In the light of recent decisions on the part of the current U.S. government, it feels more than appropriate – more of a necessity – to focus on the issue of climate change in relation to the current social, economic and political discourse of the United States.
On the 7th June, President Trump announced that the United States are pulling out of the Paris Agreement in what he called a “reassertion of America’s sovereignty”. A reassertion indeed, but a selfish one which will have consequences for the entire world; a mistake, something that even the endless charm and charisma of Leonardo di Caprio could not prevent. Considering what’s at stake, should temperatures continue to rise and pollution levels remain as harmful as they are, it seems to be a relatively easy choice to abide by the rules of the Paris Agreement. Yet here we are looking at one of the world’s superpowers, and largest contributors to the effect of climate change, as they remove themselves from a historic and vital agreement on how to combat an international issue. Must the entire world face the consequences of the U.S. government’s ignorance and pride?
It is an action that embodies Trump’s isolationist approach to foreign policy. Believing the U.S. is better off alone under its own terms with the advantage of making decisions that best serve the country’s individual needs, may make sense for some aspects of American policies, but not this. Not only does it make more sense for the U.S. to remain close to its allies for economic and security purposes, it is also important to remember that the current climate crisis is a universal issue that should be approached in a unified way. All countries will face repercussions and so tackling the issue together is not only preferable, but necessary; all countries must abide by certain rules that the Paris Agreement lays out in order to have even a small chance of reversing the effects that are already in motion. Not only is Trump’s action selfish, it is a severe overestimation of the way the rest of the world views America. Trump’s belief that the U.S. can re-enter the agreement under more favourable terms suggests they are some kind of grand exception to everyone else. This is the wrong time to choose to be arrogant.
Pulling out of the agreement is also a major indication of Trump’s stance on climate change. Obviously he does not think it is as serious as scientists have extensively proven it to be. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but this is more than just a theory and there’s a strong difference between having an opinion and being ignorant. Claiming global warming is a hoax created by China not only shows his inability to be a leader of the free world, but is also a red flag that foreshadows how the current administration will tackle climate change over the next four years. During such a significant period in the effort to combat the rising temperatures, the world’s second largest contributor of carbon emissions is denying their own mistakes and its existence entirely. But this is not a solo endeavour on his part. Trump has appointed a number of key figures into positions of power who share his view of climate change. Alone, he may not have such an extensive influence upon the issue, but he has spread those in denial across his administration. Vice President Mike Pence has revealed that global warming is not a priority for the President and his cabinet. A stand out figure among the climate change deniers surrounding Trump is Scott Pruitt, who was appointed head of the Environmental Protection Agency, a move practically drowning in its own irony. Mazin Sidahmed, a reporter for the Guardian, states that Pruitt has close links to the fossil fuel industry, a major contributor to carbon emissions, although Pruitt himself does not believe that carbon dioxide “is a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
Although Trump claims that being part of the agreement is an economic disadvantage, Sweden has proved otherwise. Two spokespeople on these issues, Nina Ekelund and Isabella Lovin, demonstrate the link between climate action and economic growth by stating that more and more companies are seeing the potential profit in looking to reduce their environmental impact by turning supposed risks into opportunities. For example, Sweden has the world’s highest carbon tax and an extremely strict climate policy, yet Swedish companies have “retained and reinforced their international competitiveness.” More importantly, emissions have decreased by 25%, while GDP has increased by 69%. Ultimately, “companies with a focus on sustainability perform better and have a higher market value than other companies.” This is proof that a shift in focus to green energy can benefit the U.S. in terms of its economic growth and welfare. A further investment in renewables will also provide job opportunities as well as benefitting the environment.
Michael Greshko from National Geographic claims that the decision could make the U.S. an international pariah as it may also affect international cooperation in areas other than just climate change; U.S. foreign relations could be affected on a much broader scale. This is relatively understandable – why would the rest of the world want to align themselves with a nation who selfishly tried to determine the fate of the entire world based on their own preferences. The United States’ chief negotiator at the Paris Agreement, Todd Stern, emphasises that the exit reads “as a kind of ‘drop dead’ to the rest of the world”. Even current U.S. officials state that “ignorance and ideology won out over science and common sense”; which is pretty much the tagline for Trump’s presidential run thus far.
In spite of all this, it must be noted that the decision does not represent the U.S. as a whole and individual states are subsequently taking action in the form of what Nina Golgowski, a reporter at the Huffington Post, has called a ‘climate rebellion’. Hawaii has become the first state to take action by officially adopting the Paris Climate Accord. They have passed two bills which commit to expanding methods to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across the state. Governor David Ige stated “climate change is real, regardless of what others say.” This speaks volumes about the extent to which the current government is successfully representing the beliefs of the United States as a whole, particularly within states who are now choosing to act on their own interests. This has led to the formation of the U.S. Climate Alliance, in which multiple states have committed to the same principles as Hawaii and the Paris Agreement, even if they are not officially a part of it.
Amidst an international crisis, the United States have chosen to distance themselves from the rest of the world. Whatever motivated this move, it was certainly not for the welfare of the environment as Trump emphasised when he claimed the agreement is “less about the climate and more about other countries gaining financial advantage over the U.S.” This entire situation is a drastic misinterpretation and underestimation of the severity of global warming. For an agreement that has stakes which transcend the infrastructures and political positions of any country, the U.S. has still taken it to be about politics and economic prowess rather than the future of the environment and the human race. As to whether a group of politicians, or businessmen, should have such a strong voice in the world of science calls into question how far their influence and control should stretch; in other words, should someone with no experience, training or even education within a very specialist field, be elected to make international-based decisions on behalf of said field? In the case of the U.S., it has already been proven that experience, credibility and occupation are of little concern in job allocations.
Once again, the U.S. becomes a mockery as Trump continues to tear the nation’s credibility to shreds. The rest of the world is not going to standby and wait for him to put his golf clubs down and see the light at the end of the tunnel. There just isn’t time. As for those willing to cooperate in the ‘do-or-die mission’ to save the world, it’s all about trying to #MaketheWorldGreatAgain in the hope we have not yet surpassed the point of no return. As Leo said:
“The world is watching. You will either be lauded by future generations, or vilified by them.”