The GOOD Survival Guide The Planet

Stopping Climate Change, With Or Without Trump

by Ben Jervey

January 19, 2017

Trump recently delayed his decision on joining the Paris climate accord. Here’s a look at why that may not matter from our 2017 Trump guide. 

Hot and cold—that’s how best to describe the President-elect’s stance on climate change, which he once described as a “hoax created by the Chinese,” then later admitted there is “some connectivity” between human behavior and shifting temperatures. He’s bringing a denier to oversee the Environmental Protection Agency transition team, yet backing away from his previous notion to “cancel” the Paris Agreement, the world’s landmark climate treaty.

Fortunately, even if Trump does decide to abandon the accord, it wouldn’t be easy. It will take four years to withdraw, as the treaty was entered into force just days before the election. Trump could choose to pull out of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in as little as a year, but he’d lose a seat in vital negotiations born of a deal made by President George H.W. Bush and unanimously confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate. So it isn’t totally nuts to assume that Trump will just stay put, a course of action recommended by an overwhelming chorus of voices—from major businesses and military leaders to, of all people, Bill O’Reilly.

At the high-level gathering of foreign ministers called COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco, in November, speakers from China, Saudi Arabia, the European Union, and Russia all recommitted to the global pact. “We must honor commitments and consolidate mutual trust,” said China’s climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, while French President François Hollande asserted that, “The United States, the largest economic power in the world, the second-largest greenhouse gas emitter, must respect the commitments it has undertaken.”

To Trump, the opinions of more than 100 foreign leaders likely matter less than those of U.S.-based businesses. After the election, a group of more than 360 Fortune 500 companies, including DuPont, Intel, Nike, and Kellogg, released a letter to Trump, stating, “We call on our elected U.S. leaders to strongly support ... investment in the low carbon economy ... [and] continued U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement.”

At COP22, there was a palpable sense that Americans and no one else would be the losers if Trump were to diverge on climate policy. “The Paris Agreement cannot be stopped as the global energy transition cannot be stopped,” said Miguel Arias Cañete, the European commissioner for climate action and energy. “The world is forging ahead, and the smart money is on clean energy. Who would be against this unstoppable global trend? Who would like to be left behind?”

Illustration by Ariel Roman

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Stopping Climate Change, With Or Without Trump