In an announcement made last week, Donald Trump, playing to the uncompromising interests of his most ardent supporters (85 percent of Republicans reject that climate change is a serious problem that requires action), promised the world that on the day after the next presidential election, Nov. 4, 2020, the United States will formally withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. 

The Climate Agreement, a global accord signed in 2015, is a pledge by 197 nations (including China, India, Russia and the European Union) to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions in order to substantially slow the planet’s warming and, ultimately, to delay its lethal impact—namely, the destabilization of coastal communities; massive crop failures; devastating fires, epic flooding, and millions of refugees fleeing uninhabitable regions.

Todd Stern, the chief American negotiator for the agreement (and now a senior fellow at both the World Resources Institute and the Brookings Institution), appeared astounded by Trump’s proclamation when interviewed, shortly afterward, on the PBS NewsHour.

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“It was crazy for the president to do. It was an excellent agreement for everybody, particularly excellent for the United States,” Stern said. “We got just about everything we wanted in this agreement—a completely solid agreement, supported by virtually all of American business. I don’t think you would find five CEOs out of the Fortune 500 who are against the Paris agreement, not to mention the military, not to mention the intel community and so forth.

“And the other thing it protects,” continued Stern, “is the American people. I mean, if there’s one obligation that the president has, it’s to take care of people, to protect people from harm. And I will tell you, whether this is in a blue state or a red state, climate change is an equal-opportunity destroyer. And, instead, we have walked away. It will damage the capacity of the world overall to respond to climate change. The absence of the United States makes it that much harder to reduce emissions in a meaningful way…to get to essentially something like net-zero carbon by 2050. And without the United States - the second greatest pollution producer in the world, the political will to keep to the agreement will be inadequate. And that is the most important thing.”

More than two out of three Americans, according to Gallup’s annual Environment Survey, believe that government is doing too little to protect the environment and that protecting the environment should be a priority, even at the risk of curbing economic growth. This substantial majority also believes that government should promote and support solar and wind power and require higher emissions and pollution standards for industry.

However, the Trump administration has not only announced that this country will not participate in the world’s climate agreement; it has disemboweled the Environmental Protection Agency, while aggressively advancing support for fossil fuel exploration and utilization, especially coal.

In a series of ongoing decisions, Trump—along with his minions of Republican climate-change deniers—has actively disregarded the 2018 National Climate Assessment (NCA). This scholarly report, conducted at the direction of Congress, concluded that high-temperature extremes and heavy precipitation events are increasing, glaciers and snow cover are shrinking, and sea ice is retreating. Seas are warming, rising, and becoming more acidic, and marine species are moving to new locations toward cooler waters. Flooding is becoming more frequent along the U.S. coastline. Growing seasons are lengthening, and wildfires are increasing.

The NCA report concluded that unless there are substantial and sustained reductions in global greenhouse gas emissions, considerable damage to the U.S. economy will occur throughout the century totaling hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

There is no issue more dire today than the climate crisis. The environmental harm that Trump has put into place, to date, is incalculable.  Yet, going into next year’s presidential election, Trump is the overwhelming favorite of Republicans to serve a second term. Should Trump win, the ripping-up of the Paris Climate Agreement on Nov. 4, 2020, will serve as a celebratory event for his followers, but will undoubtedly spell impending calamity for much of the world.

It will be a day that will live in infamy!