Andy Gunther is a dear friend of mine. He has a PhD in environmental science, is on the board of Union of Concerned Scientists, and has been working tirelessly on climate change issues for many years. I wanted to share excerpts from a letter he wrote to friends and family on Trump’s decision to withdraw from the climate accord.
“I know that like me, many of you are disheartened and angry by President Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Change Accord. While this is an incredibly short-sighted decision based upon ideological nonsense that will damage our nation’s standing in the world, I do not believe this is the end of the Paris agreement nor of the United States’ move toward a carbon-free economy.
It is my expectation that we will see other signatory nations move ahead with (and even strengthen) their commitments to reduce emissions, particularly as the drastic reductions in the cost of renewable power reverberate through the global economy.
However, we need the American federal government to lead a robust research effort to develop the technologies that will support an economy with negative carbon emissions by late in this century (e.g., where we are removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as part of our economic activity). The existing national commitments under the Paris agreement are only a small down payment on the changes required, and a focused and comprehensive research and development effort is essential to prevent the most serious impacts of climate change.
As a scientist, it is distressing that Trump is comfortable making this decision without regard to the evidence. The speech is full of inaccuracies, and demonstrates that the President sees no need to deal with a physical reality scientists have understood since the 19th Century and have been warning Presidents about since 1965. Trump said if we can’t reach a deal, “that’s fine.”
No, it’s not fine, and I am greatly heartened to see the response of Governor Brown, former NYC Mayor Bloomberg, in collaboration with government and business leaders from all around the world, commit to lead the US to deliver the carbon emission reductions committed to by the United States. Bloomberg Philanthropies has committed $14M to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change in case the US declines to provide its share of the organization’s operating expenses (UNFCC was created by international treaty in 1992. The Paris Agreement and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change operate under its umbrella).
The global response to Trump’s decision demonstrates the potential for collective action, particularly in California, which is picking up the mantle of national leadership being abdicated by the President. As the California’s legislative leaders said after Trump’s election, “California was not a part of this nation when its history began, but we are clearly now the keeper of its future.”