The Paris Agreement and the Trump Effect

Thomas Schueneman

Alone, isolated, and underwater: the Trump Climate Effect

Easier said than done

Last week, Taryn Fransen and Kelly Levin of the World Resources Institute published an informative analysis on the "Trump Effect" on the Paris Agreement, signed in Paris at COP21 in December 2015. It was historic in many respects, not least of which was that it was the first time the whole world agreed on anything so ambitious.

Even so, it wasn't ambitious enough. The Paris Agreement turns on the phrase "increased ambition".

In other words, save for a handful of countries (North Korea, Syria, Nicaragua), the world of nations agree to decarbonize the economy by the last half of the century. We know it's unimaginably easier said than done, and just saying it was hardly easy. It took 20 years.

The Paris Agreement is gooey and loose enough to get everyone on board. It's the first step.

The unraveling

Even with all of Obama's policies in place, including the Clean Power Plan, the United States will fall short of its NDC target of 4.8 to 4.9 GtCO2e in total emissions (gigatons of CO2 equivalent). In 2015, the U.S. economy emitted 5.8 GtCO2e. We knew we had work to do, but there was a plan to do it.

Obviously, it gets worse under Trump. Or better, I suppose, if you think the whole thing is a hoax. Whichever, it's time to make up your mind.

Isolated Trump

The delusion of isolation

The irony is almost comically tragic. The handful of countries that refused to sign on in Paris now have. It is the United States that has pulled away and stands alone and isolated.

But we aren't Trump. The president abdicates his administration's authority, not U.S. leadership.

Others must now lead.

Photo by Aral Tasher on Unsplash


Climate Politics & Policy