Why the discord over Paris Accord?

Joan Hart

Joan Hart


I was concerned recently to hear one of my young teenage friends expressing his worries about the U.S. pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord and criticizing the president for doing so. This is a young man who has supported our president and expressed a conservative political view in all the discussions we have had up to this time. So why is this matter so controversial that media discussions about it turn into loud angry shouting matches?

First some background.  In December 2015, 175 countries came together in Paris and agreed to limit carbon emissions. The Paris agreement was designed to keep the planet from warming by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. It was a cornerstone of former President Obama’s environmental legacy. Last week President Trump announced he was pulling the United States out of the agreement, mostly because he believes withdrawing is in America’s economic interest. Many Americans agree, and even among those who are concerned, the issue is way down at the bottom of their list.

So why all the discord about the Paris Accord? From listening to the talking points on TV and other news media, you would think the world is now standing on the brink of total collapse; that we are all in mortal danger of being fried alive before the summer is over, and I’m not talking about the daily heat indexes we will receive in every evening weather forecast.

Billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer called our withdrawal from the accord “a traitorous act of war against the American people.” Former President Obama said that the U.S. was now in a “small handful of nations that reject the future.” John Kerry said the president’s decision was “one of the most self-destructive moves I’ve ever seen by any president in my lifetime.” Really?

Former Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein had to weigh in of course based on her abundance of expertise, warning that “people will needlessly be forced to die from the ravages of extreme weather, droughts, famine, forced migrations, spread of diseases, and wars over access to land and water.”

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