Waiting On Climate Action

While in Europe, Pope Francis and the G7 leaders bent President Trump’s ears about climate change.

The Pope presented a copy of Laudato Sí: On Care For Our Common Home, his encyclical on consumerism, irresponsible development, environmental degradation and global warming to the U.S. president. He told Pope Francis he would read it.

Reports indicate the six other G7 leaders presented arguments for the United States to stay in the 2015 Paris Agreement on mitigating the effects of climate change. Trump would not commit to doing so by the time he boarded Air Force One for the trip home.

“The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said. “There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.”

That Trump failed to be part of the G7 consensus on climate may or may not be a sign of his intent. One never can tell with this president.

“I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!” Trump tweeted.

That Trump was willing to listen to his European peers and the Pope indicates he may have an open mind about the accord. However, late yesterday, Jonathan Swan and Amy Harder of Axios reported, “President Trump has privately told multiple people, including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, that he plans to leave the Paris agreement on climate change.”

Despite the advocacy workshop for exiting the agreement EPA has become, the result of the president’s decision-making process may be more complicated than making a simple announcement.

Exiting the Paris Agreement would take at least four years. The agreement does not permit states to exit until three years after entry into force (Nov. 4, 2019). It would then take at least a year to finish the process.  In that time, Trump could change his mind.

If Trump decides to exit, he would be “willfully, nonchalantly vacating leadership of the world,” former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said. Another country will step in to fill the leadership vacuum, presumably China with the world’s second largest economy.

A bone of contention with Pruitt and advocates in the hydrocarbon business is the existence of the Clean Power Plan first published by the EPA in the Federal Register Oct. 23, 2015. On March 28, President Trump signed an executive order mandating EPA review the plan. Unraveling the Clean Power Plan is not as simple as signing an executive order. Whether or not the U.S. exits the Paris Agreement, the regulation may stand.

It is significant the first nation Trump visited in his presidency was Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has almost one-fifth of the world’s proven oil reserves and ranks as the largest producer and exporter of oil in the world. Despite concerns about human rights and the treatment of women in the kingdom, Trump seemed elated about the arms deal he made during his visit. His rhetoric isolating Iran may be no more complicated than wanting to take their oil. Iran ranks fourth in proven oil reserves behind Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and Canada.

That 195 states could enter the Paris Agreement was remarkable. Whether it will hold if the U.S. exits is uncertain. Regardless of politics the science on global warming has been identified since the 19th century.

On the morning after the 45th President’s first foreign trip the direction of his administration on climate change is obvious. Government climate change web sites and regulations are officially “under review” in multiple agencies. At the same time the hydrocarbon business is moving to roll back regulations that seek to reduce carbon emissions. The idea of leaving fossil fuels in the ground is not embraced in this White House.

“I think there is a better than 50/50 chance that the Trump administration will stay in the Paris agreement,” Nobel Prize winner Al Gore said. “I think odds are they will stay in.”

Time will tell.