President Trump officially announced at a press conference Thursday that the US will leave the Paris Climate Agreement, 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.
There will likely be numerous consequences for leaving the Paris Agreement, not only for the climate but for the US economy and jobs as well.
According to John Sterman, a professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and senior advisor at ClimateInteractive, leaving the Paris Agreement will create an uncertainty in the economy over the future of both fossil fuels and renewable energy resources. That would be “bad for businesses” and for 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 with the Paris Agreement 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, who 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 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 — now that the US is pulling 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 will also be consequences for American jobs.
Trump 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 with the US pulling 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 backed Trump’s plan to leave the Paris Agreement in the past. However, multiple news sources reported that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner were in support of the agreement.
Below is a map of countries that have signed or ratified the Paris Climate Agreement so far. The US will now join Syria and Nicaragua as one of three countries that are not members of the agreement. Syria, ravaged by war at the time of signing, did not participate. Nicaragua chose not to sign because they didn’t believe the agreement went far enough. North Korea did sign the agreement, however.
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