Sunday, June 4, 2017

We'll Always Have Paris

Of all the things that Donald Trump has done to make us weaker over the past 5 months, his withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord is the one that feels most like a betrayal.

Because it is.

His decision betrays common sense. The only reason to withdraw is because Trump and the rest of the conservative know-nothings simply don't believe that human activity has led to a rise in greenhouse gases and a dangerous warming of the planet. All of the discussion about whether Trump believes in climate change is moot. He doesn't have to say anything more about the subject. By throwing his lot with the deniers and hopelessly believing that coal and oil are the future of the country (and the world), he is overtly saying that we can continue to burn fossil fuels and nothing will happen to us. I guess he's chosen not to recall the terrible air and water pollution that plagued the country until the EPA and the Clean Air and water Acts were passed.

Yes, there are some small business owners who believe that climate regulations will hit them harder than the large corporations that oppose the president's (shudder) decision, But the Paris accord didn't force anybody to impose strict regulations on anyone. Of course, that's one of the main points of opposition from the right: if other countries could set their environmental bar low, it would mean that most of the regulations and sacrifices would have to be made by the major industrialized countries. And since the United States is the world's number 1 polluter (are you tired of winning yet?), we would need to regulate ourselves more. Of course, this is hogwash, and not a reason to pull the country out of the agreement.

The real damage in all of this is that by leaving the pact, the United States gives up a great deal of credibility and power. When the US signs an agreement, we need to abide by it, especially when every other country in the world, save for Nicaragua and Syria, is a signatory. Pulling out sends the message that we are no longer to be trusted.  Of course, most of the negative reactions by the rest of the world have been aimed at Trump himself. Most of the rest of the world knows that the majority of the country supports the science behind global climate change and sees Trump's decision as representing a minority view meant to appeal to his limited, and shrinking, support base.

And really, if you're another country, why would you renegotiate an accord that took years to come to fruition with a president who could step back from it at any time? And if Trump is only going to agree to deals that are advantageous to the US, why would any country agree to negotiate with him?

In the end, America First and isolation will only serve to highlight the selfish and short-sighted nature of the Trump administration. The United States needs to be a leader and a role model in this world. We need to call out dictators and leaders who abuse press freedoms and commit human rights abuses. Trump has sent the message that we will not be doing that to the extent that we have in the past. His is a transactional administration, which basically means that if you give us money, we'll pay attention to you, but if you don't, we won't honor our commitments as robustly as before.

This is terribly dangerous and can only lead to other powers, such as China and Russia, filling in the space that we should be occupying. And as China and India confront their pollution crises, which they will absolutely need to do, they will find that wind, solar and even nuclear power will be cheaper and healthier for their billions of people. Meanwhile, the administration is asking the country to go back to the 1950s when workplace safety requirements were few and polluted air and water was everywhere. Especially in Pittsburgh.

We've just taken two steps backward and none forward.

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