Thoughts on the U.S. climate withdrawal: One door closed, but another opened

In this image from 2012, Brian Lawson and Kenesaw Burwell work on panels that the Energy Department is using to leverage a Power Purchase Agreement with Sun Edison and Xcel Energy. (Dennis Schroeder/U.S. Department of Energy)

Although our president’s withdrawal from the Paris Accord is a frustrating setback to environmental advocates, it does not come as a surprise. It is the latest example of Trump cutting out programs that his predecessors worked so hard to create and implement. Again we, the people, were ensured that we would have a better solution provided by President Trump. 

However, there is a silver lining; numerous states, cities, and companies have stepped up to the plate and taken the pledge to continue, as they would have if the Paris Accord had been respected. Massachusetts, for example, pledged to ensure that their CO2 emissions would be 25% lower than they were in 1990. This is a step further than the levels the U.S. had agreed to in the Paris Agreement.

The state of Hawaii has stepped up to the plate by recently signing two bills that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and strive to improve soil health and agriculture. These bills were set to be signed at a later date; however, after the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, the bills were brought to the forefront of the table to be expedited. This shows that legislation is being pushed forward at the state level of government in order to ensure that climate change is combated within the U.S.

Trump has now moved the focus of the media and public onto all the entities that are taking the pledge to reduce carbon emissions. This has resulted in a stronger anti-climate movement. His action has brought this trend into the public eye. Citizens are proving that regardless of a misguided president, we can still facilitate change. For example, states. municipalities, business leaders, and universities have used the website, “We Are Still In” to serve as a platform to declare that they will still support the goals set by the Paris Agreement. This focus and attention likely would not have occurred at the level that it has if not for the withdrawal.

The continued support of “clean coal” ignores the rise in renewable energy that provides far more jobs and opportunities to the U.S. economy, more than what the coal industry can provide. The claim of 50,000 new jobs for coal mining is misleading. In reality, only 1,300 new coal-mining jobs have been added since October of 2016, the Labor Department reports. According to Inside Climate News, jobs in renewable energy are growing at a rate that is 17 times that of the national economy.

Furthermore, it is likely that if the United States had stayed on as a member of the Paris Agreement they would have been more of a hindrance than an aid. With the removal of the clean power plan that President Obama created, as well as a new EPA director who doesn’t believe in climate change, the United States would not have reached its set goals of 26% to 28% reduction in carbon emissions by 2025.

The absence of the United States from the Paris Agreement will pressure other countries to step up and lead the charge in climate change, possibly creating and implementing models that states and cities would be able to adopt to reduce their emissions. As many have already pledged to do so, new waves of people are finally receiving the support that they deserve

Although many have perceived the withdrawal from the Paris Accord as a failure and embarrassment of the United States as a world leader, there is still hope; individual efforts to curb climate change are receiving more attention than ever before. Other countries have an opportunity to the lead in the planet’s future. Perhaps we should not be so quick to look to the negatives of this decision. Instead, let’s embrace the positives and new opportunities that it has presented.

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