perfect place to start.
Read more about Trump and the Paris climate accord from ThinkProgress: https://thinkprogress.org/pariah-nation-when-trump-exits-paris-climate-fe8c6884b654#.3ld76duwt
Learn more about the need for worldwide action on fossil fuels in my new book, Crude Justice: How I Fought Big Oil and Won, and What You Should Know About the New Environmental Attack on America: http://shop.benbellabooks.com/crude-justice
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