By Chris Mooney
The frenzied chatter and speculation is on over whether President Trump will withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement this week.
But this much is already clear: Trump’s administration will not actively work to stop climate change. And considering that the United States is the second-biggest global emitter, that may well prove the bigger deal.
“We’re all now part of this drama, will they withdraw or not, but they have already said they won’t do anything substantial on climate policy, and that’s what matters,” said Oliver Geden, a climate-policy analyst who is a fellow at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society at the University of Oxford.
Calculations by scientists and climate-policy experts point to several key facts underlying this discussion. First, the U.S. emissions cuts were set to make up a major part — more than a fifth between now and 2030 — of the reductions achieved by the Paris climate agreement.
Second, even with the United States and all other countries doing their best to meet their commitments, that agreement still was not strong enough, at least not in its first round of country-level pledges, to keep the world from warming above the threshold of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) that scientists have identified as a marker beyond which we’ll see truly “dangerous” change. (We’re already a bit over 1 degrees Celsius now above preindustrial temperatures.)
This means that in 2017, to tackle climate change, the world needs a moreambitious United States — not a country that will abandon Paris entirely, or at minimum, scale back its commitments to that agreement.