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On climate, the United States and Syria now stand alone

Now that Nicaragua has embraced the Paris climate accord, that leaves only two nations outside of it: Syria and the United States.
President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden, Thursday, June 1, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo...

It was just two years ago when representatives of 195 countries met in Paris and reached a historic international agreement to combat the climate crisis. Only two countries -- Syria and Nicaragua -- rejected the accord.

Yesterday, one of them changed their minds. Reuters reported:

Nicaragua is set to join the Paris climate agreement, according to an official statement and comments from Vice President Rosario Murillo on Monday, in a move that leaves the United States and Syria as the only nations outside the global pact.Nicaragua has already presented the relevant documents at the United Nations, Murillo, who is also first lady, said on local radio on Monday.

It's worth noting for context that when representatives from the Nicaraguan delegation balked at the Paris accords in 2015, it wasn't because they were fringe climate deniers embracing oddball conspiracy theories. It was actually the opposite: Nicaragua opposed the agreement because officials believed it didn't go far enough.

Now, however, as Rosario Murillo explained yesterday, Nicaragua sees the agreement as "the only instrument we have in the world that allows the unity of intentions and efforts to face up to climate change and natural disasters."

And as a result, there are now only two countries on the planet that are operating outside the Paris accord: Syria, which is home to a brutal civil war, and the United States, which is home to Donald Trump, who announced an end to the country's commitment to the agreement in June.

A Washington Post report added, "Syria is also not set to join the next round of U.N. talks on climate change that are scheduled for mid-November in Germany. Environmental ministers of all nations that are part of the agreement will set out their visions for international guidelines to implement the accord -- without Syria and the U.S."

Americans may remember a time in which we helped lead the world, rather than sit on the sidelines. One wonders if and when that time will return.

At least in theory, according to Trump, the White House wants to begin a new round of negotiations on a climate agreement, but in the nearly five months since the president's withdrawal announcement, there's no evidence that any such efforts have been made.

On the contrary, Trump's EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, argued over the summer that our allies in Europe only want the United States to participate in the Paris accord "because they know it will continue to shackle our economy."

The president himself made a related point: "Foreign lobbyists wished to keep our magnificent country tied up and bound down by this agreement."

In other words, the Trump administration is operating from the assumption that our allies are trying to hurt us, deliberately, through an international agreement to combat the climate crisis.

We've isolated ourselves internationally in a way that hardly seemed possible a year ago, and Nicaragua's announcement yesterday made this dynamic slightly more embarrassing for the United States.