Since Trump reportedly waffled up to the last moment on the Paris agreement decision, we decided to show you what almost could have been. Here’s our story, written both ways.
US president Donald Trump announced today (June 1) he’s decided to keep withdraw the country in from the Paris climate agreement. The US emits about one-sixth of the planet’s total greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second-largest emitter in the world. The decision keeps removes the US
committed from its commitments to international efforts to reduce fossil-fuel emissions and thereby avoid levels of global temperature rise that imperil the future viability of human life on Earth.
The US narrowly missed joining joins Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries to reject the Paris agreement. Notably, Nicaragua refused to join because its leadership felt the agreement did not go far enough. Syria, meanwhile, has since 2011 been mired in one of the globe’s most violent civil conflicts.
Not leaving means Trump will have to respect the US’s commitments to reduce emissions. Trump will abide by the structure laid out in the agreement, which means it could take the US up to four years to actually leave. Polls show most Americans will be happy with the decision to stay; unhappy voters could elect a president in 2020 to do what Trump couldn’t. So the real question of whether the country stays in the Paris climate agreement may be decided by voters in 2020 the presidential election.
Trump, who reportedly was undecided as recently as last evening, ultimately listened to ignored the voices of energy industry giants like ExxonMobil and Shell, coal company Cloud Peak, and Rex Tillerson, his own secretary of state, not to mention some of his most trusted advisors, daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. He thus ignored instead listened to the climate-denying faction of his inner-circle, including Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt, chief strategist Steve Bannon, and a coterie of 22 Republican senators who sent a letter to the president urging him to back out. (Those senators have collectively received $10 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry since 2012.)
The pledge made by the Obama administration to the Paris agreement is was not legally binding, but symbolically important. It offers offered an assurance to other nations that the country would takes take responsibility for its own share of global emissions. Within weeks of Trump taking office, however, his administration began the process of rolling back key federal emissions standards, making clear that it had no intention of working towards meeting the US’s commitment to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 to about a third of the country’s 2005 emission levels.
With Without the US, the total number of countries that have formally pledged emissions reductions remains 147 drops to 146, in total accounting for roughly 80% 65% of the planet’s emissions. As the US maintains vacates its seat at the bargaining table, it has partners in it cedes climate leadership to India, China, and the EU, all of which have publicly pledged to strengthen their commitments to mutually reduce emissions. Still, unless Trump also stops his assault on domestic environmental policies without US participation during what scientists agree are critical years, the hope of avoiding dangerous levels of climate change slips farther away.