On Monday, Nov. 4, the U.S. took the first step in a year-long process to formally withdraw from the Paris climate accord. The accord was signed into effect on Nov. 4, 2016, by 196 states that agreed to prioritize a global response to climate change. As part of the agreement, each state had to propose plans that displayed how they would reduce greenhouse gas emissions. By formally pulling out of the agreement the U.S. will harm not only the environment, but also their reputation as a superpower.
The U.S. has consistently been one of the top producers of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimated that the U.S. emitted 5.1 billion metric tons of energy related carbon dioxide in 2017, which would account for about 15% of global emissions. As a world superpower and major contributor of global emissions the U.S. should hold itself accountable and attempt to work alongside other nations toward a solution.
Choosing to back out of the landmark agreement is a significant decision, as the climate approaches the “the critical point of no return.” However, this move should not come as a surprise to anyone. The Trump administration has consistently dubbed climate change as a hoax, choosing instead to prioritize domestic issues that affect cities within the U.S. While trying to focus on affairs in the country could be seen as admirable and logical, it is important to emphasize that the environment is nearing the point of no return and saving it will require effort from all who inhabit it, especially a country that claims the superpower label.
Tackling climate change was a priority for the Obama administration, which is why he signed the Paris climate accord and created the Clean Power Plan. Since Trump took over the presidency he has been hell-bent on undoing the strides Obama made toward decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Throughout its tenure, the Trump administration has continuously attempted to undercut efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions: the administration has weakened methane regulations, eliminated Obama’s Clean Power Plan and allowed for more oil drilling.
Backing out of an agreement that they helped establish hurts the U.S.’ reputation on an international scale. A superpower should be at the forefront of initiatives that confront global issues and could help extend their influence over other developing countries, but conversely the U.S.’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accord created fear that developing nations would follow their lead. Despite those initial fears, developing countries decided to stay on board, partially due to a joint statement from France, Germany and Italy that helped calm any overreactions from developing countries. Nonetheless the withdrawal from the Paris climate accord served as a sign that America, as currently constituted, is not a country to admire. The back and forth swing in policy and beliefs between presidents of different parties has also made the U.S. appear inconsistent in their approach, making them an unreliable country.
Although the U.S. is currently formally withdrawing from the Paris climate accord, the 2020 elections symbolize a beacon of hope for the future. The finalization of the withdrawal will take effect on Nov. 4, 2020, a day after the elections, so if a new president is elected, they will have the opportunity to change course and get America back on the right track.