President Trump has publicly announced that the United States will leave the 2016 Paris Agreement. Trump’s actions are largely symbolic, and are meant to appeal to his base. But the geopolitical fallout from this decision may be worse than he expects.
The International Fallout
President Barack Obama enacted the Paris Agreement without congressional approval on April 22, 2016. It will now undergo major changes as the US signals its exit. The exit highlights Trump’s foreign policy goal of putting “America First” in all aspects of foreign relations, including the environment.
The major announcement is primarily a political one. The exit process, according to the New York Times, takes “nearly four years to complete.”
The timing for the decision couldn’t be worse, especially in the United Kingdom. The new administration, under Prime Minister Theresa May, is counting on US leadership. On June 8th, the UK will have a general election in which the conservative party is looking to dominate. Their narrow gains may dwindle with the European outrage over the US’s climate stance. According to a Pew Research study from 2015, a surprising 39% of the UK’s conservative party felt that climate change will harm them personally.
In short, Trump may have announced his decision seven days too soon. As the UK election approaches, it will be interesting to see how conservatives react. Additionally, France, Germany, and Italy all claim that the agreement “can not be renegotiated.” If true, this destroys the Trump administration’s plan to review the agreement.
Overall, Trump may have played his cards too early in the game.
Radicalism Versus Reason
Climate change needs to be discussed, but there’s a level of fanaticism among those who push climate over all else. Many people on the left forget is that the Paris Agreement was not perfect. In addition, it was stifling innovation in the United States.
Sustainable energy can become a greater reality if we promote affordability. Ask any environmental scientist, and they will tell you that a major contributing factor to environmental degradation is poverty. If this is the case, then as much as we like to think otherwise, economics will dominate the discussion. Further, Trump’s plan may actually end up helping. By putting more money back into industry leaders who already heavily invest in research and development, we may ultimately be helping our environment!
The pretty image of nations working to fight climate change is just that: an image. The problem isn’t about the policy itself, it’s about the politics. Trump, as he has done before, may have fumbled the PR game with this announcement.