In a Rose Garden setting, with seated guests and formally introduced by a fawning Vice President Pence, President Donald Trump formally announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Climate Accord. He added that once we have done that and are out of the agreement, then he will consider renegotiating for a better deal for American taxpayers, or perhaps a completely new deal.
Trump's announcement speech lasted more than 20 minutes and included a dark, bleak view of our place in the world. MSNBC's Nicole Wallace called it an "anti-global speech." He actually said this: "Our withdrawal from the agreement represents our reassertion of America's own sovereignty."
Folks, pardon my language, but that is pure, unadulterated bullshit. Fareed Zakaria, speaking on CNN was less profane, but he called it "The day the United States resigned as the leader of the free world."
First of all, Trump's talk of our threatened sovereignty is entirely bogus: the Paris Accord does not give any other country any control over us. Either Trump does not understand it at all, or he is being completely cynical and pandering to his misinformed voting base.
The Paris Accord is a completely voluntarily agreement, where 195 nations miraculously came together in 2015 and made an agreement, whereby each country would voluntarily set its own goals for reduction of carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. The group is one of solidarity and mutual encouragement to solve a global problem that affects us all; no one controls others.
Only two countries declined to join the accord: Syria, which is immersed in a civil war, and Nicaragua, which felt it did not go far enough in solving the problem. So now the U.S. has become one of three non-signers.
But, hear more of Trump's line of fake news, aimed at his voting base: "The Paris Accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risk, and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world."
None of that is true. As with his beef with other NATO countries, he can't stand it for the U.S. to pay more of the costs than others. So he rails about our being taken advantage of, and pretends that only he can really make a good deal for our interests.
Donald Trump is incapable of seeing beyond a zero-sum deal, where someone wins and the other guy loses; and, if you can find a way to take advantage of some weakness in the other guy, then do it and consider yourself smart. That's his philosophy and world view. Completely missing from his speech were these important points:
1. There was no acknowledgement that we do have an unsustainable climate warming problem. He didn't deny scientific evidence; he mentioned the climate problem only to minimize it, misstating the estimates and referring to the predicted temperature rise as "tiny, very tiny." ** It was as though, somehow, through Obama's fecklessness, we just stumbled into this agreement that is going to be terrible for our economy.
2. The Paris Accord is a voluntary agreement for mutual improvement of global climate. It has no enforcement authority other than encouragement to do what is necessary for our children to have a future. It's basis is cooperation for a higher purpose -- saving our planet -- not authoritative control. Trump can't fathom such a thing working.
3. He made no mention of innovations in renewable energy and the number of jobs being created (more than are at risk in declining fossil fuel industries). His only solution is that we have to take the regulations off fossil fuel companies, reopen coal mines, renew their jobs.
4. He has no concept of the symbolic importance, as well as the practical importance, of this being the first time virtually all the nations of the world have come together in an agreement. He just dumped that all in the trash. It has no place in his world. Again, he has no understanding of cooperation, if there is no payoff for him.
5. His discussion of the economic effects is completely one-sided, as though the decline in the fossil fuel industry is the only fact. The truth, according to Rick Stengel, former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy under President Obama is that: "The renewable energy market is a trillion dollar market, going down the road; and it is going to dwarf the old markets that exist now."
In painting his false picture of the economic harm our agreement would do to the United States, Trump quoted from a widely debunked study that predicted terrible economic results for the U.S. -- but, as Nicole Wallace of MSNBC pointed out, that study was based on the assumption that the U.S. would meet its stated goals by 100%, while every other one of the signatory countries would do absolutely nothing in their countries.
Beyond the economic effects of withdrawal here at home is the effect on our position in the world. What Trump has done is to remove the United States from a leadership position on climate change and cede that position to China, who is ready and eager to take our place as the leader on climate activism. They already have a start as the leading producer of solar panels.
Oh, and by the way, the idea of renegotiating a better deal? Less than an hour after his announcement, the leaders of Germany, France, and Italy sent out a joint statement saying that there would be no renegotiation.
Back to Rick Stengel, who also commented on what withdrawal will do to our global standing. He said this:
"Unfortunately, 'America First' means 'Little America.' An America outside the global order. It's like Great Britain became "Little England;' the United States will become 'Little America.' He's withdrawing us from the world, where we lead -- sometimes by sacrificing. We made great sacrifices in World War II; we started the Marshall Plan. . . . Leadership involves sacrifice. It doesn't just mean 'more for me.'"
As Zakaria said, we're not just backing out of the climate agreement. We're are resigning as the leader of the free world. Will it now be Germany? Or China? Putin's economy wouldn't support a major move, but look for him to stir up some trouble in Eastern Europe . . . soon, so as to take advantage of our turmoil.
** Trump really does not seem to understand the climate problem. Perhaps someone should inform him that predictions are that by 2100, if we do nothing, Mar-a-Lago will be under water.