Opinion

Michael A. Cohen

We’ll all be paying for Trump’s bad decision on the Paris accord

President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord.
Molly Riley/European PressPhoto Agency
President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord.

Today in the Rose Garden, President Trump announced that the United States is pulling out of the Paris agreement on climate change.

According to Trump, “the Paris climate accord . . . disadvantages the United States . . . leaving American workers and taxpayers to absorb the costs in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.”

This is a lie, and it’s one that has infected the entire Republican Party and turned a once proud political party into a sad and dangerous collection of flat-earthers. But unlike so many of Trump’s other pernicious falsehoods, this one will have catastrophic consequences.

Advertisement

The fact is, the Paris climate accord cannot disadvantage any country. It is a nonbinding agreement. There is no enforcement mechanism in the agreement, and no penalties, for missing declared targets. Each country can pursue its own course of action on reducing emissions and tailor its own climate-change strategy.

Get Today in Opinion in your inbox:
Globe Opinion's must-reads, delivered to you every Sunday-Friday.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

However, an even bigger and more debilitating lie is one that the Republican Party has been peddling for years and Trump articulated at the White House: that pursuing a green future will cost American jobs and hamstring the US economy.

Among the biggest opponents of the Paris deal are coal companies, which is hardly surprising, since coal burning is one of the worst contributors to climate change.

Yet the US coal industry represents just over 50,000 American jobs — a 100,000 decline from 30 years ago. Pulling out of Paris will not save one coal mining job or revive an industry that even its biggest boosters concede is not coming back.

In contrast, there are more than 260,000 jobs in the US solar industry (up 82 percent from just three years ago) and more than 100,000 in wind (a 100 percent increase). In all, more than 800,000 Americans have jobs in the renewable energy industry.

Advertisement

In his speech today, Trump said he was elected president to look out for the interests of Pittsburgh not Paris. Apparently, unbeknownst to our incurious commander in chief is that Pittsburgh is the hub of a burgeoning green economy in Pennsylvania that employs, statewide, more people than the mining, gas and oil industries combined.

I’m no math expert, but it seems to me that if the goal is to grow the economy and protect jobs, then prizing the coal industry over renewables is a bad decision — and it’s one that advantages the many other countries in the world that are aggressively investing in green businesses and renewable energy.

The economic case for staying in the Paris agreement and for working to meet or even surpass its targets is incontrovertible. That’s not even taking into the account the environmental case for preventing a future of rising seas, higher temperatures, catastrophic loss in wildlife and natural habitats, and the further degradation of the only home the human race will ever know. By walking away from Paris, Trump is walking the United States away from its position as a global leader and undercutting the American economy.

Of course, the economy and jobs really have nothing to do with Trump’s decision. Quite simply, because Democrats, and particularly liberals, think climate change is a major problem . . . then Republicans must be opposed. When you run a political party based on inflaming the cultural and economic resentments of your supporters, sticking it to effete coastal elites who are worried that the earth is getting warmer is opiate for the masses — or in this case, the conservative fever swamp. Admitting that global warming is a thing would be a tacit admission that maybe liberals have a point, and Republicans would sooner be seen eating an arugula sandwich in public than doing that.

Indeed, one is hard-pressed to think of a single issue in which a tribalistic devotion to trolling more singularly defines Republican policy-making than climate change. That is saying something, because the modern GOP has become little more than an egg avatar Twitter troll masquerading as a fully coherent political party.

Advertisement

If there’s any silver lining to be found in Trump’s terrible decision, it’s that other countries actually recognize the dangers of global warming and the economic benefits of trying to combat it. The fight will continue without America.

Moreover, since Paris is nonbinding, and it takes four years for the United States to pull out of the agreement, the practical impact may be limited. What’s not limited, however, is the GOP’s ongoing war on science and the environment.

Since taking office, Trump has signed an executive order that would allow coal companies to dump their refuse in streams and lakes. His administration has removed scientific data regarding climate change from the EPA’s website and ordered a review of EPA regulations, including the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. His budget slashes environmental regulatory efforts, and of course, he appointed to run the EPA an actual climate change denier in Scott Pruitt.

Whatever Trump’s decision on the Paris accord, his administration’s hostility to environmental science — and to the fight against global warming — will haunt America and the world for generations to come.

If there is anything that should be taken from this, it is that Trump and his GOP minions are imperiling the earth for the narrowest of political advantage. Overwhelming majorities of Americans oppose his environmental policies and want to remain in the Paris climate agreement.

They need to make their voices heard at the ballot box, because I’m not sure that the planet can handle more days like today.

Michael A. Cohen’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @speechboy71.