On Thursday afternoon in the Rose Garden at the White House, President Trump demonstrated a failure of leadership, an ignorance of national security and hypocrisy around his message of job creation.
The Paris Agreement is a historic framework for fighting climate change that has widespread global support. The reason that almost 200 countries adopted it in 2015 is because it allowed each signatory, regardless of size or gross domestic product, to create their own individualized plan to reduce carbon emissions.
The U.S. plan was achievable largely based on steps that the Obama administration, private industry and individual states were already taking. Contrary to Trump's statement, there have been no "draconian financial and economic burdens" imposed on the country because the point of the agreement is for countries to develop their own paths to emissions reductions.
Moreover, the U.S. withdrawal from the agreement will take four years to fully take effect at which time a future president may overturn the current president's decision. The announcement felt largely like a publicity stunt by the Trump administration to make good on a campaign promise. Unfortunately, this publicity stunt has dire consequences.
Like many of Trump's "America First" policies, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement only demonstrates that America no longer wants to lead when it matters. We're telling our friends and foes alike that not only will we not lead, we don't even want a seat at the table. If we shirk our responsibilities as a world leader on climate or energy, how do we maintain our credibility on other critical security and diplomatic issues?
The Trump administration also seems to be ignorant of the very real concern that military leaders have regarding climate change. The Department of Defense calls climate change a "threat multiplier" — the first and second order impacts of extreme weather, mass migration and displaced communities are all factors that impact our national security.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military is on the frontlines defending the very fossil fuels that contribute to climate change. Ten years ago, I spent quite a bit of time in the Persian Gulf as a naval officer. The ships on which I served were tasked with ensuring safe passage of oil tankers through the Strait of Hormuz, as well as conducting oil platform defense. Oil is a global strategic commodity and until we "decarbonize" our economy, our military will continue to spend vast resources defending the free passage of fossil fuels around the world.
Trump's decision to pull out of the agreement will also have a local impact. Contrary to Trump's rhetoric, the Paris Agreement is not a job killer.
In fact, John Sterman at MIT's Sloan School of Management worries that uncertainty in the renewable energy industry as a result of our Paris Agreement withdrawal could impact jobs here in the US. More than half a million of those advanced energy jobs are in California — that's three times the number of jobs in film and TV.
As the head of business development at a clean energy firm here in California, I worry about the local repercussions of uncertainty in the market. Will the solar Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) be the next victim of Trump's war on clean energy? Here in Orange County there are more than 44,000 people employed in clean technology. A drastic downturn in clean energy deployment nationally will most certainly impact our local economy.
California will not stop growing its renewable energy portfolio. California, along with states and cities across the country, is already stepping up to fill the leadership vacuum that will be left by our withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.
As citizens we must loudly stand with them in rejecting the notion that acting to fight climate changes handicaps us on the world stage. Acting on climate is the right thing to do for our economy, for our national security and for our place on the world stage.
In his speech, Trump said that "we don't want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore," the suggestion being that America was being duped by signing onto the Paris Agreement. He could not be more wrong.