From the moment Donald Trump was elected president, we knew there would be days like these, when hope would be overwhelmed by despair.
The decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change is a serious blow to the international community’s attempts to counter global warming, regardless of the determination of the rest to press on. The loss of a superpower represents more than just whatever this will mean for emissions and temperature targets. The movement has lost a leader to influence the world’s more reluctant nations and encourage them to aim for targets that they would not entertain voluntarily. By opting out, the US sends the message that it is acceptable to ignore the Paris Agreement.
It is galling to recall that the US signed the Paris Agreement just 13 months ago, a momentous occasion which has been undone through one man’s selfish belief that the US economy – and the pursuit of maximum commercial gain, apparently at any cost – is more important than the future of the planet. The Agreement, which is signed by 190 countries, is “bad for America”.
It is also difficult to get away from the conclusion that not only is Trump doing this to “put America first”, he’s doing it because he can. He’s doing it because the Paris Agreement was signed by the Obama regime, and therefore is wrong and must be dismantled.
The justification is pitiful. Trump and his supporters complain that it is wrong to put the US economy at a disadvantage if China is not making the same commitment. This, of course, is ridiculous. If China should be doing more to counter climate change, the US walking away from the agreement is the least likely way of achieving progress. As well as selfish, it is irresponsible.
We knew long ago that Trump is not a deep thinker, and his impulsive approach to world affairs has hardly been tempered since assuming office. It’s at the same intellectually challenged level as Senator James Inhofe taking a snowball on to the Senate floor to prove that global warming doesn’t exist.
Sadly, there will be more unpalatable developments to come from the Trump administration. Can any global initiative succeed without the involvement of the United States? Possibly. But on climate change, what was already a daunting task has just become even harder, and the world, almost overnight, is a poorer place.