After the jazz band finished serenading the sweaty reporters melting in the Rose Garden on Thursday afternoon, Donald Trump emerged from the White House to announce what everyone already saw coming: America would exit the Paris climate accord, effectively renouncing our place as leaders in the losing battle against climate change.
According to Trump, the Paris Agreement, which he seems to think benefits Paris specifically, is a bad deal for the United States, with our erstwhile role as environmental leaders making us look weak. Trump hates looking weak. He loves looking strong. Remember when he crawled into that truck?
The announcement followed a familiar boilerplate for Trump, beginning with a prolonged round of self-congratulations on a phalanx of vague “accomplishments” before eventually lurching into the topic at hand: the retreat from the Paris Agreement, and how great it will be for America. Which Americans? Thank you for asking.
Trump evinced two main concerns during his speech: the concern for workers, whom the accord is stifling, and more importantly, the inherent unfairness of America being forced to adhere to environmental regulations while China, India, and even Europe get to pump as much coal pollution into the air as they want. As usual, these pronouncements were made in Trump’s characteristic blend of blatant falsehoods and busted syntax:
“The world’s leader in environmental protection, while imposing no meaningful obligations on the world’s leading polluters. For example, under the agreement, China will be able to increase these emissions by a staggering number of years, thirteen. They can do whatever they want for thirteen years. Not us,” Trump whined.
“India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries. There are many other examples. But the bottom line is that the Paris accord is very unfair at the highest level to the United States.”
India’s air pollution causes 1.1 million people to die prematurely each year, a situation that rivals if not surpasses China’s. Here’s a photo of India.
— Johns Hopkins Press (@JHUPress) February 14, 2017
Trump went on:
China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020. Think of it. India can double their coal production. We’re supposed to get rid of ours. Even Europe is allowed to continue construction of coal plants.
The accord, you see, is screwing over workers whose livelihoods lie in the noble professions of the Industrial Age: paper, cement, iron and steel, coal (Trump “happens to love the coal miners”), and natural gas. It’s true that progress has rendered many of these jobs irrelevant. The Internet that Trump himself loves so much has reduced the need for paper; coal has been phased out because it not only destroys the lands from which it’s mined, but emits toxic pollutants like mercury and carbon dioxide. The effects of these pollutants impact everyone — even Trump’s beloved coal miners. Even climate change deniers. Even Trump himself.
After Trump’s announcement, former president Barack Obama took a moment from reapplying sunscreen to point out that there are lots of jobs in renewable energy — sustainable jobs that will exist into the future, rather than jobs in moribund industries that the churning wheel of progress will extinguish whether they like it or not. Wind and solar opportunities created a whole new stream of “good paying jobs,” he said, and “contributed to the longest streak of new job creation in history.”
“Simply put, the private sector already chose a low-carbon future,” Obama said in a statement. “And for the nations that committed themselves to that future, the Paris Agreement opened the floodgates for businesses, scientists, and engineers to unleash high-tech, low-carbon investment and innovation on an unprecedented scale.”
So who exactly is it that Trump cares about? It’s not the American people, since environmental regulations reduced fine particulate pollution in the United States by 27 percent, prolonging our lives. Poor people disproportionately suffer the effects of climate change, but there are already reams of evidence to confirm that Trump doesn’t care about them.
If not the American people, then what? Ah, here it is. Trump is worried that other nations are…laughing at us.
“At what point does America get demeaned? At what point do they start laughing at us as a country?” Trump said. “We want fair treatment for its citizens and we want fair treatment for our taxpayers. We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won’t be. They won’t be.”
Bad news, Donald. Everyone is already laughing at us. Luckily, no one can laugh when they’re dead.