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Trump vs. the Paris Climate Agreement

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Economic Isolation

The U.S. could stay in the Paris agreement while putting a stop to the policies that make it possible for it to hit its pledge of reducing emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. This would equate to ceding the race for the global clean energy economy, estimated to be a $6 trillion market by 2030. This would be a huge missed opportunity.

The private sector clearly understands this opportunity. In January, 630 businesses and investors—including DuPont, General Mills, Hewlett Packard and Pacific Gas and Electric signed an open letter to then-President-elect Trump and Congress, calling on them to continue supporting low carbon policies, investment in a low carbon economy and U.S. participation in the Paris agreement.

Indeed, the view that the Paris agreement is at odds with our economic-self-interest fails to acknowledge the transition that is well underway. In South Carolina alone, the clean energy economy grew from an almost $1 billion industry in 2013 to a $3.8 billion industry in 2016. China is already capitalizing on this economic reality by investing $360 billion in renewable energy through 2020, creating 13 million more jobs. Like China, many countries will be more than happy to fill any economic void the U.S. leaves behind.

When asked her views on climate change, Gov. Nikki Haley, nominated by President Trump to be ambassador to the UN, said "we should do what is right, but not at the peril of our businesses." What is right is staying in the Paris agreement and everything else around it that the U.S. helped build to make it possible.

Strategic Isolation

A sweeping 2016 report released by U.S. intelligence agencies found that climate impacts can create political and social instability. In 2015, G7 foreign ministers commissioned a study, A New Climate for Peace and began pursuing measures to better coordinate activity on climate security risks.

If the U.S. does not lead or cooperate on such initiatives, it will find itself outside of this critical conversation and strategically isolated in the process. If the U.S. pulls out of the Paris agreement or ceases its pursuit of measures to reduce emissions at home, it will further isolate itself from the world by making this problem worse rather than better.

The only way to minimize the risk climate change poses is to simultaneously prepare for impacts and address causes. The U.S. military cannot do its job of protecting the homeland or American interests abroad if it is hamstrung by a refusal to address the reality of climate change or its impact on international security.

America cannot afford to be a climate loner, nor can the world afford for it to become one. If President Trump is to live up to his promise to be a president for all Americans, then he will honor U.S. climate commitments in the name of security and prosperity.

Andrew Light, Ph.D., is distinguished senior fellow in the Global Climate Program at World Resources Institute. David Waskow is the director of the World Resources Institute's International Climate Initiative.

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