President Trump has announced via Twitter that he will decide whether to leave the Paris Climate Agreement soon, but multiple news sources are already reporting that he has decided to pull the US out
of the landmark agreement, which unites nearly every country in the world with the goal of keeping the planet from warming by more than 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
If he does so, there could be numerous consequences for the United States.
According to John Sterman, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and senior advisor at ClimateInteractive, leaving the Paris Agreement would create an uncertainty in the economy over the future of both fossil fuels and renewable energy resources. That would be “bad for businesses” and others hoping to invest in renewable energy, and could spread to other countries’ economies as well. It would also lead to slower renewable energy deployments, Sterman says.
The costs of these energy sources are going down, but if the Paris agreement is cut, uncertainty will cause solar and wind to be deployed more slowly, keeping their costs higher longer and ultimately slowing the ongoing American transition to renewable energy.
Another repercussion of leaving the Paris Agreement, Sterman says, is potential retaliation from other countries, which could either leave the Paris Agreement as well, or punish the US in some way for leaving the agreement.
For example, Sterman says, “It’s not that far-fetched to imagine a scenario where China, in response to the US pulling out…implement[s] a carbon tax on all goods exported from the US to China, and others nations could follow suit.”
The prospect of this situation has led a number of fossil fuel companies, including Exxon Mobil and coal miner group Cloud Peak, to reportedly urge the President to stay in the agreement. According to Sterman, coal, gas, and oil companies know that while they may be restricted slightly by the Paris Agreement, they will lose their seat at the international negotiating table — next to China, India, the EU, and other world powers — if the US pulls out.
In an April 6th letter addressed to Trump, Cloud Peak CEO Colin Marshall explained:
“By remaining in the Paris Agreement, albeit with a much different pledge on emissions, you can help shape a more rational international approach to climate policy…Without US leadership, the failed international policies that have characterised the past 25 years will continue to predominate…Addressing climate concerns need not be a choice between prosperity or environment.”
There could also be consequences for American jobs.
Trump has made jobs a central point in his campaign promises, but according to Sterman, “If we cede leadership to China… that’s going to cost jobs in the United States.” A number of jobs producing wind turbines and solar panels have already been lost to China, but if the US pulls out, we’ll lose more.
Sterman argues the US will lose jobs that can only be done locally, like installing, operating and maintaining solar panels and wind turbines. These kinds of jobs go mostly to blue collar workers — who are, as Sterman noted, “the base of President Trump’s support.”
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt and White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon have backed Trump’s plan to leave the Paris Agreement in the past. However, multiple news sources have reported that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner are in support of the agreement.
Below is a map of countries that have signed or ratified the Paris Climate Agreement so far. If the US pulls out, it will become one of the few countries that isn’t a member of the agreement.
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