Donald Trump has declared the US will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement – leaving behind 194 countries to join Syria and Nicaragua (which didn’t sign because the accord didn’t go far enough) as the only countries not to pledge cooperation in meeting this existential crisis. There needs to be repercussions, within the US and from outside.
It isn’t enough to upend NATO and the United Nations. Trump has to flip the bird on the entire planet. Why? Because he can. Because he is an arrogant fool; a little man who gets orgasmic pleasure out of being able to bully the whole world.
But he is supported by Mike Pence, Scott Pruitt and most Republicans. How has it happened that Climate Change has become a test of tribal membership?
Because climate change is a stand -in for preserving the power of the status quo (the Elites as Trumpers would mock). And in a society where cash is equivalent to political power, there is desperation to keep profit on one side of the ledger.
The rise of Silicon Valley during the Clinton era disrupted the Old World fossil-fueled industrial-military complex. We even renamed our époque, displacing the Industrial Age with a new label, the Information Age and now The Digital Age.
It wasn’t just the economic transition that was feared, Climate Change – like the Information Age – was a move toward globalization (underpinning Obama foreign policy), threatening to undermine tribal controls and nationalism. In contrast, Trump’s “America First” doctrine is founded on the notion that the world is a giant arena of competing nations, with winners and losers – evoking the image of the Roman Colosseum where gladiators battled to the death.
Indeed, Trump justified withdrawing from the Paris Accord not because he challenged climate science, but on bogus claims that it threatened “sovereignty” and would weaken the US economy in order to give advantage to China and India (“They are laughing at us”). These are demonstrable lies: the Paris Accord is voluntary, nations came up with their own plan to meet their own targets, there are no penalties or enforcement mechanism.
As for the lie about hurting the economy: the US has the strongest economy on the planet – growing a steady 2% is decent for a mature economy , adding 11 million jobs under Obama with the fastest growth (to 9.8 million) in clean energy jobs (growing at 10 times the rate in the economy and 2.5 times the number of fossil fuel jobs); you can look at the renaissance inPittsburghfrom a steel town to a green city where 80% voted for Clinton (“I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump ridiculously declared.)
But what is the real fear?
Adherents of Climate Action have a sense of being a citizen of the world with a greater responsibility beyond one’s own national interest, undermining the national government’s authority and control – the direct opposite of Trump’s “America First” doctrine. International cooperation is essential to solve this existential crisis facing the planet.
But the United States has a unique responsibility – we arethe biggest carbon polluter in history, generating 4 times greenhouse gas-emissions per person than China, a country with 4x the population, and 10x India, and disproportionately responsible for the damage done to coastal communities and island nations, for famine-stricken Africa and cyclone-battered Philippines, as much as flooded Louisiana and scorched California.
Climate Action also requires that “sustainability” be factored in as a cost of doing business – which means, at least initially, a slight cut into shareholder profits until the technology and use thresholds turn in favor of clean-renewable energy sources and conservation. But shareholders don’t actually get “profits” from the companies –the extra cash is used to pay for lobbyists and to fund campaigns for or against politicians.
Climate activists – the new gen Environmentalists – are seen as communal, as in “communist” or “socialist” and a threat to capitalism, the same source of antagonism to single-payer health care.
Moreover, a citizen of the world is more accepting of diverse cultures, religions, and personal persuasions. Their openness to cultural differences and open-mindedness makes them a threat to evangelicals and orthodox religionists as well as authoritarian nationalists.
That is basis for common cause between the Religious Right and Capitalists going back to the 1960s (coinciding with the birth of the Environmental, Anti-War, Civil Rights and Women’s Rights movements, all upending the power structure).
Pulling out of Paris may be more symbolic action – a gigantic middle finger to the world, and heaven help us if other countries use it as an excuse to abandon their commitments – but what Trump is actually doing is more harmful by reversing all the policies and programs that Obama had in place that enabled the US to reduce its carbon emissions to 1990s levels.
Trump, in attempting to “soften” the blow of rejecting the Paris Accord, asserted that the US has already reduced its carbon emissions to 1990s level. But that is solely due to Obama policies, regulations and programs including incentives to create clean renewable energy industry, that Trump is aggressively overturning with vengeance. For example, he is giving a free pass to coal companies to dump waste into streams, reversing the Clean Power Plan (which allowed states to come up with their own standards to comply with the goals), overturning protections in marine sanctuaries and national monuments to allow drilling and mining. His budget ends investments and tax credits to develop clean, renewable energy, as well as funding for the EPA.
Instead of the US being a global leader, as under Obama, Trump is turning the US into a pariah. And the US would deserve it.
Trump said that “the world is laughing at us” – more of a symptom of his psychosis – but now, Putin and China are in fact laughing. China now has opening to be the world leader while Russia is ecstatic over America’s retreat from moral leadership – what country would trust any “deal” with the US?
But the damage to the US economy, to public health, to infrastructure, to the nation’s ability to innovate by tying us to a dirty, destructive and finite fossil fuel, forcing American families to pay through their noses for expensive fossil fuels and repair the damage caused by climate catastrophes, not to mention the threats to national security because of increased conflict and deprivation (200 million climate refugees) will also weaken this nation. Rome comes to mind.
What’s to be done?
Every signatory to the Paris Accord should impose tariff or carbon fees on US imports.
Those millions who marched and now feel like frustrated, forgotten fools must continue to march, rally, protest not at the White House but at local Congressional offices; vote out politicians who don’t support Climate Action.
Consumers need to seek out companies that practice sustainability and overtly reject those that don’t. Use social media to promote or pan.
Investors need to divest of stocks in companies that reject sustainability; instead invest in bonds that build such things as water treatment plants, clean-energy utilities.
Support organizations like the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC.org),Environmental Defense Fund (EDF.org), League of Conservation Voters (LCV.org),the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth (foe.org) which variously are suing the Trump Administration, as well as local, grassroots organizationslike Reach Out America (reachout-america.com) and Citizens Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org) which has local chapters.
Thankfully,states and localitiesare taking matters into their own hands. The Climate Revolution will continue, against our own federal government.
California Governor Jerry Brown, New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo and Washington State are holding fast to their goal of transitioning to clean, renewable energy, forming the United States Climate Alliance (which so far also includesConnecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont and Virginia)and together with cities like New York City and Atlanta (accounting for 30% of the world’s economy), will keep the US from going into a fossil fueled abyss.
“The White House’s reckless decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement has devastating repercussions not only for the United States, but for our planet. This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change,” Governor Cuomo said. “New York State is committed to meeting the standards set forth in the Paris Accord regardless of Washington’s irresponsible actions. We will not ignore the science and reality of climate change which is why I am also signing an Executive Order confirming New York’s leadership role in protecting our citizens, our environment, and our planet.”
“Climate change presents the greatest threat humankind has ever known,” stated Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA). “We simply cannot afford to let this president unravel the progress on climate change we’ve made as a nation and a global community. Retreating from the global climate effort would damage our diplomatic credibility, set the U.S. further behind in the clean energy movement and devastate countless communities and ecosystems in the United States. Once again, the recklessness and ignorance of this president have dealt an irreparable blow to our planet and American leadership.”
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement is an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace,” stated Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt). “At this moment, when climate change is already causing devastating harm around the world, we do not have the moral right to turn our backs on efforts to preserve this planet for future generations.
“The United States must play a leading role in the global campaign to stop climate change and transition rapidly away from fossil fuels to renewable and more efficient sources of energy. We must do this with or without the support of Donald Trump and the fossil fuel industry.”