State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Reactions from Earth Institute Experts on Trump Pulling out of Paris

Check here for a comprehensive roundup of reactions from all over the Earth Institute on Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement.

Trump has aligned himself with the forces that deny scientific facts and economic realities. History will judge him harshly; our allies and most Americans already do. The law will need to play a major role in pushing back against the attempted dismantling of our environmental and health protections. —Michael B. Gerrard, director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Back in 1897, the Indiana State Legislature was on the verge of declaring that, contrary to mathematical proof, the circle really could be squared (and, incidentally, the value of pi really was exactly 3.2), when solid arguments by a Purdue mathematics professor caused legislators to reconsider.  The physics of global warming is as scientifically irrefutable as the mathematical properties of the number pi.  The world must warm as the burning of fossil fuels causes atmospheric CO2 levels to rise.  Warming will only cease when people take action to reduce CO2; no legislation, no executive policy and no political theory that does not lead to CO2 reductions can be effectual, for the laws of physics cannot be gainsaid.  Scientists throughout the US must repeat this message in every conceivable forum: Climate change is not a hoax and those who believe it to be one need to reconsider, for inaction today endangers the next generation, both
in America and around the world. —Bill Menke, Professor of Earth and Environmental SciencesLamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

As a climate scientist and also as someone who is interested in non-fossil fuel energy, I view it as incredibly shortsighted from both a diplomatic and economic standpoint. Pulling out and reducing supports for clean energy and energy conservation such as fuel economy standards for cars and incentives to use solar and wind power will make the US economy less competitive in the global marketplace.  The jobs in solar, wind and the auto industry are all relatively well paying, middle class jobs.  Those jobs that can be done by robots are largely already in place.   If Trump genuinely wants to keep more high paying jobs in the United States, he should not pull out of the Paris agreement.—Dallas Abbott, Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Trump’s announcement of his intention to stop implementation of and withdraw from the Paris Agreement, and the disingenuous statement that he will renegotiate “a better deal”, are deeply unfortunate. His stance on climate change is at odds with science, American business and economic interests, and clear public support for climate action. Fortunately, others are stepping forward to fill the leadership void. With continued efforts by states, cities and companies we can still avert the worst possible impacts from climate change.—Michael Burger, executive director of the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law

Major cracks have appeared in recent months in a glacier in Greenland and an ice shelf in Antarctica. They are advancing and will soon release enormous icebergs into the ocean, one the size of the state of Delaware. And they will allow ice from the interior of Greenland and Antarctica to flow into the ocean, contributing to sea level rise. Coastal areas in the US experience increasing floods, disrupting ports and airports, and interfering with the American economy that Trump clams to support. And today a major crack appeared in the Paris Agreement. It threatens to release, not icebergs, but distrust and despair, and disruption of the mechanisms that had begun to slow down global greenhouse gas emissions. This crack–in policy agreements rather than in masses of ice–can be sealed, by efforts of other countries, and of states and cities in the United States, by actions of the corporations and organizations that sought to keep the US in the Agreement. The laws of physics indicate that ice will continue to flow from Greenland and Antarctica, at least as long as global warming is not abated. But the processes within global society are not as inevitable. With concerted action, the Paris Agreement can still be a vital force to preserve our planet from one of the greatest threats it has ever faced.—Ben Orlove,director of the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions

Donald Trump decided to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement. This is the wrong decision for America and the planet on many levels. First, it is scientifically ill-motivated, as the facts are clear, there is no alternate truth. The decision is also economically reckless, as the impacts of the changing climate hit the US hard already, and the current administration decided not to prepare the nation for it, at all costs. It is politically a disaster, as it isolates the US like no other move the current administration has done so far, putting the US on a level with Nicaragua and Syria, the only two other countries not being part of the Paris Climate Agreement. It is unclear what impact this step is going to have on the US and the US sciences and academia, but it is clear that it weakens and reduces America. However, as climate scientists, we will continue to do everything possible in our powers to improving our understanding of how the changing climate impacts the US and to better prepare the nation, as it is our scientific mission and our patriotic duty.—Joerg M Schaefer, Research Professor, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

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