Since Donald Trump’s inauguration as the President of the United States in January, the world has found itself uncertain of what sorts of changes would be implemented in U.S. policy. Many policies that had been established by the administration of Barack Obama, or which had even been entrenched well before he took office, have already been abandoned or reversed by the current president. This leaves many world leaders uncertain as to where the United States stands on a variety of issues. The latest example of this is the Paris Climate Change Agreement, which the U.S. has opted out of.
What does this mean for the United States and the planet as a whole?
The current U.S. presidential administration has made it clear that environmental policy is not a priority, as Donald Trump reversed 23 environmental rules in his first 100 days in office. Trump has also made a point to denounce climate change theory, labeling it a hoax.
The Paris Climate Change Agreement is an agreement that many countries have opted into that has the goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature at or below 2 degrees Celsius. In fact, only three countries have chosen not to participate – the United States, Syria, and Nicaragua. Nicaragua actually wanted the agreement to be more aggressive in favor of the environment, while Syria is dealing with political turmoil. The U.S. is therefore the only country to not sign based on not supporting the basic premise of the agreement.
In terms of implications for the world outside of the United States, the agreement will continue to move forward with its member nations pursuing a variety of actions that will help improve the global environment. Other countries have expressed their disappointment in the United States leaving the agreement, however that does not appear to be swaying their interest in supporting the movement.
For the United States, there are many repercussions to consider. One is that this further cements an emerging precedent for this administration. Citizens who care about science and the environment, as well as government employees who work in science-oriented departments, must ask themselves serious questions about what level of support they can expect from their leadership. At this point, it does not appear they can expect much.
This will then lead to the question of what might be changed next? What existing laws or agreements, especially those concerning the environment, might be abandoned in favor of the President’s personal beliefs? There is a great deal of uncertainty associated with the Paris-related actions.
There is also a significant economic concern for the U.S. Renewable energy and alternative energy are already big business and are poised for even more growth in the future. The countries which make the most significant commitments to and largest investments in the environment are going to see those investments pay off significantly for years to come. Those that sit on the sidelines will miss out on the chance to monetize this technology, and they will be forced to pay the countries that pioneer it to be able to use it.
Additionally, the U.S. will need to worry about whether not cooperating with this agreement might lead to bad feelings which make other countries less inclined to do business with the U.S. in the future. Could a country cease to trade with the U.S. as a result? Might a country opt to not agree to a measure the U.S. is pushing because the U.S. did not show its support for the Paris Agreement? These are very valid possibilities that cannot be overlooked.
There is some hope; cities and states can pursue their own actions within their own jurisdiction in hopes of improving the world around them and reducing carbon impact. But there is greater support needed from the top level of government in order to make sure that these repercussions do not occur. Not participating in the Paris Agreement now, and making further adjustments to environmental policy that will help shape the way energy is produced and profited from now will have long lasting negative impacts on the country’s future. The world will move forward on this issue with or without the United States offering support, but the path to a stronger environment and slowed climate change would certainly be easier with the U.S. than without it.