Just two years ago, representatives of 195 countries from around the world came together in Paris to reach a historic international agreement to combat the climate crisis. The only two countries on the planet to reject the accord were Syria and Nicaragua.
Today, they got a little company.
The United States will pull out of a landmark global coalition meant to curb emissions that cause climate change, President Donald Trump announced Thursday. [...]He added that the U.S. will begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord or a new treaty on terms that are better for American businesses and tax payers.
This is, of course, patently absurd: 197 countries are not about to begin new negotiations on a new agreement to make Trump and other Republican climate deniers happy.
About a month ago, with the possibility of the United States abandoning its commitment under the agreement looming, Paul Bledsoe, who served as a White House climate adviser under Bill Clinton and is now a lecturer at American University's Center for Environmental Policy, said something interesting to the Washington Post.
"The Trump team seems oblivious to the fact that climate protection is now viewed by leading allies and nations around the world as a key measure of moral and diplomatic standing," Bledsoe said. "The U.S. would be risking pariah status on the international stage by withdrawing from Paris."
I think Trump World understands this. I also think they don't care.
There's no shortage of ways to look at developments like these. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent, for example, explained that the White House's entire rationale for this decision rests on a foundation of lies. Vox's Jim Tankersley had a related piece on the moral depravity behind the president's withdrawal.
And while those are important elements of the debate, something Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said got me thinking about the future. "Dear planet, we're sorry," the senator said today via Twitter. "Please just hang on for three and a half more years and we'll fix this. We promise."
I don't doubt Murphy's sincerity, but Trump's decision is so pernicious, it won't be easily fixed -- even if the United States makes a political course correction in the next presidential election.
When the Paris accords were reached, the world looked to the United States to help lead the way, and the Obama administration was eager to carry the mantle. We vowed to work cooperatively with international partners, and in the process, we persuaded developing nations -- many of which have economic incentives to pollute more, not less -- to do the right thing. So many countries signed on to the agreement precisely because they saw American leadership at work.
Today, Trump told the world that ours is a country that won't honor its commitments, won't make decisions based on reason or evidence, and won't even try to serve as a global leader anymore.
Let's say Americans tire of Trump's ridiculousness and elect a new president in 2020. It's easy to imagine, in early 2021, that new president turning to the global community with fresh and heartfelt assurances. "Don't worry, Trump is gone," he or she will say. "You can trust the United States once more."
But at that point, many around the world will choose not to listen -- in part because they'll have just seen an ignorant American president who thumbed his nose at 195 countries, deliberately abandoning our unique responsibilities, and in part because they'll have no way of knowing when the American electorate might again elect someone of Trump's ilk.
We've taken great pride in the modern era of our president being the Leader of the Free World, and today effectively marked the end of a once-great era. Donald J. Trump has managed to betray the climate, the world, America's standing, and his own legacy in one fell swoop.
History will not be kind.