Donald Trump’s decision on Thursday to abandon the Paris Agreement is apocalyptic. That’s not overstatement when the very health and survival of the planet is at stake.
This could be the US President’s most lasting and damaging policy decision – a moment that reverberates from the present through future generations, who will be left with the unjust burden of cleaning up the mess we are making of the Earth. The best hope, as I heard again and again at recent climate negotiations in Bonn, Germany, is for the rest of the world to rally toward a 100% clean energy future in spite of the United States and the current administration. China and the EU appear poised to take the lead there. And if that fails, there are always the 21 young people who are suing Trump and his administration in federal court over the climate crisis.
But right now – in the immediate wake of the news that the United States plans to join Nicaragua and Syria as the only countries who aren’t parties to the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius and avoid climate catastrophe – I don’t want to emphasize the thinnest of silver linings. I want to help you understand what’s at stake here and just how nonsensical this move is for Trump. To that end, I’ve compiled a rapid (and by no means exhaustive) list of 31 of the MANY facts Donald Trump is ignoring in deciding to walk away.
1. Climate change is real.
The Earth has warmed about 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution.
2. Humans are causing it.
Burning fossil fuels, raising cattle and chopping down rainforests all create heat-trapping gases.
3. Experts agree on these points.
More than 97% of climate scientists agree. It’s peer-reviewed science.
4. Global warming is dangerous and expensive.
Rising seas, mass extinction, super droughts … it’s not good.
5. Coastal cities from New York to Shanghai will flood.
Already, Miami Beach, Florida, is raising street levels and installing pumps.
6. Low-lying countries like the Marshall Islands may disappear beneath rising seas.
The Marshallese word for hello also means “I love you” and “You are a rainbow.”
7. Some Alaskans are voting to relocate.
A home fell off the thawing coastline in Shishmaref, Alaska.
8. The world is risking a climate migration crisis.
Rising seas, drought, conflict – all are expected to displace people.
9. Wildfire seasons in the US are getting longer.
On average, they’re two months longer than in the 1970s, according to the Union for Concerned Scientists.
10. Heatwaves are becoming deadlier.
11. Ice sheets are melting rapidly.
A crack in Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf grew 11 miles – just this week.
12. Coral reefs are suffering or disappearing, endangering livelihoods.
“We’re as good as dead,” a young mother in Madagascar told me.
13. And mass extinction is brewing in the natural world.
Warming is a driver, and 75% of species could disappear in coming centuries.
14. Meanwhile, air pollution contributes to 3 million deaths per year, according to the WHO.
Much of that is attributable to coal-fired power plants and cars.
15. The US deserves the most blame for climate change.
It’s the biggest historical climate polluter. And currently the second-biggest per year.
16. Humans pollute 1,200 tonnes of CO2 per second.
That’s nearly 40 billion metric tons per year, says the Global Carbon Project.
17. Yet for all the bad news, there’s so much hope.
Even if it probably doesn’t seem that way right now.
18. The solutions are clear: 100% clean energy …
Stanford’s Mark Jacobson says the US can do it with existing technology.
19. … and improved agricultural practices.
20. Coal use in China has declined slightly for three years.
21. India is considering an electric-car revolution.
The third biggest annual polluter is considering all new electric cars by the 2030s.
22. The price of renewable energy is way, way down.
One analysis says solar could be cheaper than coal in a decade.
23. There are economic opportunities in the transition.
There are now many more US jobs in solar than coal, for instance.
24. Some US cities and states are abandoning their dependence on fossil fuels.
Iowa produced almost 37% of its electricity from wind in 2016.
25. And there are LOTS of clean energy jobs in the United States.
More than 750,000 of them, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
26. Still … the goals and framework of the Paris Agreement matter – a lot.
27. There’s no solid logic for abandoning it.
Trump could have pursued his own energy agenda while staying in the accord.
28. Other countries are doing their part.
India and China are doing better than expected, possibly offsetting an increase in US pollution.
29. Many business leaders support the Paris Agreement …
It’s not just Apple – ExxonMobil, too.
30. … as do majorities of American voters in every state.
31. By exiting the climate accord, it’s Trump vs the world.
CNN’s Fareed Zakaria: “The United States resigned as the leader of the free world.”
Want to add to this list? Tweet links/maps/data to me. I’m @jdsutter. (Also: A big thank you to Ed Maibach at George Mason University for help with the framing of several of these.)