Build the wall, or end Well Fare. Either one will work for me...

Know-nothing stance has not wrecked Paris Agreement

Eugene Robinson

Eugene Robinson


Friday, December 7, 2018

All of the leaders assembled at the Group of 20 meeting in Buenos Aires committed their nations to the fight against climate change, except one — President Trump, of course. But pay him no mind. As the proverb says, "The dogs bark but the caravan moves on."

We don't have to wait for history to prove how utterly, stupidly wrong Trump is on this existential issue. Current events are making the point. We have baked ourselves into an era of superlatives — the rainiest storms, worst floods, deadliest fires, most punishing heat waves. The hottest years on record. The highest levels of atmospheric carbon in thousands of centuries.

"Leaders of the world, you must lead," the British naturalist David Attenborough said Monday. "If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon."

Attenborough was speaking at a key United Nations conference in Katowice, Poland, where diplomats and scientists from around the world will spend the next two weeks working on a concrete plan for meeting the goals of the landmark 2015 Paris Agreement. The aim is to sharply reduce carbon emissions, limiting human-induced global warming to non-catastrophic levels.

No one has time for Trump's foolishness. The U.N.'s annual Emissions Gap Report, released last week, showed that worldwide greenhouse gas emissions grew by 1.2 percent last year after remaining roughly stable for the preceding three years. Emissions need to begin falling, and rapidly, if we are to meet the original Paris target of keeping the increase in average temperature to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century.

And the target is moving. A report earlier this year from the U.N.-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, reflecting the latest scientific analysis and consensus, warned that current goal is not ambitious enough. To avoid doing serious harm to the planet and ourselves, we really should limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit), which would require rapid and drastic action.

As we go about our daily lives — leaving our toasty homes every morning and driving our cars to climate-controlled office buildings, where we work in front of computers all day, before driving home at night, on brightly illuminated streets, to fire up our microwave ovens and watch our big-screen television sets — the idea of radical change in our energy use seems daunting.

But we don't have much of a choice. The consequences of a warming world are no longer theoretical. They are here, they are doing great harm to humans and the environment, and they are getting worse.

It would be much better if the government of the world's greatest economic and scientific power were leading the fight against this collective threat. One of Trump's first consequential acts as president, however, was announcing his intention to withdraw from the Paris accord. He is our century's King Canute, arrogantly trying to hold back the sea — which nonetheless has risen nearly 3 inches in the past 25 years.

But while the United States may not be participating in the Paris process now, it cannot formally leave the pact until November 2020 — when, one hopes, voters will be electing a saner, more responsible president.

Meanwhile, state and local governments, universities and the private sector are actively working toward the clean-energy future that is mandatory if we are to avert disaster. According to America's Pledge, an initiative founded by former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and California Gov. Jerry Brown, current commitments and market forces are expected to reduce U.S. emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke Monday at the U.N. climate conference in Poland. "Every time you talk about America, you're right when you say that our leadership in Washington is a little bit backwards," he said. "But you're wrong when you say that America dropped out of the Paris Agreement. Because if you look a little bit beyond Washington ... you will see all the extraordinary work that is going on [at the] state and city level in America."

It is far from assured that the world will succeed in reaching the emissions targets that scientists say are advisable. But it is clear that Trump's know-nothing stance has not wrecked the Paris Agreement process — and perhaps has even strengthened commitment to it.

According to a Monmouth University poll released last week, about eight in 10 Americans now believe in climate change and a majority recognize it as a "very serious" problem. One ignoramus cannot stem this tide.

Eugene Robinson is a columnist and an associate editor of The Washington Post who won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2009.


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.

Op Ed

December 11, 2018 - 23 minutes ago

Here we are, two years later.

We've taken many, arduous, often tedious steps, only to return to where we began, having gone nowhere.

In late 2016, as Gov. Roy Cooper was preparing to take office, the General Assembly decided it would change the makeup of the Bipartisan Board of Elections and Ethics…

John Trump

December 11, 2018 - 23 minutes ago

Have the Republicans running the legislature gone soft?

Their lame-duck session has been lacking the fireworks I'd expected in the last hurrah of veto-proof GOP rule. The main agenda item was voter ID. And with a newly inked constitutional amendment to back it up, I fully expected Republicans to…

Colin Campbell

December 10, 2018

How should we respond to the urban-rural divide? The question has legions of politicians, scholars, journalists, and businesses scrambling for answers.

I respect their efforts. But I feel compelled to point out, respectfully, that the question is poorly conceived. Most people live in neither truly…

john hood.jpg

December 10, 2018

Orange County, California, Register

For too long, Congress has abdicated its constitutional obligations with respect to war powers.

On Nov. 28, the Senate took an important step toward reasserting this authority by voting 63 to 37 in favor of moving ahead on a resolution directing the removal of US…

December 10, 2018

It makes no political or geopolitical sense for President Trump to cozy up to the Saudis or Russians to the extent he has. It does make economic sense — for him, his family and his family enterprises.

Follow the money was the mantra used by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl…


December 09, 2018

There's something uncomfortably sterile about life-expectancy rates.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that average American life expectancy shortened by a tenth of a year, as it did last year, it's forgivable if the problem isn't immediately obvious. Sure, we might have…

Robert Gebelhoff

December 09, 2018

"When you strike at a king you must kill him," Ralph Waldo Emerson once said. Well, this year China tried to strike at President Trump for daring to launch a trade war with Beijing — and missed the mark entirely.

After Trump imposed massive tariffs on Chinese goods earlier this year,…


December 08, 2018

Many consider the National Football League to be the most successful professional sports organization in the world. To many, having an NFL team is a signal a city and region have arrived and are in elite company. This is one reason why NFL franchises sell for in the multi-billions of dollars.


Mike Walden

December 08, 2018


“There is no Plan B because there is no Planet B,” Emmanuel Macron lectured Donald Trump — in English — when the American President withdrew from the Paris climate agreement last year. Well, apparently there is a Plan B after all. Macron stopped his…

December 08, 2018

Back in 1897, an eight-year-old girl, prompted by naysaying friends, wrote The New York Sun wanting the truth about the existence of Santa Claus. Today that letter might be answered by apparent congressman-elect Mark Harris, confirming not only Santa’s existence, but also that his name is…

Tom Campbell
325 stories in Op Ed. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 33
        Next Page»   Last Page»