Climate Politics

Just Because Trump is a Quitter Doesn’t Mean You Have to be + Fact Checking the President’s Claims About the Paris Agreement

The withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is a dangerous, irresponsible, and immoral move from an incapable President who is increasingly divorced from reality.

After yesterday’s announcement by President Donald Trump, that the United States would be pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement I’ve found myself at a loss. This move is not only damning to the state of the environment, but it isolates the US in a global effort to curb climate change. This move paints the United States as an unreliable country run by an administration that explicitly prioritizes corporate greed, short-termism, and nepotism over science, growth, and global sustainable prosperity.

In part, I knew this was coming. It was one of Trump’s absurd campaign promises and the president hasn’t kept his views on climate change a secret. But seeing the moment come to life, the moment a historic deal that could change the future was torn up by “the leader of the free world”, was horrifying. Watching an incompetent president make such an irresponsible decision proved yet again that Trump has absoloutely no idea what he’s doing.

For instance, the President referred to the Paris Agreement as both “non-binding” and “draconian”. Spoiler alert: an agreement can’t be both and Paris is the former. This agreement is voluntary. Participating countries determine their own targets and their own policies. They can, at any time, revise those targets and policies. They can fail to meet the targets, without penalty. That’s what non-binding means; there are no legal bonds.

The point of Paris is to use the power of public commitment and accountability. The idea is that, by publicly stating targets and reporting transparently on progress, participants will be driven by peer pressure and internal politics to meet those targets. But the agreement does not impose any legal penalty on participants that fail to meet their targets. Again: That’s what nonbinding means. So when Trump tried to say the agreement “imposes … draconian financial and economic burdens” it was a flat out lie.

This post is not about Donald Trump or my grievances with him; this post is about our planet and what we as citizens can do to save it.

I want to tell you that now is not the time to lose hope. Backing out of the Paris Agreement feels like ten giant steps backward, not only for America but for the world. I know this. But our planet needs us now more than ever. Now is the time to raise your voices louder than you ever have before and take action.

If our leaders will not act in your best interest than we must take matters into our own hands.

In a second I’m going to share a few things you can do, as an average citizen, to make a huge impact in the fight against climate change. But first, I’d like to take a look at a few reasons Trump gave for backing out of the agreement and why they’re all bogus. It’s truly remarkable how one person can make so many false and misleading statements in a single speech, but I guess that’s Donald Trump for you.

“The Paris Agreement blocks the development of ‘clean coal’ in the United States.” 

This statement alone proves that the president has literally no idea what he’s talking about when it comes to climate change and our environment. First of all, there is no such things as “clean coal”. That term in itself is an oxymoron. “Clean coal” refers to technology that captures carbon emissions from coal-fired plants, which are either stored underground or sold for use in industrial processes. This technology is fairly new and expensive, and thus isn’t used in many commerical operations yet. Tougher emissions standards — such as those encouraged by the Paris Agreement — would typically create an incentive to invest in the technology. Far from “blocking” the development of clean coal, a commitment to reducing carbon emissions is the ONLY REASON TO INVEST IN IT. Why else would you bury the fucking carbon?

“The Paris accord will undermine our economy.”

Trump justified this point by arguing that the terms of the accord “could cost Americans as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025.” This point was taken from a misleading study that should have never been quoted in a presidential speech. The study used rigged numbers based off a worst case scenario and does not consider ANY benefits of emission reductions. The study results are not a benefit-cost analysis of climate change. In reality, investing in green infrastructure and technologies will create enough new jobs to replace manufacturing jobs by almost double. Additionally, CEO’s of some of the largest US based companies say the Paris Agreement gives them a level playing field to compete with foreign rivals and would grow the economy and create jobs by encouraging investment in new technology.

“The Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.”

Much of the agreement focuses on climate taxes on companies. The world’s worst polluters would be financially accountable for their chemical contribution to climate change. The greater the polluter, the higher the cost – simple as that. The current rate is set at about $150 per tonne of CO2. These rates were designed to improved air quality while simultaneously creating a new source of revenue, pulling out of this deal completely contradicts Trump’s focus on industrial expansion.

“China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement.”

Under the Paris agreement, each country publicly declares how much it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and what it will do to get there. So the agreement doesn’t allow or disallow specific actions, like building plants. The agreement allowed countries to map out their own, personalized plans for reducing emissions that cause climate change. The hope was that through peer pressure, diplomacy and negotiation, the countries would grow their commitment to reducing carbon emissions over the years. China is still building (advanced, cleaner) coal plants because, unlike the US, it does not have access to cheap, abundant natural gas, which has been the main driver of recent US carbon reductions. Nonetheless, China has actually taken steps to stop building coal plants. In January, China stopped construction of 103 new coal-fired plants. The country has also cut its use of coal three years in a row.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Pittsburgh and Paris share the same Earth. Pittsburgh also voted overwhelmingly in favour of Hilary Clinton.

Hopefully now you’ve gained some insight into why leaving the Paris Agreement was such a destructive decision. There were many, many more lies and misleading statements given in Trump’s speech, but I want to get on to talking about what we can do to combat climate change on our own. For those of you wanting to push back and fight for our earth, here are a few things you can start doing today to make a difference

Express your concerns to your government representatives

Just because the big man isn’t listening doesn’t mean other representatives aren’t. Several mayors of US cities and other world leaders have already spoken out against Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris Agreement and have voiced their continued commitment to the terms.

Americans you can find your representative HERE.

Canadians you can find your representative HERE.

(While Canada remains a part of the Paris Agreement and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expressed his disappointment in the United States for leaving, Canada remains in close ties with US and you may still wish to express your concerns about the United States’ decision, as well as concerns about other pressing environmental issues in Canada.)

Minimize your own carbon footprint

I like to use this handy carbon footprint calculator to actually see how much of an impact my daily activity is having on the environment. Try it out and see if there are any areas you can make improvements in. Walk instead of drive, or take public transportation, and try to eat less meat and animal agriculture products, or at least purchase them locally.

Ditch the plastic

More than 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans every single year. Not only is this dangerous to sea life who confuse plastic for food, but plastic can directly alter the oceans sensitive ecosystem and cause damage to our coral reefs. Buy yourself a reusable water bottle and fill it up instead of purchasing plastic water bottles. When you’re at a restaurant forgo the straw and when you’re grocery shopping be sure to bring your own reusable shopping bags.

Support those who are listening

Supporting the ENGO’s at the forefront of the environmental fight is a great way to have your voice heard and make a true impact. The World Wildlife Foundation, Sea Shepheard, the Sierra Club, and Greenpeace are all organizations that fight against decisions exactly like this. Whether it’s support in the form of a monetary donation or personal support at a protest, standing behind these organizations will ensure your voice is heard and is translated into action.

Now is the time to stand up and fight. Make changes in your own everyday life and encourage your friends to do the same. Make your voice heard, let everyone know that this irresponsible decision is a disservice to Americans, the other 194 countries who signed this agreement, and every single citizen of planet earth.

Stand tall and rally together my friends. Mother Earth hasn’t given up on us yet and we sure as hell are not going to give up on her.

 

“Climate change is real. “Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.” – Elon Musk

 

 

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1 Comment

  • Reply Rosie June 6, 2017 at 11:25 am

    I was so disappointed when I heard the news, but as you say it wasn’t a huge surprise because he’s made all kinds of ridiculous comments about climate change being made up. It worries me that he is allowed to make so many false comments without any kind of ramification.

    You probably know that in the UK we’re holding a general election in a couple of days and our current government’s environmental ideas are appalling. They do not care at all and when the court had to force them to put together some plans to reduce pollution, they just passed it on to councils and said they would impose a charge on cars (like the congestion zone in London) on areas which high pollution if local councils couldn’t get the problem under control. Great, I guess, but how is that going to work when they’re cutting council budgets. It truly frustrates me that our governments do not seem to care about the planet at all.

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