paris agreement
President Barack Obama, President Xi Jinping of China and United Nations Secretary General Ban ki-Moon exchange greetings at the conclusion of a climate event at West Lake State House in Hangzhou, China, Sept. 3, 2016. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Even ExxonMobil wants Donald Trump to keep America’s climate change commitments.

Others urging Trump to find his senses include: millions of coastal Americans; the entire continent and subcontinent of Africa and South Asia; all America’s global allies; the Pope; BP, DuPont and Shell; Rick Perry, who used to think the U.S. Energy Department should be abolished and now runs it; Rex Tillerson, lover of oil; and Ivanka Trump.

So who were these people who seem to have convinced Trump to pull out of the Paris Agreement? Scott Pruitt, for one. He runs the Environmental Protection Agency, so of course he’s pro-pollution. Steve Bannon, whose website gets more clicks than mine and also sells threatening doormats. The attorney General of West Virginia. The coal mining industry.

In other words, this should not have been close. But Trump seems to have been persuaded by a common belief among Americans that saving the planet is less important than keeping coal miners employed. Most of Trump’s voters don’t think very hard about their own opinions, but among those who do, they’re persuaded by things like blog posts on Grover Norquist’s website: “Top 5 Reasons U.S. Should Withdraw from Paris Climate Treaty.”

Read it if you like being lied to. The author is either ignorant of some of the basic concepts of climate finance, or he’s deliberately misrepresenting the purpose and spirit of things like the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Green Climate Fund. Despite their flaws, these multilateral initiatives are among scarce evidence of mankind’s redemptive character: that we can cooperate for common good, that we care for those historically oppressed. We’ve made mistakes — we literally broke the climate — but when the chips are down we’re crafty enough to fix it.

The most optimistic aspect of the global response to climate change is its underlying theory. Developed nations are wealthy in part because of the cheap and dirty energy they produced since the Industrial Revolution. Poor countries never got to take advantage of that, and yet they’re now disproportionately bearing the consequences of all those greenhouse gases we created. A just model of climate finance — something the Paris Agreement aspires to be and what most climate funds are all about — asks rich countries to do a bit more. Cut your emissions. Pay up. And sometimes it even means letting poor countries burn some coal until their economies catch up.

Norquist’s writer ignores all that. “This [Green Climate Fund’s] goal is to raise $100 billion a year through voluntary contributions from countries who have signed the Paris Climate Treaty [it’s not a treaty; this is incorrect]. Thus billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars are currently, and will continue to be, sent abroad to finance projects in foreign nations.” It’s almost as though they aren’t aware the United States is on earth.

Trump’s lazy, selfish response to climate change squares perfectly with his ongoing war on the poor. From his budget proposal, which obliterates social programs, to his callousness toward civilians in developing-world conflict zones, the Trump doctrine is a dispassionate assault on the powerless, including millions of his own supporters. Decades of post-war progress, including banner accomplishments of even Republican predecessors, is at risk.

The upshot is that Trump finds himself increasingly alone. His European colleagues hate him. All but the looniest of congressional Republicans are active fans. The others tolerate him because he signs their bills. China happily declared it would maintain its climate commitments even if the Americans break their pledge.

As of right now, the White House is insisting Trump hasn’t decided yet. So maybe there’s still hope for the Paris Agreement. Even so, no one actually expects the Trump administration to cut all the greenhouse gas emissions Barack Obama promised to. For at least the next few years, the rest of the world will need to pick up America’s slack.

In today’s other big news event, scores of people are dead in a Kabul suicide blast, which apparently involved a bomb inside a tanker truck. Here’s an affecting feature we published in 2015 about the Afghan mortician man who entombs terrorists and their victims.

Hang in there,
Ben

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Ben Wolford
Ben Wolford is editor of Latterly. His reporting has appeared in The New York Times, Newsweek, The Christian Science Monitor and elsewhere.
  • Steve Nordquist

    Hah, skipped over the obvious (how the war is put upon the poor) and started into details without so much as a link to a paywalled lede? C’mon, at least put the Presidential Tease in “He is concerned first and foremost with paying photojournalists, and a net 3-day basis.”