The United States cannot build a wall to hold off the warming planet
President Trump first introduced the “America first” mentality of his presidency during his inauguration speech in January. Ever since, he and his administration have been applying it with broad sweeps across all sectors. Scott Pruitt, the newly appointed EPA administrator, was the most recent to take up the brush of isolationism.
On Thursday, Pruitt caused quite the kerfuffle when he questioned human contributions to climate change. In an interview on CNBC’s “The Squawk Box” Pruitt said:
“I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”
He then went on to call the Paris climate agreement a “bad deal” for the USA.
“It’s one thing to be talking about CO2 internationally,” Pruitt said. “But when you front-load your costs…that’s not good for America. That’s not an America first type of approach.”
Pruitt’s comments not only reveal a fundamental lack of scientific understanding, they also illustrate the folly of isolationism.
The Paris climate agreement was signed in 2016 by nearly 200 nations and is the greatest effort to reduce the effects of climate change on a global scale. The goal of the agreement is to stop temperatures from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius.
The nations who signed the agreement pledge to limit or lower their greenhouse gas emissions to achieve this goal. The Obama administration promised to reduce carbon pollution by 26% by 2025. Now, however, it looks as though President Trump may be leading the United States in the opposite direction.
From the beginning, the Trump administration has made it very clear where they stand on issues of climate change.
During his campaign, Trump openly identified as a climate skeptic and promised to cancel the Paris climate agreement. Since his inauguration he has flooded his cabinet with climate skeptics and deniers. One of his first actions in office was to revive the Keystone XL Pipeline. Perhaps the worst thing he has done for the global climate is appoint Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. All signs point towards Trump withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and pinning his “America first” mentality to the environment.
While disagreement reigns over the use of isolationism in general, there is no question that it is an inappropriate response to the issue of climate change.
If the United States withdraws from the Paris climate agreement, not only will we be removing ourselves from the clean energy economy of the future, we will have to deal with catastrophic climate change. The United States and China produce the most CO2 on the planet. It doesn’t take much to imagine the fate of our planet if we renege on our emission pledge.
Stephen Hawking’s imagination is certainly up to the task (it is not uncommon for the famous physicist to lament the end of the human race). Hawking made news headlines recently when he argued the only way to combat the greatest threats to humanity (including global warming) is the implementation of a world government.
“We need to be quicker to identify such threats and act before they get out of control. This might mean some form of world government,” said Hawking.
While his proposition may be hopelessly idealistic, it is nowhere near as ridiculous as attempting to insulate the United States against a global phenomenon. After all, climate change does not care about national boundaries. The United States cannot build a wall to hold off the warming planet.
Forget America first, let’s put our planet first.