Newspaper editorials warn Trump it would be dangerous to ditch Paris climate agreement

Newspaper editorials warn Trump it would be dangerous to ditch Paris climate agreement

››› ››› KEVIN KALHOEFER

The editorial boards of many major newspapers have issued stern warnings against the Trump administration pulling out of the Paris climate agreement, saying such a move “risks the planet” and would erode trust and goodwill with international allies.


Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

Trump to announce decision on Paris agreement after G-7 summit

President Donald Trump is expected to announce in the coming days whether the U.S. will stay in the Paris agreement. White House press secretary Sean Spicer and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have said that the president plans to issue his decision on whether the U.S. will stay in the Paris agreement after the G-7 summit, which takes place on May 26 and 27. Under the agreement, which the U.S. joined under former President Barack Obama, nearly 200 countries pledged to curb their carbon emissions. [The Washington Post, 5/9/17; The Hill, 5/24/17]

Wash. Post reports that momentum in Trump administration “has turned against the Paris climate agreement”

Wash. Post: Foes of the Paris agreement have “gained the upper hand” against the accord’s supporters in the White House. The Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin reported on May 3 that, within the White House, “the momentum has turned against the Paris climate agreement” as foes of the accord “gained the upper hand in the ongoing debate” about whether to remain in the agreement. In the past months, the Trump administration had been divided on the issue, with Tillerson arguing that it is “important that the United States maintain a seat at the table on the conversations around how to address the threats of climate change” and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt calling the agreement “a bad deal for America.” [The Washington Post, 5/3/17; Media Matters, 1/12/17, 4/13/17]

Editorials warn against leaving Paris accord, saying it “risks the planet” and would be “a gratuitous thumb in the eye” of world’s nations

NY Times: Trump "has stripped America of its hard-won role as a global leader on climate issues." In a May 22 editorial, the The New York Times called Trump’s claim that meeting the U.S.’s Paris obligations would cost jobs and damage the economy a “bogus argument,” and debunked the conservative myth that China and India are not taking action on climate change. Earlier, on March 28, a Times’ editorial headlined “President Trump risks the planet” argued that he should not repudiate the Paris agreement and highlighted the dangers of disengaging from the fight against climate change, writing that if he rolls back Obama's climate initiatives, “the United States will have neither the tools nor the credibility to lead the world on emissions reduction.”

Mr. Trump’s ignorance has stripped America of its hard-won role as a global leader on climate issues.

[...]

Mr. Trump has, for all practical purposes, repudiated Paris. The initiatives that he threatens to dismantle are the very ones that support Mr. Obama’s expansive pledge in Paris to reduce America’s greenhouse gas emissions by more than one quarter below 2005 levels by 2025. Without them, the United States will have neither the tools nor the credibility to lead the world on emissions reduction, and surely the leaders of China and India and the rest of the world are smart enough to see this.

This raises two very real dangers. Either other big countries also pull out of the agreement. Or they decide to seize the initiative on clean energy sources, which would be good for the climate but bad for American industry. [The New York Times, 3/28/17, 5/22/17]

Wash. Post: “Leaving the Paris agreement would be a gratuitous thumb in everyone’s eye.” In a March 4 editorial, The Washington Post wrote that withdrawing from the Paris agreement “would be an enormous and possibly irreparable error,” adding, “This is not a hard call: Staying in the agreement is costless, while leaving would rightly provoke sharp and sustained international outrage. … leaving Paris would be nothing more than a gratuitous thumb in the eye of practically every important nation on the planet, a bizarre and irrational unforced error.”

The Post took up the accord again in a May 3 editorial, writing, “Staying in the Paris accord is cost-free, but pulling out is not” and warning that Trump “must not underestimate the cost of pulling out. … By leaving Paris, the United States would surrender a huge amount of diplomatic capital and reputation — much more than it is already set to lose by unwisely reversing Obama-era emissions-cutting policies. Mr. Trump would hear about it for the rest of his presidency. And for good reason.” And on May 20, the Post called the prospect of leaving the accord “an unthinkably irrational move that would enrage allied governments for no material benefit.” From the March 4 editorial:

THE NEW YORK TIMES reports that the Trump administration has divided over whether to remove the United States from the Paris climate agreement, a landmark international deal with vast diplomatic and environmental significance. Withdrawing — or asking the Senate to decide what to do, which is effectively the same thing — would be an enormous and possibly irreparable error. This is not a hard call: Staying in the agreement is costless, while leaving would rightly provoke sharp and sustained international outrage.

[...]

President Trump could modify the U.S. Paris commitment, or simply leave President Barack Obama’s Paris pledge in place. Although Mr. Trump has promised to rip up major elements of Mr. Obama’s climate plan, other policies, such as congressionally mandated renewables subsidies and state-level efforts, would continue apace. Crushing the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan would ill-prepare the country for the significant emissions cuts that it will have to make in coming decades, but it would not keep the nation from reducing its emissions by more modest levels in the near term. If the country is going to be achieving emissions cuts anyway, why not take some international credit for them?

Given all that, leaving Paris would be nothing more than a gratuitous thumb in the eye of practically every important nation on the planet, a bizarre and irrational unforced error. [The Washington Post, 3/4/17, 5/3/17, 5/20/17]

USA Today: Abandoning the Paris agreement “could endanger the planet’s future.” USA Today wrote in an editorial on April 19 that leaving the Paris agreement could provide other nations “an excuse to bail or fall short on their emission-reduction commitments” and “damage America's credibility and erode diplomatic relations with countries that take their environmental promises far more seriously.”

Abandoning the Paris agreement could endanger the planet's future. The accord relies heavily on international peer pressure, and pulling out would offer other nations an excuse to bail or fall short on their emission-reduction commitments.

Reneging on such a far-reaching and historic pact would also damage America's credibility and erode diplomatic relations with countries that take their environmental promises far more seriously. Nations that have, or are planning, taxes on carbon emissions could slap retaliatory tariffs on goods imported from America.

[…]

Abandoning Paris would expose America to massive international condemnation, all for the sake of getting out of a non-binding agreement. That makes no sense. [USA Today, 4/19/17]

LA Times urges Trump to “embrace the Paris climate agreement” and avoid marginalizing the U.S. In an April 19 editorial headlined “Surprise us, Mr. President, and embrace the Paris climate agreement,” the Los Angeles Times editorial board expressed hope that Trump “might still join the rest of the world in trying to address the potentially existential threat of global warming” by remaining in the agreement. The Times continued, “For the United States to back off from the Paris accord now not only would imperil the chances of global success, but would marginalize the U.S. as a leader in a defining issue of our era. At the same time, if the U.S. were to stay in the Paris agreement while weakening the United States' commitments, that still would be a losing proposition for the nation, and the world, given that emissions need to be even more sharply curtailed than already planned.”

It's slightly encouraging that there seems to be an internal debate underway between a set of Trump advisors who want the president to keep his promise to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris agreement and another set urging him to stick with the pact but loosen the Obama goal of reducing by 2025 U.S. emissions by up to 28% of 2005 levels. That the Trump administration is even debating the issue rather than blindly carrying out its ill-conceived campaign promise offers a hopeful sign that the president's position could change, and that he might still join the rest of the world in trying to address the potentially existential threat of global warming. For the United States to back off from the Paris accord now not only would imperil the chances of global success, but would marginalize the U.S. as a leader in a defining issue of our era.

At the same time, if the U.S. were to stay in the Paris agreement while weakening the United States' commitments, that still would be a losing proposition for the nation, and the world, given that emissions need to be even more sharply curtailed than already planned.

[...]

The president is in a position to prove his critics wrong — to demonstrate that he can weigh (actual, not alternative) facts and frame positions based on reality and in the best interests of the nation. We invite him to do so by sticking with the Paris agreement and the Clean Power Plan, and by directing the government to find ways to reduce U.S. emissions even further. Those are steps that a sagacious and respected world leader would take. [Los Angeles Times, 4/19/17]

Chicago Tribune: Withdrawal from the agreement would make Trump “a loser” on the world stage. A March 29 Chicago Tribune editorial argued that Trump exiting the climate accord “would not only set back the worldwide efforts to reduce emissions — but it also would elevate China into the top role as global leader on the issue, which would make the president one of those people he tweets about: a loser.”

Candidate Trump vowed to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which included unprecedented promises by nearly every nation on Earth to take concrete steps to reduce their carbon emissions. It was a nonbinding pact without enforcement mechanisms, but world leaders are still moving forward to fulfill their promises to reach their goals. While it would take about four years for Trump to formally withdraw the U.S. from the pact, the president could effectively end American efforts sooner by refusing to act on Obama’s emissions reduction promises. That would not only set back the worldwide efforts to reduce emissions — but it also would elevate China into the top role as global leader on the issue, which would make the president one of those people he tweets about: a loser. [Chicago Tribune, 3/29/17]

The Virginian-Pilot: Pulling out of the agreement would be “reflexive and childish” and put Virginians at risk. The Virginian-Pilot’s editorial board wrote on May 7 that leaving the Paris accord would “represent a massive step away from the type of leadership on environmental stewardship the world needs from the United States — and it could have catastrophic implications for the residents of Hampton Roads," a metropolitan region in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina.

REPORTS BY TRUSTWORTHY media sources circulated last week claiming that President Donald Trump intends to sign an order that would withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord.

[...]

If Trump follows through, it would represent a massive step away from the type of leadership on environmental stewardship the world needs from the United States — and it could have catastrophic implications for the residents of Hampton Roads.

Pulling out of the deal would adhere to Trump's campaign promises to do so and his reflexive and childish opposition to everything Obama did or said. Trump is, after all, a man who once said climate change is some type of hoax perpetrated by the Chinese to harm the American economy, a position both laughable and paranoid. [The Virginian-Pilot, 5/7/17]

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