By Kate Murphy
The debate over climate change was a hot topic on the campaign trail when candidate Donald Trump promised to “cancel the Paris Climate agreement.” He has also tweeted on several occasions about how climate change is a hoax.
The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 6, 2012
Ice storm rolls from Texas to Tennessee – I'm in Los Angeles and it's freezing. Global warming is a total, and very expensive, hoax!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 6, 2013
Snowing in Texas and Louisiana, record setting freezing temperatures throughout the country and beyond. Global warming is an expensive hoax!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 29, 2014
During the first presidential debate, Hillary Clinton said, “Donald thinks that climate change is a hoax, perpetrated by the Chinese. I think it’s real.” To which Trump argued, “I do not say that.”
The Paris climate agreement was signed by nearly 200 nations, including the United States. Now it looks like President Trump is following through on that campaign promise to withdraw from the deal. So what is the agreement, and what happens if the U.S. does goes cold on its commitment?
Let’s start with the basics. The Paris Agreement is the biggest effort yet to get the world to reduce the effects of climate change. It began when representatives from nations around the globe gathered in Paris in 2015, and it was signed in 2016. The goal is to limit the increase in global temperatures to no higher than 2 degrees Celsius. Scientists say staying below that rise in temperature helps fight the worst effects of climate change.
To reach that goal, countries have promised to limit or lower the amount of greenhouse gases they emit. Those are the gases put into the air by things like turning on your lights or driving to work. Greenhouse gases trap and hold heat in the atmosphere, causing the temperature to rise. It’s something we’re seeing a lot of, with record high temperatures set over the last three years. The Obama administration pledged to reduce carbon pollution in the U.S. by 26 percent by the year 2025.
So what happens if President Trump decides to back out of the deal? Nothing, really, because there are no legal consequences for pulling out. There are no fines, either. Politically speaking, pulling out might help Trump because he’d be following through on a campaign promise. The pact wouldn’t dissolve, but other countries that dragged their feet to join in the first place could also withdraw… or reel in their goals to cut pollution.
Diplomatically speaking, though, it would potentially hurt U.S. standing around the world. That explains why Trump’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, wants in. During his Senate confirmation hearing Tillerson said, “I think It’s important that the U.S. maintains its seat at the table about how to address the threat of climate change, which does require a global response.”
So as the debate continues over the Paris climate agreement, at least when it comes to what’s in it and what happens if the U.S. leaves, you can say, now I get it.