What if Donald Trump doesn't matter?

Trump pulls US from Paris accord (full speech)
Trump pulls US from Paris accord (full speech)

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    Trump pulls US from Paris accord (full speech)

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Trump pulls US from Paris accord (full speech) 27:43

John D. Sutter is a columnist for CNN who focuses on climate change and social justice. Follow him on Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook or subscribe to his email newsletter.

(CNN)US President Donald Trump stood at a podium in the White House Rose Garden on Thursday afternoon and gave a 2,000-word speech about exiting the world's most important climate change agreement without actually mentioning "climate change."

Trump said the Paris Agreement is "draconian" -- but it's voluntary.
He said it won't meaningfully slow the rise in global temperatures -- but it will.
And he said it would cost the United States jobs -- when the opposite is likely true.
    Meanwhile, in Antarctica, a crack in the Larsen C ice shelf is growing by 11 miles just this week. The crack is only 8 miles from the edge, and it could create an iceberg the size of Delaware. If the entirety of the larger West Antarctic ice sheet melts or falls into the sea, global sea levels could rise by perhaps 5 meters, said Eric Rignot, a professor at the University of California Irvine and a senior research scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
    That would wipe low-lying countries like the Marshall Islands off the map, possibly ending their language and culture, too. And it would flood coastal cities and real estate, including Trump's Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida.

    The planet doesn't care about Donald Trump's bluster

    As it turns out, Earth doesn't care about Trump. It's operating by the laws of science, which show that climate change is real, we are causing it, and there are potentially disastrous consequences if we continue polluting at this rate.
    Every second, humans pump 1,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Those gases trap heat. The consequences of global warming are staring us in the face.
    Few would predict the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet would disappear this decade or even this century. But a third of the ice mass could go in as soon as 100 or 200 years, said Rignot, the NASA scientist. And if that happens, he said, the collapse of the rest of the sheet would be inevitable.
    "We're not looking at something that will start in the future," he told me. "We are looking at something that is ongoing already."
    It's "already on the trajectory of collapse," he said.
    It should be abundantly clear that we are gambling with the future.
    Trump won't admit any of this. Neither will Scott Pruitt, head of the US Environmental Protection Agency.
    Pruitt went on CNN almost immediately after the announcement that the United States would join Nicaragua (which thinks the accord doesn't go far enough) and Syria (which, you know, is in a civil war) as the only countries that aren't part of the Paris Agreement. CNN's Jake Tapper asked Pruitt whether the President believes climate change is a hoax. "This is not about whether climate change is occurring or not," Pruitt said.
    Of course it is. It is exactly about that.

    The world can decide Trump is irrelevant

    But it's time to refocus: In the wake of the United States' withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, it's no longer enough to push back on Trump and Pruitt and their parade of falsehoods. The international community, as well as American states and cities and business leaders around the world, must work swiftly to ensure that this administration is irrelevant on climate.
    The world must redouble efforts to fix climate change -- in spite of Trump.
    In May, I stopped by the latest technical negotiations of the Paris Agreement in Bonn, Germany. I wrote about how climate negotiators there wanted to believe that Trump didn't exist -- but I honestly saw that as wishful thinking, the new climate denial. How could America's role in the climate fight not matter? The emissions certainly matter, since the United States creates about 15% of the world's carbon dioxide pollution per year, according to the European Commission's Joint Research Center. And the politics matter too, since the United States (under the Obama administration) negotiated the Paris pact with China.
    But the Trump administration is steering so wide of fact and reason that it risks losing relevance.

    Trump would hate that. He craves attention

    Global winds shifted Thursday when Trump bailed on Paris.
    "The United States resigned as the leader of the free world," CNN's Fareed Zakaria said of the withdrawal.
    "I now expect to see the full fury of the environmental movement -- including just about everyone except for the Breitbart right -- to be turned on the US coal industry, the only powerful economic player to oppose climate action," Mark Lynas, a climate author, says in a CNN op-ed. "Expect determined efforts to defund coal mining, huge divestment campaigns against coal company stocks and rallies to close down coal-fired power plants all across America."
    China and the European Union already are trying to take the lead on climate change.
    "We are convinced that yesterday's decision by the United States to leave the Paris agreement is a big mistake," the EU's Donald Tusk said at a Friday news conference with China, according to Reuters. "The fight against climate change and all the research, innovation and technological progress it will bring will continue, with or without the U.S."

    US cities, states and businesses must lead

    There are bright spots within the United States, too.
    California, New York, Iowa -- all are pursuing important renewable energy strategies. "I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris," Trump said Thursday. To which the mayor of Pittsburgh, Bill Peduto, responded on Twitter, "As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future." Federal leadership matters, but American cities, states and business leaders should be emboldened by Trump's efforts to promote pro-fossil-fuel policies in defiance of established climate science.
    It is amoral to continue with pro-fossil fuel policies in 2017.
    But the ice sheets aren't listening to Trump.
    And perhaps neither should we.