Every country in the world except for Syria and Nicaragua is a signatory to the Paris Agreement, which created broad goals and mechanisms for countries to reduce and contain greenhouse gas emissions. Tonight, the president of the United States dropped a teaser for the fate of the planet:
While Trump is trying to build the dramatic tension here, his administration certainly seems to think that America leaving the Paris accord is a done deal. Two sources told Axios this morning that the only debate left is whether to formally withdraw from the treaty—which would take until 2020—or leave the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, which would happen immediately. The UNFCCC has been in effect since 1994; leaving it would be an extraordinary move, as it creates the, uh, Framework for all international agreements on climate change.
The two major national newspapers hedged slightly more. The New York Times has three administration officials that “expected him to withdraw from the agreement, though they said that decision could still change.” And the Washington Post has two (different?) officials telling them that Trump is “still undecided but leaning toward withdrawing.”
Any degree of pullback on fighting climate change at this late hour would be devastating. As our Hamilton Nolan wrote this morning, inequality and climate change fuel each other, crushing the most vulnerable people on the planet underfoot.
Take your pick on what an expert has to say about the particular ways in which this will hurt the planet.
Calculations suggest it could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year. When it adds up year after year, scientists said that is enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.
While scientists may disagree on the computer simulations they overwhelmingly agreed that the warming the planet is undergoing now would be faster and more intense.
The world without U.S. efforts would have a far more difficult time avoiding a dangerous threshold: keeping the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.
But the fractions of additional degrees that the U.S. would contribute could mean passing the threshold faster, which could in turn mean “ecosystems being out of whack with the climate, trouble farming current crops and increasing shortages of food and water,” said the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Kevin Trenberth.
“It’s morally reprehensible to walk away from climate action,” says Keya Chatterjee, the executive director of the US Climate Action Network. “It’s an act everyone will recall as kids gasp for air during heat waves, as homes are wiped out by larger storms, as larger fires displace homes, and as droughts lead to crop failure.”
The only solace here is that Trump is an extremely suggestible old man who changes his mind based on whatever he was told or saw on cable news fifteen minutes ago. He inexplicably backed down on pulling out of NAFTA in April after talking to Justin Trudeau; hopefully an attractive politician or cable news host inclined to support climate action catches his attention around 2:45 Eastern on Thursday afternoon.