Withdrawing From The Paris Agreement Is A Step Backward

“History will be the ultimate judge of last weekend’s historic Paris Agreement, the pact that commits 196 nations to work together in an attempt to limit climate change and stem the continued rise of greenhouse gas emissions.”

This was how we opened our commentary 18 months ago on the long-awaited — and much-needed — multi-nation pact to mitigate years of environmental abuse. Now, because of the actions of President Donald Trump last week, the United States will be watching history from the sidelines, no longer capable of being either a partner or an active participant as the rest of the world moves forward.

In short, the United States has gone rogue.

The worst part of this action for the United States as a whole is that we have yet again handed over our role as leader on the global stage. Our allies are dismayed, our business leaders’ wishes defied, our international competitiveness shaken and the ability to create job growth over the long term shackled. With this action, the United States has forfeited an opportunity to lead the way on an issue of international importance. Mr. Trump’s decision ignores numerous studies showing that the reduction of carbon emissions would not only reduce greenhouse gases and reduce damage to the environment, but also would drive economic growth in multiple ways.

Ironically, the United States is already well on its way to meeting the initial benchmarks set over the first decade of the Paris Agreement. The president’s decision notes the long-term impact of the agreement, but with the United States at the table, that is something we could have controlled. Instead, the other nations of the world are likely to move forward without us. So much for being the indispensable nation.

The worst part of this action for everyday citizens is that it adds to the growing burden being placed on future generations to deal with the inability of modern political actors to take concrete action. Instead, they will be left to mitigate the damage, probably paying untold billions for construction of infrastructure to deal with rising sea levels, especially in areas such as South Florida.

In quick response, nearly 1,500 companies and institutions — including more than a dozen Fortune 500 businesses — signed a pact saying they are still committed to meeting the Paris Agreement standards. Further, a dozen states and nearly 300 cities across the nation have committed through coalitions to stand by what was agreed to in December 2015. California passed legislation putting the state on a path to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.

Sadly, Florida is not among those states standing ready to take proactive measures, despite being one of the states most at-risk due to projected sea level rise. Yet a number of Florida mayors are part of the 274-strong “Climate Mayors” coalition that has pledged to work together to strengthen local efforts for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting efforts for binding federal and global-level policy making.

Here’s hoping our federal leaders take note and reverse course, before further damage takes place.