U.S. goes where only Syria and Nicaragua have gone before

Whole Earth

So what if the United States, guided by the wisdom of our cheerless leader, has pulled out of the Paris Accord signed by more than 190 other nations?

It’s not like we’re going to be alone! We’ll be joining, um, Syria. And Nicaragua! So, yay us, huh? Now we’ll be pace-setters, too!

President Trump declared that the United States would leave the Paris climate agreement, following months of infighting among Trump’s staff that left the world in suspense. He said he hopes to negotiate a similar deal that is more favorable to the U.S.

This move is one of several Obama-era environmental milestones that Trump has dismantled. And all the while, a new study shows global temperatures might be rising faster than expected.

Leaving the agreement displaces the U.S. from a stance of global leadership and places it alongside just two non-participating countries: Syria, which is in the midst of a civil war, and Nicaragua, who refused to join because the Paris Agreement didn’t go far enough. Even countries such as Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which are among the poorest in the world and were struggling with an Ebola epidemic at the time, have signed on….

And yes, in answer to the question that a Trump supporter asked on the blog earlier today, China and India are taking part in the accord. Not only that, they’re stepping up into the leadership role the United States is forfeiting:

Earlier this week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on a visit to Berlin, stood alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel and said that failing to act on climate change was a “morally criminal act.”

And earlier this year, Chinese President Xi Jinping called the 2015 climate accord in Paris “a hard-won achievement” and urged other signers to stick to their pledges instead of walking away — “as this is a responsibility we must assume for future generations.”

In the past, there was skepticism in both countries about Western calls for emissions reductions, which were seen as hypocritical. The strong public comments now underline how far opinion both countries has moved in recent years, and the rhetorical leadership is extremely welcome, experts say….

Oh, and by the way — it’s not just words. China is not only living up to what it’s promised, it’s ahead of schedule in reducing its carbon footprint.

China is, of course, in this and other areas (such as TPP), only too happy to assume the mantle of global leadership that the United States is so eagerly, and so stupidly, laying aside.

46 thoughts on “U.S. goes where only Syria and Nicaragua have gone before

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    Now watch: Some adherent of America First will complain that China and India won’t be expected to foot a large part of the bill for helping other nations implement the accord, the way the United States was. So there, they’ll say!

    To which I say yes, that’s right: In any rational moral scheme, more is expected from those who have more to give…

  2. Norm Ivey

    Cheerless leader.

    That’s really nice. Works in more than one way. Good job, Brad. Maybe you should write for a living.

  3. Norm Ivey

    Where China has separated itself from the United States on this issue is that they have always seen the economic opportunities in addressing climate change. We, on the other hand, are following the track made popular by all the companies that ignored the disruptive technologies that hit their industries. Kodak, for one. It’s like we think the Instamatic will be around forever, and we’ll get rich selling film.

  4. Norm Ivey

    The more I watch Trump, the more it seems to me that his plan is really just to undo everything President Obama accomplished. Like he’s on some sort of personal vendetta.

    1. Mark Stewart

      It’s an easy plan. From the Trump perspective. He just follows the breadcrumbs and sucks them up.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      To me, it seems that his goal is to commit as much STOOPID as he possibly can. If it’s dumb, if it undoes years and decades and centuries of wise policy, he wants to lay waste to it.

      It doesn’t matter who did the smart thing — Obama, Bush, LBJ, FDR, Lincoln, whoever — he wants to blow it up.

      I mocked Obama’s foreign policy formulation of “Don’t do stupid s__t.” Now I’m nostalgic for it. That would be a wonderful start on the way to getting the nation back on track…

  5. bud

    This is likely the biggest issue of the day. Not sexy like the moonshot. Not incredibly important like th a-bomb. Hell its not transformative in an obvious way like the interstate highway system. But damn this is important for our children’s future. Seems like I read somewhere that Nicaragua felt that it was not strong enough and objected for that reason. In any event this really is a pretty rediculous place to part company with the family of man.

  6. Karen Pearson

    This is one example of where punishment for a parent’s misdeeds will extend to children and granchildren, and we’ll be lucky if it doesn’t extend past the 7th generation.

  7. Dave

    Justin Trudeau today criticized this as an action of the “United States federal government” as distinct from the United States as a country:

    This strikes me as an interesting formulation that I’ve never seen before. Maybe there’s an historical parallel that I’m not thinking of? But will be interesting to see if this is adopted by leaders of other countries going forward. Or by citizens of the United States.

    One of the more underreported changes that Trump is engendering in this country is severing the fusing of the head of state and head of government roles that we’ve always had united in the presidency. Now, formally they’ll still be fused. But practically people are not according him the head of state role due to his character, behavior, and unwillingness to unite the country. I don’t think that’s a lasting change in the U.S. But it is likely to remain a feature of the Trump presidency.

  8. Mr. Lorax

    Trump is working hard to turn the US into the world’s Yokel Nation: a country that belligerently embraces backwardness, showing the rest of the globe the middle finger.

    Here’s how conservative columnist David Frum puts it in a piece in the Atlantic:
    From: The Death Knell for America’s Global Leadership

    “Perhaps the most terrifying thing about the Trump presidency is the way even its most worldly figures, in words composed for them by its deepest thinkers, have reimagined the United States in the image of their own chief: selfish, isolated, brutish, domineering, and driven by immediate appetites rather than ideals or even longer-term interests.
    Like Trump himself, this general and this financier [McMaster and Cohen] who speak for him know only the language of command, not of respect. They summon partners to join them “to enhance American security, promote American prosperity, and extend American influence around the world”—and never anticipate or answer the question, “Why should we British, French, Germans, Canadians, Australians, and on and on through the catalogue of your disrespected allies join that project?”
    Under the slogan of restoring American greatness, they are destroying it. Promising readers that they want to “restore confidence in American leadership,” they instead threaten and bluster in ways that may persuade partners that America has ceased to be the leader they once respected—but an unpredictable and dangerous force in world affairs, itself to be contained and deterred by new coalitions of ex-friends.”

    Trump’s decision on the Paris Accord is the high-level political equivalent of “rolling coal”:


    (yeah, this is a thing in certain circles)

  9. Bryan Caskey

    In the wake of the US decision to pull out, I’m seeing two different claims being made from people who are for the Paris Accords and for the US staying in. First, there is a claim being made is that the Paris Accords are non-binding, vastly ineffectual, and the whole agreement is basically symbolic, so why even bother withdrawing?

    The other claim is that the Paris Accords is the Only Thing That Will Keep the Earth from Becoming a Fiery Furnace and Literally Killing All Life As We Know It.

    Naturally, both of these claims cannot be true at the same time. Either the Paris Accords do something or they don’t. These claims cannot co-exist unless it’s like Schrödinger’s Climate Agreement.

    1. Doug Ross

      They are as effective as the United Nations has been at stopping war and rely as much on the U.S. to cover for the rest of the world failing to step up. It’s window dressing for tree huggers. We can do our part (or more) in addressing climate change without having to get a bunch of other countries to agree on bureaucratic regulations or feel-good statements of positivity.

      If we lead, the rest of the world will follow.

          1. Doug Ross

            I didn’t mean lead as in “tell them what to do”. I meant lead as in “we’re in first place, it’s up to you if you want to catch up”.

            We shouldn’t have to negotiate to do what we think is right and best for the U.S. No amount of “We’re all in this together” mumbo jumbo is going to get everyone on the same page. Countries will be driven by their own agendas and own capabilities.

            1. Bob Amundson

              Neither “tell them what to do” or “we’re in first place, it’s up to you if you want to catch up” are effective leadership styles.

              1. Doug Ross

                Yeah, that’s what people who are behind say. Leading by example is the best leadership style.

                1. Doug Ross

                  I’d rather read about leader leadership. But please give me a tangible example of something accomplished by servant leadership. Something with an actual measurable, physical result.

                2. Doug Ross

                  I like leaders like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Bear Bryant (he could take his and beat yours or take yours and beat his).. people who do things.

                3. Bob Amundson

                  A good quote from Wikipedia: “Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the ‘top of the pyramid.’ By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.”

                4. Doug Ross

                  As an example, I am mentoring three people at my company. I come up with activities for them to perform that helps them grow professionally. The difference is that whatever I ask them to do, I also do myself. I take the same courses, do the same writing assignments, deliver the same tasks. I lead by example.

                5. Doug Ross

                  The reason there is leadership at the top of a pyramid is because there are people who are better at it and many times they rise to that position based on their superior skills. There’s a reason why we’re all not leaders.

                6. Phillip

                  You mentioned Elon Musk. Leader that he is, he just resigned from two presidential business councils with these words: “Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”

    2. Bryan Caskey

      Personally, I see it more as the former. How can the US’s rejection of the Paris Accords be Literally The End Of The Planet, but it’s not up for renegotiation?

      1. Doug Ross

        Because, like Obamacare, nobody actually KNOWS what’s in the Paris Accord. They go off a dumbed down, summary of a summary of a synopsis written by their favorite biased blog.

        From Wikipedia: “In the Paris Agreement, each country determines its own contribution it should make in order to mitigate global warming.There is no mechanism to force a country to set a specific target by a specific date.” “The level of nationally determined contributions set by each country will set that country’s targets. However the ‘contributions’ themselves are not binding as a matter of international law, as they lack the specificity, normative character, or obligatory language necessary to create binding norms”

        It’s a participation trophy mindset for people who love committees. If it had any useful purpose, there would be specific mandated contributions, specific mandated actions, specific mandated penalties for non-compliance.

        Trump is right on this one. Now it’s up to Congress to come up with the programs that advance our country’s response to climate change. I don’t care what 195 other countries want us to do.

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        It’s not the end of the planet. It’s yet another stark example of the end of U.S. leadership. And that worries me more than another chunk of ice melting off Antarctica.

        Why is it not up for renegitiation?

        Because it took years to get here, and 190+ countries are satisfied with the result. Only Syria, Nicaragua and Donald Trump are not. That’s not enough justification for a do-over…

  10. Karen Pearson

    You might want to care Doug. If India decides to go back to coal instead of developing non-polluting sources as they are doing now, or if China is too busy exporting its green technology, it’s likely to get very bad in about 40 yrs. Of course, I don’t need to worry; I haven’t got children or grandchildren.

    1. Doug Ross

      Please review some of the end is near dire predictions from 20 years ago from scientists. How did that work out? The great thing with forecasting events decades in the future is that you never have to be held accountable.

      1. scout

        I learned about the greenhouse effect for the first time in grade school in the 70s. I learned how it would cause the ice caps to melt and sea level to rise. I remember that I learned it then because I was a wierd kid and I worried about stuff. Guess what, it’s happening.

      2. Karen Pearson

        Yeah, we only do the best we can with what we have. But when the scientific community keeps coming up with yet more evidence–well their informed opinion is the best we have.

    1. Phillip

      Doug, puhleeze. You’re being facetious, I hope. More headlines from that “unbiased” website:

      “Why there’s a rising tide of left-wing violence on campus”
      “Feminist explains why she left the social justice ‘cult’ ”
      “Why the Left refuses to talk about Venezuela”
      “Trump’s Tax Breaks are Not a Gift for the Rich”
      “Why Emotionally Abusive Women are given a pass in pop culture”

      Most of this website’s arguments against the Agreement seem factually inaccurate based on the preponderance of evidence to the contrary. The only argument they make that’s remotely accurate is that probably there will be some investment regardless in new energy sources in this country regardless of the US being in the Paris Accord or not. The tidal wave of opposition to Trump’s move from all sorts of sources—within Trump’s own Administration, among CEO’s of many companies from across the spectrum, of course from the scientific community, and the remarkable consensus of governments around the world, refute the remaining paltry arguments pretty effectively.

      But if you can find a better source of counter-arguments, by all means present them—but don’t pass this off as one such. I think it’s better just for pro-Trumpists to be honest and say, “hey, let’s maximize profits in the short term as much as possible, and let the next generation or two or three worry about climate change, because we’ll all be long gone anyway.” That to me is a much more honest defense of Trump’s decision.

    2. Scout

      Going to have to agree with Phillip about the “Unbiased” nature of this site. This is from their own ‘about’ page:

      “We believe that Western Civilization is the greatest civilization the world has yet seen. The West’s guiding principles and beliefs have resulted in tremendous opportunities for human flourishing and the incredibly improved material well-being of humanity that we see today. It must be preserved.

      Intellectual Takeout exists to help rebuild the intellectual and spiritual foundations of the West so that it can once again be a light for its people and all the world. We use our powerful communications tools to initiate millions of Americans each year into the Greco-Roman and Judeo-Christian traditions upon which their country was founded. We provide a refuge for rational discourse so they can thoughtfully dialogue about these ideas with others. Through our work, we are helping to renew America and the West.”

      That sounds like a pretty clear bias.

      Interesting that their mission statement involves having the West be a “a light for its people and all the world” and in this piece that you taut, they are arguing in favor of the West not participating in being a leader for all the world. I guess when perceived business interests are at stake, “all the world” doesn’t matter anymore?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Well, as y’all know, I’m all about some Western values.

        But Scout (as usual) is completely right — they are inconsistent.

        The things I value about the West are being dumped on by the attitude of “Let the rest of the world go to hell…”

    1. Scout

      I don’t have a problem with this for several reasons.
      1) we have been polluting longer than any of those countries so it is conceivable that we should pay more.
      2) We can afford it and we can show our leadership and commitment to the cause by putting our money where our mouth is (especially since, again, we’ve been contributing to the problem longer)

      Also – that money is to be used to help third world countries develop greener energy sources. I would bet there are some US companies who will be selling those technologies and helping in their development in those third world countries. So besides investing in the future of the planet, this money will also potentially expand markets and funnel business to US companies.

      It seems that most business people who aren’t stuck in a simplistic grade school mindset epitomized by “hey, you got more than me, that’s not fair”, realize that participating and leading in this area is a win not a loss.

      1. Richard

        We’ve been polluting longer than China and/or India? This country has never polluted this planet to the extent either of those countries currently are.

        We’re $20 trillion dollars in debt. In fact we borrow money from China. How is this “we can afford it”?

        I guess that’s why I’m in business and not a social worker.

        1. Scout

          “We’ve been polluting longer than China and/or India?”

          Yes we have. We were the top emitter of CO2 by extremely large margins from the 1890s through 2005. That is a quite a chunk of time. China has surpassed us for 12 years, while we held the top spot for 115 years. 115 is greater than 12, so yes – we have been polluting longer. China didn’t even begin to have levels that register until about 1980. India didn’t start rising their levels until about 1990 and India’s levels are still not even half of ours.

          “This country has never polluted this planet to the extent either of those countries currently are.”

          Not exactly true – As previously mentioned, India has not yet surpassed our levels. China has been emitting more than us for 12 years. But I think the cumulative effect of the 115 years still beats it.

          If you are implying that I’m a social worker, you are also wrong about that. Speech Language Pathologist.

          Statistics are from here: http://www.wri.org/blog/2014/05/history-carbon-dioxide-emissions

      2. Richard

        Let’s put it another way. If you go out with friends, do you enjoy picking up the tab… everytime? Wouldn’t it be nice if the at least covered the tip once in a while?


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