We’ve all seen the pictures of polar bears clinging to melting sheets of ice and read about the alarming acreage of the Amazon Forest lost to deforestation. Yet, a stunning new development has rocked the world – the U.S., once a leader of the climate change movement, has withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, a global pact designed to cap rising global temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius. According to NASA, over 97% of climate scientists believe that “climate-warming trends are extremely likely due to human activities.” Since the Industrial Revolution, the rise in CO₂ emissions, among other greenhouse gases, has slowly but steadily raised the global temperature. Though the rise in temperature – at an average of 0.14 every decade since 1901 in contiguous America – may seem small, the truth is that this trend in warming has disastrous effects on biodiversity, ecological communities, and our 21st-century lifestyles.
The Paris Agreement provides a way for countries to respond to this disaster by agreeing to limit the global rise in temperatures by 2 degrees Celsius. This move would cap the rise in temperatures until newer clean energy technologies can be fully implemented. The agreement would facilitate a slow transition to renewable energy sources without causing economies to plummet. The Paris Agreement allows countries to create their own unique plans as to how each individual country will follow through with this 2-degree cap. This flexibility provides countries with the freedom to analyze their existing industrial frameworks and how they can respond to this challenge.
As of today, over 148 countries have ratified the Paris Agreement. Among those who originally ratified the Agreement were India, China, and the United States. Yet, recently, the President has withdrawn from this agreement on the terms that it would impact the economy and hurt American manufacturing. The President who has issued several controversial opinions about climate change had promised on the campaign trail to pull out from this agreement. Though the President disagrees with the treaty, University of Virginia Professor of Natural History Hank Shugart believes that though the treaty is “ weak as it is non-binding and disadvantages developing nations, it is better than taking no action.”
The withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has sent shockwaves around the world. The UN called the US withdrawal “disappointing.” Many climate scientists also believe that the US is taking the wrong step in fighting climate change. One thing is clear, however, with this setback. Instead of leading the way for fighting climate change as one of the world’s superpowers, the US has regressed and placed its responsibility in the hands of European and Asian leaders who must now lead the way to secure a habitable planet for future generations.