“How can America be great when our leaders ignore and deny the siege we are under by a rapidly changing climate? Today, President Trump has not only turned his back on wildlife, he has also abandoned any pretense of moral leadership in the world.”
-Jamie Rappaport, President & CEO, Defenders of Wildlife
On December 12, 2015, representatives from 196 nations around the world came together to make history by addressing the issue of climate change as a united, global force under the Paris Climate Agreement. The agreement was made, within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to set aside all differences, join forces and work together to put a halt to to the beeline that earth is on with a unprecedented increase in global temperatures that will overwhelm the earth not just with a warming climate, but with the consequences that come with it: melting ice sheets, sea level rise, an increase in extreme weather events, ocean acidification and severe drought.
While very modest, says Brian Deese, Former Senior Advisor to Barack Obama and one of the Primary Negotiators of the Paris Climate Agreement in an interview on Pod Save America, the agreement was “truly historic because it’s the first time in the history of the planet that every country actually came together, got over the existential fights about who is responsible for climate change and who should bear the burden and said, ‘We’re all going to do what we can and we’re going to work together to try to get it done’.”
The agreement is modest because, not only is it voluntary, it doesn’t set any strict requirements or stipulations on the entities involved. Rather, it is up to each country in agreement to develop its own commitment or, “nationally determined contribution” of climate targets and a plan of action. It submits the plan to independent review and verification, making relevant updates over time time. While the Paris agreement is certainly not the end-all fix, at least it’s a unifying initiation in taking serious steps to work toward a solution. Nevertheless, the agreement actually acknowledges that, even if every signatory country meets its current pledge for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the world is still expected to pass 2 degrees of warming, which is considered the goal (this is stated in the disturbing section of the accord document titled “Notes with concern.”) But hey, you gotta start somewhere and this sure is a good deal better than nothing.
As a country that is responsible for about one-fifth of global emissions and is the second largest emitter of planet-warming greenhouse gasses, the lax requirements of the accord seems like a pretty good deal for us. But to a hard-headed climate denier who is hell-bent on bringing back coal (despite even coal barons admitting it’s a thing of the past) and destroying anything Obama put in place throughout his presidency, this deal is something that *he* is staunchly against, proclaiming grandly as such in his announcement that he’s withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. His belief, aside from how uneducated he is on the subject, is that the Paris Agreement will result in job loss and would place “draconian” financial burdens on the American people, calling the accord “unfair at the highest level to the United States.”
“This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States.” -Donald Trump
Having reticently stepped aside with the onset of the new administration, despite Americans’ protests and feelings of abandonment, Former President Barack Obama finally spoke out in his first declaration of disapproval against the new president, lambasting Donald’s recent announcement:
“The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created,” he said in a statement. “I believe the United States of America should be at the front of the pack. But even in the absence of American leadership; even as this Administration joins a small handful of nations that reject the future; I’m confident that our states, cities, and businesses will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got.”
And he wasn’t the only one..
“It undermines America’s standing in the world and threatens to damage humanity’s ability to solve the climate crisis in time. But make no mistake: if President Trump won’t lead, the American people will.” -Al Gore
Businesses in the tech industry also spoke out against Trump’s decision: Social media giants Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg of Twitter and Facebook respectively, called out the president on his action, Zuckerberg stating the decision “bad for the environment, bad for the economy,” and said it “puts our children’s future at risk”. Apple and Google also publicized their disapproval, tweeting of their disappointment while pledging their companies’ support and commitment in the fight against climate change.
Other tech giant leaders, including Apple’s Tim Cook, Google’s Sundar Pichai and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, tweeted their disappointment and pledged their companies’ support for fighting climate change.
Chief executive of Tesla and SpaceX wrote in a tweet, “Am departing presidential councils. Climate Change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.” Both he and Disney CEO Robert A. Iger, both chief executives who sat on Mr. Trump’s economic advisory council, said they were leaving that group because they disagreed with the exit from the Paris agreement.
The night following Trump’s announcement, buildings across the United States and beyond lit up in green in a show of solidarity and commitment to action on climate change: The Empire State building, World Trade Center and City Hall in New York, the Wilson Building in Washington, Boston City Hall, Montreal City Hall and Paris City Hall. An echo of “we will not go quietly” comes to mind..
And with it the green glow of commitment, comes the call to action.
We’re good at protests, as we’ve found out again and again since that fateful inauguration day, which, at this point, seems many eons ago. But the call to action means more than loudly stating our opinion outside the White House, no matter whether he’s in there or not. This is when the action of our states come into play, because if the president won’t take lead the United States on climate change, it’s crucial that we do.
On Thursday, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York and Gov. Jerry Brown of California, all Democrats, announced the formation of a separate alliance of states committed to upholding the Paris accord, known as the United States Climate Alliance. It will act as a coalition to convene states within the US that are committed to uphold the Paris Climate Agreement and taking substantial and aggressive action on climate change.
“I am proud to stand with other governors as we make sure that the inaction in D.C. is met by an equal force of action from the states. While the president’s actions are a shameful rebuke to the work needed to protect our planet for our children and grandchildren, states have been and will continue to step up.”
-Washington State Governor Jay Inslee
“This administration is abdicating its leadership and taking a backseat to other countries in the global fight against climate change, 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.”
-New York Governor Andrew Cuomo
“The President has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion, I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy – not for America, not for anybody. If the President is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”
-California Governor Jerry Brown
Representing approximately 68 million people and over one-fifth of the nation’s GDP, New York, California and Washington plan to continue to carry out the U.S. goal of reducing emissions 26-28 percent from 2005 levels and meeting or exceeding the targets of the federal Clean Power Plan.
The U.S. Climate Alliance will also act as a forum “to sustain and strengthen existing climate programs, promote the sharing of information and best practices, and implement new programs to reduce carbon emissions from all sectors of the economy.”
So let’s not give up yet. Sometimes I like to look at Trump and think, “Hey, thanks for inciting the resistance!” Because, really, it’s just what we needed get irate, get off our butts and truly make a change in this world.
Tags: 2 degrees, al gore, barack obama, bernie sanders, climate accord, climate change, donald trump, hillary clinton, paris climate accord, paris climate agreement, pod save america, united states, US Climate Alliance