Abandoning the Paris Agreement Risks Troops and Undermines U.S. Leadership
On June 1, President Trump announced his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement. This is indisputably a bad decision for the United States and a bad deal for American workers and for our military. It compromises American leadership and undermines our values.
The Paris Agreement is a historic step forward in the fight against climate change. It was unanimously adopted by nearly 200 countries. Nations big and small, developing and developed, volunteered to do their share to reduce the harmful effects of climate change. The plan provides a mechanism to hold other nations accountable by reconvening every five years to raise their standards and to check that every nation is pulling their weight.
America used to rally the world to solve the biggest problems, from conquering space to defeating polio. American ingenuity, coordinated and inspired by our federal government, has made some of the greatest contributions to human understanding and to lifting the human condition. This ingenuity is exactly what the challenge of climate change demands of us today.
Our leadership in space exploration, military technology, medicine, and the Internet has built great American industries and created millions of good American jobs. By refusing to lead in clean energy technology, we risk an opportunity to create a generation of good, dignified American jobs in the technology of the future. American business understands this. CEOs of companies large and small have criticized the president’s decision. Like me, they know that our ability to build great companies suffers when American leadership falters, when we run from hard problems, and when resign ourselves to cope with an increasingly severe and unpredictable climate.
But the implications of this decision go beyond jobs. American leadership made the Paris Agreement happen. Backing out of an agreement that we helped to create hurts our credibility and our ability to forge partnerships with other nations on critical issues like fighting terrorism and trade. Today’s challenges, from climate change to combating extremism, are too big for any one country. We need other countries as full partners, bearing their share of the cost. By reneging on our own commitments, President Trump, his administration, and his allies in Congress who support him erode American leadership and our position setting the terms of international cooperation.
Our military will pay a large price for this decision. Climate change is a clear and present national security issue. The Department of Defense describes climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it makes the jobs of our troops harder. More frequent extreme weather events tax military resources and disrupt mission plans. Securing oil supply lines in the Strait of Hormuz alone costs the U.S. Navy $84 billion each year and risks the lives of servicemen and women. Droughts and resource shortages strengthen our enemies. Extremist groups are adept at taking advantage of the chaos these stresses create. These are just a few reasons why the U.S. military is a strong proponent of alternative energy options.
If we do not take steps to move away from fossil fuels and towards the clean energy of the future, we will condemn our allies, our children, and our loved ones in uniform to an increasingly dangerous world — and a world in which the United States is no longer a leader, but a spineless outsider.
As President Trump tries to tear the United States away from the Paris Agreement, we must stand strong alongside our allies, American workers, and men and women in uniform. We must demand a richer, more secure future for our children who live in the world we choose to leave behind. We must not run away. We must lead again.
Ian Schuler is the CEO of Development Seed. He is a Fellow with Truman National Security Project and a graduate of Johns Hopkins University. Views expressed are his own.