So much has transpired the past two years, it’s easy to forget.
Yet on Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Trump sent his withdrawal letter to the United Nations, initiating the withdrawal process set to be completed next November 4–one day after the presidential election.
Pompeo posted to Twitter:
Today we begin the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. The U.S. is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens. Ours is a realistic and pragmatic model.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) November 4, 2019
This means the United States of America–the second biggest global greenhouse gas producer–is now officially the only country unincluded in the historic and urgent deal agreed to at the 2015 UN climate change conference intended to establish a global coalition to prevent the atmosphere from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius–-2.7 degrees Fahrenheit-–over pre-industrial levels.
The United States had agreed to cut its heat-trapping pollution at least 26% below 2005 levels by 2025.
Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a leading expert on the United Nations’ international climate negotiations process, warned:
“President Trump’s decision to walk away from the Paris agreement is irresponsible and shortsighted. All too many people are already experiencing the costly and harmful impacts of climate change in the form of rising seas, more intense hurricanes and wildfires, and record-breaking temperatures.”
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) president Ken Cook added:
“The total retreat by President Trump and his administration in the global fight against climate change is the definition of betrayal. The U.S. and the world are rapidly running out of time to stave off the worst impacts of climate disruption, while the president is actively working to speed up our collision with the biggest existential threat facing every American.”
Jean Su, energy director with the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Climate Law Institute, stated:
“Trump can run from the Paris agreement, but he can’t hide from the climate crisis. Most Americans know we need urgent action, and they realize this administration’s pro-polluter policies have devastating consequences. The silver lining is, Trump’s Paris withdrawal will give the global community a break from his bullying support for fossil fuels. But the next president will need to rejoin the accord immediately and commit to the rapid, wholescale clean-energy transformation the climate emergency demands. America is the number-one historical contributor to the climate emergency wreaking havoc in burning California, the flooded Southeast, and the rest of the world. The next president must repay this extraordinary climate debt by rapidly moving America to 100 percent clean energy and financing the decarbonization of the Global South.”
If Trump loses next year, his Democratic successor will have to submit a letter of intent to rejoin the accord and wait a required 30 days. The earliest we could then be reintegrated would be Feb. 21, 2021.
Every Democratic contender for the nomination has pledged to do this.
Barack Obama’s former Secretary of State, John Kerry, who played an integral role in the Paris Climate negotiations, and former defense secretary Chuck Hegel, wrote in a joint Washington Post op-ed about this “dark day for America”:
“Climate change is already affecting every sector and region of the United States, as hundreds of top scientists from 13 federal agencies made clear in a report the White House itself released last year. The past five years were the warmest ever recorded. Without steep pollution reductions, climate change will risk tens of thousands of US lives every year by the end of the century.”
Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released an alarming report stating the world has 12 years to halt coal consumption and slash carbon dioxide emissions to prevent the atmosphere from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.
Even a half-degree increase puts us on track to experience more hurricanes like Michael, coastline inundation, floods, wildfires, drought, food shortages, mass human and animal migrations, and ecocide.
International borders, economies, food and water supplies, health, education, transportation, energy sources, are all predicted to change with the climate as the planet warms faster than scientists predicted.
Another casualty on the list: democracy.
In what is being labeled “climate apartheid,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights, Philip Alston, warns climate change’s impacts are likely to undermine democracy and the rule of law in addition to basic rights to life, water, food, and housing for hundreds of millions.
Ecocide is already underway and putting society at extreme risk, according to a recent 1,800-page United Nations (UN) global assessment Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IBPES) report more than 450 scientists and diplomats took over three years to compile from 15,000 academic studies and reports.
According to Michael Mann, esteemed Pennsylvania State University professor and director of the Earth Science Systems Science Center, the IPCC’s assessment is actually conservative, underestimating the amount of warming that has already occurred.
We actually have less carbon left to burn if we wish to avoid the 1.5-degree Celsius threshold the IPCC report cites.
We have already passed too many tipping points to avoid some of the climate’s most devastating effects, and many scientists theorize the world has begun a sixth mass extinction.
And now we’ve cut our lifeline just as carbon emissions are increasing again after years in decline.
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