U.S. withdrawal from Paris climate accord will have sweeping impacts, experts suggest
Johns Hopkins faculty members analyze what the move means for the world's poor, national security, and foreign relations
President Donald Trump's announcement Thursday that the United States would withdraw from the Paris climate accord—a landmark 2015 agreement by 195 countries to lower global greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to minimize the effects of climate change—has been met with near universal condemnation from both the scientific and foreign policy communities.
Critics of the move include Travis Rieder, a Johns Hopkins bioethicist who was among five experts to analyze what the withdrawal means for the planet, U.S. business, and the world's poor in an article published by The Conversation. Rieder called the act "unconscionable":
Announcing America's intention to withdraw from the agreement sends a clear message to the rest of the world that the second-highest emitting nation has no intention of doing its part to save the world's most vulnerable people from impending harm. Indeed: The U.S. government takes the problem so unseriously, and values the lives of those at risk so little, that it will try desperately to undermine the already far-too-modest climate actions that the Obama administration set in motion.
Hal Brands, a professor of global affairs at JHU's School of Advanced International Studies, is among 18 co-authors on a Foreign Policy article stating that "the decision will have serious, irreversible repercussions for the United States and the world."
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Put simply, the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement will have impacts on the global climate that a future U.S. administration will not be able to undo. It will undermine the most significant and comprehensive coordinating mechanism for global action to combat climate change that we have. It will weaken an existing asset to defend present and future generations of Americans against a significant threat; it will undermine our security. Indeed, leading military experts, including Secretary of Defense James Mattis, have warned that the impact of climate change will lead to more refugee flows, more famine, more conflict, and more terrorism. As Mattis said, "Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today." By withdrawing from this agreement, Trump would be ignoring an issue his own secretary of defense has said is a national security threat.
The effects will not be limited to climate—there will surely be repercussions on the diplomatic front as well. Federiga Bindi, a former adviser to the Italian government and a senior fellow at JHU's Center for Transatlantic Relations, told the Huffington Post the move will make it harder for Trump to work with nations around the world on other, unrelated issues.
"Trump will find himself isolated more and more," she said. "I don't think Americans put things really in perspective. They tend to think history is 10 years ago, and tend to think America's leading role in the world is given and it's going to be there for the rest of time and this is not going to happen."