Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, The Times’ letters editor, and it is Saturday, June 3, 2017. Three coal-fired power plants on the East Coast closed this week; with this in mind, let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.
Seven months ago, the United States led the nations of the world in cobbling together an agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in an attempt to prevent the worst effects of human-caused climate change. But that was before the 2016 election, when the United States — led by President Obama and, or so many of us though, soon to be led by Hillary Clinton — was still a force for good in the world.
Sadly, with Donald Trump’s election and subsequent scandal-ridden, chaotic presidency (gut check: we’re only 134 days in), the United States is no longer a global leader. The Times’ Editorial Board, reacting to President Trump’s ill-advised decision to pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord and join the company of only two other nations, warns of the damage this White House has just indicated it will inflict on humanity and its own country:
Trump’s rejection of the agreement — over the objections of not just global political leaders and the pope but even of Exxon Mobil, for God's sake — means this country will not just cease to be part of the solution to the problem, but will put itself squarely on the other side, bolstering the credibility of the climate-change deniers, the anti-science hucksters and the irresponsible corporate cynics. It will strike a powerful blow against the common good from the coast of California to the melting permafrost of northern Alaska to the flood-prone lowlands along America’s rivers to the hurricane-ravaged communities along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Globally, it could set us on track to what climate scientists agree will be intensified floods, famines and storms, rising seas and mass migrations fueling strife over water scarcity, declining food production and epidemics.
Further, the decision causes enormous injury to this country's reputation and to its role in the world. It’s notable that only two nations didn’t sign on to the Paris agreement. Nicaragua, to its credit, said no because the agreement is nonbinding, and the goal of capping emissions at 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels is too low. It didn’t sign because the deal wasn’t good enough, compared with Trump’s claim that it’s a “bad deal” for the U.S. The other nonsigner is war-ravaged Syria. And now Trump’s America....
Trump has lost his moment. The world already has a global agreement and more reality-based and responsible leaders to show the way. Let’s hope it’s not too late.
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Max Boot, one of Trump's most outspoken critics on the right, similarly warns that the president has compromised U.S. power:
There has always been plenty of anti-Americanism around the world, but at the end of the day most nations understood that an alliance with the United States would enhance, not diminish, their peace and prosperity. We did not always implement our ideals — hypocrisy is the coin of the realm in international affairs — but the secret of our success was that we were a relatively benign superpower that championed a vision of human dignity that appealed to ordinary people everywhere.
Trump seems oblivious to this reality. He sees every international treaty as a racket and every alliance as a ripoff. But by destroying the foundations of the international order that the U.S. built, he risks destroying the unprecedented power and wealth we have accumulated since 1945.
If the U.S. pursues a “me first” policy, then every country in the world will do the same — and the result will be international lawlessness. Predatory states such as Iran, Russia and China will do well in the resulting chaos, while our allies — if we have any left — will suffer. If history is any guide, the U.S. will not be able to stay aloof from the consequences of this new disorder: Our trade and security will be imperiled. Ultimately we are likely to be drawn into conflicts that could have been avoided had we maintained our position as Leader of the Free World, a hard-won achievement that Trump appears intent on frittering away with his characteristic recklessness and thoughtlessness.
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Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris accord will make America sicker, poorer and less secure. The president’s generals — along with business leaders, scientists and plenty of others — are telling him that the effects of climate change without strong efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will destabilize much of the world, creating a security threat to the United States. Trump, who noted that he was “elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” probably “doesn’t realize it, or perhaps he simply doesn’t care, but the citizens of Pittsburgh will suffer for this mistake along with everyone else on the planet,” writes Keith Martin. L.A. Times
Jerry Brown didn’t get Trump’s memo. “Stay the course” was the message from California’s governor after Trump announced his withdrawal. In an MSNBC interview, Brown reaffirmed his state’s goal of getting 50% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030 and California’s zero-emission mandates for cars, among other things. “We’re all-in in decarbonizing our economy,” Brown said. MSNBC
There’s still a healthcare debate going on, and Jonah Goldberg focuses our attention on the small San Bernardino County city of Loma Linda, a town dominated by Seventh-day Adventist adherents who do not drink alcohol or eat meat and who exercise regularly. Loma Linda residents live longer on average than Americans in any other part of the country, something Goldberg believes cannot be attributed to health insurance. The lesson? “There are still good reasons to reform healthcare,” Goldberg writes. “But a little humility about what government can do, and the stakes involved, might be in order.” L.A. Times
Sen. Al Franken can finally be funny again. The Minnesota Democrat won his seat in 2008 by 312 votes; now that the former comedian was easily reelected in 2014, and with Trump’s ascendancy to the White House, Franken is finally starting to tell jokes again. Though he might feel more free to fling barbs — such as “What did the president know — and when did his son-in-law tell him?” — he still takes his job as a legislator very seriously, writes columnist Doyle McManus. L.A. Times
Vouchers undermine schools — and democracy. Jonah Edelman and Randi Weingarten pan the Trump administration’s plan not only to slash federal education spending, but also to divert $1 billion from the money that remains to a voucher program to help parents pay for sending their kids to private schools. “At a time when low-income children make up the majority of public school students, we as a country must do more to support families, teachers, administrators and public schools,” they write. “Trump’s plan would do the opposite.” L.A. Times
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