Leaving Paris Pact A Bad Idea

Daily News-Record, June 17, 2017
Leslie Grady Jr., Opinion (Open Forum)

Why did the delegates cheer when they adopted the Paris Climate Agreement? Was it because now they could stick it to the U.S. and ruin our economy? No! It was because for the first time in history almost all countries recognized that we face a global problem and agreed to work together to solve it.

And now President Trump wants to pull the U.S. out of it? What about the Pacific islander, whose home is vulnerable to rising seas? Or the African villager, whose crops have failed because of unprecedented drought? Or the Pakistani laborer, whose income is cut because he can’t work in the summer due to life-threatening heat and humidity? Evidently, Trump wants to tell them: “Tough luck; we want a better deal!” Get serious! That’s a foolish idea born out of ignorance.

So why should we act on climate? There are three main reasons: moral, economic and political.

Because the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere is the main driver of climate change, the United States bears a particular moral responsibility. Why? Because we released more than 25 percent of it, even though we are less than 5 percent of the global population. We also have the highest per capita emission rate, more than double that of Europe. But, acting on our emissions won’t just benefit others, it will also help us. Smarter use of energy will improve our economy, save us money, improve our quality of life, and make us healthier.

The illogical thing about leaving the Paris Climate Agreement is that it flies in the face of economic progress. The big energy markets of the future will be in Africa, Southeast Asia and South America. They’re already embracing renewable energy, rather than just building centralized energy supplies based on fossil fuels. This trend will accelerate as better batteries and energy storage systems are developed. We could be selling those systems to the rest of the world, but instead, we’ll be viewed as turning our backs on them.

Global leadership is something the United States has embraced since the end of World War II, but leaving the Paris Climate Agreement brings that era to an end. “America First!” also means “Others Last!” That’s not the type of message that will resonate in today’s world. The Paris Climate Agreement was a shining example of global cooperation and the international response to Trump’s decision shows that the rest of the world doesn’t want to return to old “Me first!” policies.

Now, it’s up to us. We can lower our own carbon footprints. We can encourage our local governments to embrace energy efficiency and renewable energy. We can act to change energy policies at the state level to diminish the reliance on fossil fuels.

Embrace the spirit of the Paris Climate Agreement and act for a better tomorrow.

Mr. Grady lives in Harrisonburg.

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