As expected, President Donald Trump today announced he is withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord. In a speech from the White House Rose Garden, Trump made a largely economic case for withdrawing from the agreement, arguing the nonbinding accord was unfair to American workers and U.S. competitiveness (points many economists fiercely dispute). At the same time, Trump said he was open to beginning “negotiations to reenter either the Paris accord or an—really entirely new transaction—on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.” He provided no detail, however, on what that new agreement might look like.
Trump’s decision represents a new obstacle to the Paris agreement’s goal of keeping planetary warming by 2100 below the 2°C ceiling that many consider safe. You can learn more from a special package of stories that Science published in November 2015, as nations were finalizing the Paris deal.
Here is a sampling of reactions to today’s announcement from members of the scientific community and others:
U.S. energy secretary: “the right course of action”
The Paris accord “was neither submitted to nor ratified by the U.S. Senate, and is not in the best long term economic interest of the United States,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry in a statement. “President Trump’s decision will prove to be the right course of action and one I fully support.”
“Instead of preaching about clean energy, this Administration will act on it. Our work and deeds are more important than empty words. I know you can drive economic growth and protect the environment at the same time, because that is exactly what I did as Governor of Texas.”
“The United States will continue to be actively engaged in the development of global energy and the world leader in the development of next generation technology. That is exactly why I am traveling to Japan and China to discuss the benefits of all forms of energy, including nuclear, fossil, LNG and renewables. I also plan to discuss technological advances such as carbon capture (CCS) that can leverage the abundant resources we have available in an environmentally responsible way.”
Grantham Institute: “confused nonsense”
“President Trump’s speech was confused nonsense,” said Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, in a statement. “He announced that the United States will withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, while also launching negotiations to re-enter the Agreement. But the Agreement states that no country can withdraw within three years of it coming into force, and the process of withdrawal takes a further year to complete. That means the United States cannot complete withdrawal from the Paris Agreement before 5 November 2020, the day after the next Presidential election in the United States. So Mr. Trump will not have withdrawn from the Agreement within this Presidential term.”
“Furthermore, in making his case for withdrawal, President Trump cited a number of bogus sources, including a fundamentally flawed study by NERA Economic Consulting from March 2017 that calculated the costs of the United States implementing its targets under the Agreement while making many unrealistic assumptions, such as every other country ignoring their targets, and no development of electric vehicles to replace those fuelled by gasoline. And, as his chief economic adviser has warned the President, withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will not save the coal industry in the United States, which is being put out of business by cheaper sources of electricity, particularly shale gas and renewables.”
House science top Republican: “bad deal”
“By withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, President Trump has freed America from a bad deal that would cost billions of dollars but have little significant environmental benefit,” said Representative Lamar Smith (R–TX), the chair of the House of Representatives science committee, in a statement. “Former President Obama bypassed Congress when he agreed to the deal, putting our nation at an economic disadvantage and imposing huge burdens on American families and businesses. President Trump’s decision will allow America to move forward with policies based on sound science and smart cost-benefit analyses to ensure Americans don’t bear the brunt of the all-pain, no-gain policies of the previous administration.”
House science top Democrat: “I am not proud”
“When the U.S. signed onto the Paris climate agreement, I spoke of how I was proud that we were taking a leadership role in protecting our environment and preserving our planet for generations to come,” said Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson’s (D–TX), the top Democrat on the House science panel. “Today, I am not proud. I am saddened and embarrassed that this country will not be working in coordination with the international community to address the threat of climate change. In a time when we are watching the Great Barrier Reef die, one of Antarctica’s ice sheets collapse into the sea, and experiencing more severe weather events, it is the height of shortsightedness to pull out of this agreement. The President is not only ceding leadership on addressing this threat, perhaps the most serious environmental challenge in human history, but his action today betrays a lack of faith in America’s ability to innovate our way out of this global challenge. Historians will not look kindly on today’s decision. The U.S. should be striving to leave the world a better place for future generations, not walking away from our responsibilities our citizens and our planet.”
A sad day for evidence-based policy.
UCAR: climate change still here
“Today's decision does not mean that climate change will go away,” said Antonio Busalacchi, the president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, in a statement. “To the contrary, the heightened potential for increased greenhouse gas emissions poses a substantial threat to our communities, businesses, and military. The work by U.S. researchers—to understand and anticipate changes in our climate system and determine ways to mitigate or adapt to the potential impacts—is now more vital than ever.”
Forster: “sad day for evidence-based policy”
“A sad day for evidence-based policy,” said Piers Forster, director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds in the United Kingdom, in a statement. “My hope is that he is ignored by his own country and that the individual citizens, businesses and states that make up the U.S.A will increase their ambition to decarbonize.”
“It is very discouraging that President Trump is pulling out of the Paris Agreement to cut carbon emissions,” said David Hart, senior fellow at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington, D.C., in a statement. “The United States’ abdication of global leadership will diminish confidence in the pact and discourage other nations from staying the course, while also making it more difficult for the United States to forge robust alliances with other nations on other issues of joint concern. But leaving Paris doesn’t mean that all hope is lost. If the Trump administration and Congress focus on innovation, the United States can still be a global leader—both in the fight against climate change and in the burgeoning market for clean energy.”
“Federal policy should do more to foster public-private partnerships that will expand private investment in clean-energy technologies and get more value from public investments. Key areas for investment include the smart grid, energy storage, carbon capture and sequestration, and advanced nuclear and solar power. Without a smart, aggressive clean-energy innovation strategy, the world will not avert the worst effects of climate change, nor will the United States achieve global market leadership in this foundational sector of the economy.”
EESI: withdrawal reduces “peer pressure”
"The Paris Climate Agreement depends on peer pressure to succeed, as there is no enforcement mechanism," said Carol Werner, executive director of the Environmental and Energy Study Institute in Washington, D.C., in a statement. "Unfortunately, by withdrawing from the agreement, the United States is reducing the pressure on other nations to live up to their commitments, which undermines the hard-won global consensus to act against climate change."
Reay: “you can’t hide”
“The United States will come to rue this day,” said Dave Reay, chair in Carbon Management & Education at the University of Edinburgh, in a statement. “President Trump has argued that his decision puts economic interests first, that it will cut out interference from foreign bureaucrats and help U.S. business. In fact this move puts all business and economic interests at much greater risk. Climate change knows no borders, its impacts are blind to national flags. If global efforts to limit warming fail then we are all in trouble. From climate change, Mr. President, you can run but you can't hide.”
Kargel: an excuse to pollute
“Globally, the backtracking on the Paris agreement removes restraints on developing nations to pollute,” said climate researcher Jeffrey Kargel of the University of Arizona in Tucson, in a statement. “Some countries will use this lapse as an excuse to join the biggest polluters, and our global climate change dilemma will worsen faster than it otherwise would.”
“Some factors will partly mitigate the harm done by Trump. First, the CEOs of major oil companies are alarmed by the climate-change issues and are pressing for corrective actions. In fact … Exxon Mobil shareholders [have] voted to demand that their company exhibit more climate change accountability. Secondly, California and other states will act on their own to counter the effects of Trump's bad decision making. Thirdly, the business wisdom of solar power already is global. Even the Kentucky Coal Museum has shifted to sun power because it is cheaper than coal-powered electricity. Finally, Trump will not be calling the shots indefinitely; but politically, he and his supporters in Congress will indefinitely own climate change impacts.”
Allen: "need to be thinking hard"
“Withdrawing and then re-entering the Paris Agreement under different terms would, in effect, be identical to revising the US ‘nationally determined contribution’—something the Agreement specifically allows," said earth scientist Myles Allen of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, in a statement. "But following this extended drum-roll, that would have been a bit of an anticlimax. Once the theatrics are over, much will depend now on how the rest of the world responds to this proposal to ‘renegotiate’ the terms of US participation. If we really want to put the future of the planet first, we need to be thinking hard about how to make the Agreement both more effective and more acceptable to nations with substantial fossil reserves—or the US won’t be the last one to be taking this step.”