So, Trump has decided to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. It’s not really a great surprise, but disappointing nonetheless. The thing that gets me is how inconsistent the arguments for leaving seem to be. I particularly liked David Roberts’s article which pointed out that the Paris climate deal can’t be both nonbinding and draconian. Similarly, people seem to justify leaving on the basis of the Paris accord not really achieving much. Well, it wasn’t intended to be the final step and if it isn’t achieving enough, surely the solution is then to do more, not less.
However, some of the claims of it achieving little are wrong. It’s suggested that it would only reduce global temperatures by a few tenths of a degree by 2100. However, this is only likely if, after 2030, we simply give up, and go back to increasing our emissions. As illustrated by the figure on the right, [f]ull implementation of current Paris pledges plus all announced mid-century strategies would reduce expected warming by 2100 to 3.3°C, a difference of 0.9°C.
However, I actually think the momentum is going to be diffiult to stop. Lots of countries are starting to think of ways to reduce theirs emissions, and even many US states have claimed that this will not influence their intention to reduce emissions. So, when it comes to addressing climate change, the US withdrawing from the Paris accord may not be that significant. It may mean that we don’t reduce emissions as fast as we might have otherwise done, but I suspect that the overall effect will be small.
What I think is more concerning are the geopolitical implications of this decision. A global superpower has decided to withdraw from an agreement that was aimed at addressing what might be the most important global issue of this age; essentially the US will no longer be playing a leadership role. Other countries will be, and already are, stepping in to take on this leadership role and the influence of the US in the world will be diminished. Not only that, there are economic implications. It seems clear that we will be seeing more and more of a shift away from fossil fuels, and those who embrace this will probably benefit more than those who do not.
I don’t have a good sense of the implications of the above. Maybe there aren’t many. However, it would certainly seem better to have the US playing a leading role, than taking a step back and allowing others to take over this leadership role. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to take it on again, and I hope they don’t regret allowing this to happen.