Commentary

Stimson Statements: Trump Withdraws from Paris Climate Agreement

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In light of President Trump’s announcement that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, experts from the nonpartisan Stimson Center released the following statements:

“The Trump withdrawal from the Paris accord was to be expected, given the campaign rhetoric and the obdurate opposition of Scott Pruitt to continued U.S. participation. It is regrettable. But it may actually be better than the alternative. The Trump administration could easily do within a climate agreement what it is currently doing with the Affordable Care Act — undermining it from within. Were the administration to have stayed in the Paris agreement, it could have had its “climate change” cake and eaten it, too: look like it was supporting efforts to reduce human impact on global warming, while using the voluntary nature of the agreement, stripping U.S. policies and institutions that would have enforced the terms of the agreement. Withdrawal makes the outcome and responsibility more clear and hands climate change leadership responsibilities to China and the Europeans — further evidence of the “rebalancing” of the international order in response to ‘America First.’” 
Gordon Adams, Distinguished Fellow, Stimson Center

“President Donald Trump is doing grave harm to the planet by rolling back regulations put in place by previous administrations to slow the pace of climate change. His past — and likely future national actions — will harm the health of Americans now living and threaten the lives of future generations. By withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, Trump will do less harm to the planet than to America’s standing in the world. Most nations, and most people in all nations, recognize the grave threat to the planet posed by global warming. They are experiencing its effects already — in more violent storms, the degradation of coral reefs, the erosion of coast lines, and the spread of tropical diseases, among others. Most other nations will continue to abide by the Paris accord, regardless of Trump’s actions. It will be a boon for China’s leadership and position in the world. And it will further harm U.S. relations with democratic nations and enlightened populations throughout the globe. ” 
Barry Blechman, Co-founder, Stimson Center

“Forget clean air and global warming, by pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, President Trump will miss the opportunity to have the United States lead in new energy technology development — and new jobs. The U.S. is one of the largest energy consumers in the world, and many states like Texas, Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s home state, have invested heavily and successfully in alternatives. The Department of Defense, the federal government’s single biggest energy user, has been seeking broad energy security — including through investments in alternative energy technology. The U.S. withdrawal will affect jobs in these industries and U.S. leadership in new technologies.” 
Debra Decker, Senior Advisor; WMD, Nonproliferation, and Security Program; Stimson Center

“The Paris agreement represents a basic test of the international community’s ability to forge consensus around even the most modest steps to address one of Earth’s most pressing challenges. U.S. withdrawal from the agreement would not only undermine multilateral cooperation to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, but it would send the wrong message about our commitment to global leadership and the preservation of our planet.” 
Brian Finlay, President and CEO, Stimson Center

“This is what happens when a man devoted to real estate development and gold plating is entrusted with decisions that bear on the health and well-being of planet Earth. Science lays out in patient and painful detail the folly of this decision.” 
— Michael Krepon, Co-founder, Stimson Center 

“Yesterday, the president’s top national security and economic advisors wrote that “America First Doesn’t Mean America Alone.” This stands in total contrast with any decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, which took the world’s leading powers decades to forge. The advisors lauded America’s “unmatched military, political, economic, cultural, and moral strength.” But disengagement from the climate change treaty, besides being shortsighted, would shirk our global leadership responsibilities, weaken alliances, cede ground to strategic competitors, and erode these core American strengths.” 
Sameer Lalwani, Senior Associate and Deputy Director, South Asia Program, Stimson Center

“President Trump’s decision demonstrates a profound rejection of the national security dimensions of environmental security. Going against intelligence estimates, national security strategies, and science, the consequences of this decision will have a profound impact on global stability. The absence of U.S. leadership in helping to address the existential threat of climate change will only make it more likely that we will face greater instability and conflict arising from droughts, famines and migrations.” 
Johanna Mendelson Forman, Senior Advisor and Director, Food Security Program, Stimson Center

“The Trump administration may withdraw America from the Paris climate agreement, but it cannot withdraw America from the global climate system. Whether Washington rejects or remains in this landmark international agreement, without concerted collective action to combat greenhouse warming, worsening climate impacts will increasingly affect every country on Earth, including the U.S. The Paris pact alone doesn’t halt climate change, but it does provide a globally agreed framework beginning to manage the climate impacts we can no longer avoid and help avoid potentially worse impacts that could overwhelm our ability to manage. Understanding these stakes, other global powers — the EU, China, India — have powerful reasons to continue bending their emissions curves, pursuing the technological innovations to decarbonize their economies and define the industries and jobs of tomorrow. Abandoning Paris, the U.S. would signal it is an unreliable partner in this project, and forfeit its leverage to shape this future.” 
David Michel, Nonresident Fellow, Environmental Security Program, Stimson Center  

“All countries are both causes and victims of climate change and so must work together to address it. That is what the Paris accord was about — working together in good faith to solve a common problem. By pulling the United States out, the president has once again abdicated leadership, this time on a global scale. The real tragedy, however, is what it does to our children and grandchildren. Climate change is not theory. It has a real impact — drought, flooding, tornados, extreme heat, rising ocean levels swamping coastal populations, and so on. Just as the last generation fought to protect us from fascism, it is our duty to protect future generations from a more complicated challenge where the enemy, as Pogo famously said, is us.” 
William Reinsch, Distinguished Fellow, Stimson Center

“The Trump administration’s decision to renege from its Paris accord commitments is the epitome of insular and short-sighted ‘America First’ policy. What a missed opportunity to demonstrate true American leadership — to lead by example and recognize with humility that global security challenges today require collective thinking and action. But the international community must continue to work together and move forward. I fear that the “failure” of this non-binding agreement — triggered by one country — would be used as evidence that international frameworks are largely ineffective. The other 194 countries should seek creative ways to recoup the loss and double-down on their own national commitments, finding ways to incentivize states that demonstrate considerable progress. Not everything must hinge on the whims of one country. The world cannot afford to be this delicate with its politics.” 
Lovely Umayam, Research Analyst and Project Manager; WMD, Nonproliferation, and Security Program; Stimson Center

“Reneging on the Paris climate accord is shortsighted. In the near-term, it abdicates U.S. leadership on the global stage, ceding influence that other world leaders are poised to fill. But, President Trump’s withdrawal is not unexpected; in fact, this decision reaffirms his demonstrated obstructionism on environmental issues writ large. It sets back American businesses that want to participate and lead in the new global energy economy, and hinders the creation of forward-leaning manufacturing jobs. It places value instead in the rearview mirror, on yesterday’s energy jobs whose future is grim.  And as we turn our back on climate science, over the long-run, the decision renders us ill-prepared to understand and respond to what lies ahead as seas rise, storms become more intense, drought and heatwaves endure, and ecosystems shift, all threats to U.S. national and global security.”
Sally Yozell, Senior Associate and Director, Environmental Security Program, Stimson Center

The Stimson Center is a nonpartisan policy research center working to solve the world’s greatest threats to security and prosperity.

Contact: Jim Baird; [email protected]; 202.478.3413

Photo credit: Joe Parks via Flickr
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