© NASA

Mark Tercek is the president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy and author of Nature’s Fortune. Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkTercek.

President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris Agreement on global warming is a short-sighted mistake. There’s no doubt it will impose big costs here at home, from our leadership in the clean energy revolution to our standing on the world stage.

Yet will the decision unravel the entire agreement, leading to disastrous increases in carbon dioxide emissions, temperature, sea level rise and rainfall anomalies for the planet? The jury is still out.

President Obama’s pledge to reduce U.S. emissions 26-28 percent by 2025 was very aggressive. Without support from the federal government, we can’t get there. But the good news is that we can still make significant progress.

There are plenty of reasons for encouragement. Cheap natural gas is rapidly replacing coal in the power sector. Numerous states are adopting policies to require ever increasing amounts of renewable energy in electric generation and clean cars. Innovations in battery storage are dramatically reducing costs and allowing wind and solar to be integrated into the power grid with more reliability. And shareholders and consumers are forcing big companies to get it right—just this week, Exxon Mobil shareholders voted for greater transparency in how the company is responding to climate change.

Businesses and state and local governments increasingly recognize the benefits of investing in a clean energy future. © Kent Mason

There has been a clamor from the business sector over the past few days urging President Trump to stick with the treaty. Consumer-facing companies will not abandon their leadership on climate change if the U.S. withdraws from the accord. There’s a reason Google and Walmart and Apple and Amazon have committed to achieving total reliance on 100 percent renewable energy in the next few years. These companies are planning for the long haul. They want the certainty of fixed-price energy, which can’t be delivered by natural gas or oil. They want federal-level action versus more costly and inefficient regulation by 50 separate state governments. And they want to reduce their business risks associated with impacts of climate change.

Look beyond the U.S., and the picture continues to get brighter. Along with the U.S., China, India and the E.U. account for about half of global greenhouse gas emissions. If the rest of these countries do their part, we can make good progress. The rest of the world will follow their lead and adopt their strategies and technologies.

Take the E.U., which has always overachieved on its pledges. We can continue to expect it to do so. The great leadership we’re seeing from countries like Germany should give us all hope.

Or look at China and India, which have their own very good reasons to show strong leadership on climate change. While their Paris Agreement pledges were modest, we’re now seeing these countries adopt much more aggressive goals in their five-year plans. The coal-fired power plants that produce global warming pollutants also create sulfur and nitrous oxide pollution that threatens public health. The rising middle class in each country that is forced to wear a face mask whenever outdoors will no longer tolerate these public health threats.

When the U.S. faced these same public health issues from coal-fired power plants, global warming from CO2 pollution was not on the radar, and wind, solar and energy storage technologies were in their infancy. So, we retrofitted our power plants at great expense with pollution control technologies to scrub out the pollutants that were threatening our health.

China and India are squaring up on these public health problems in a whole new era—one in which CO2 is an equally concerning air pollutant and renewable energy technologies that can protect health and our climate simultaneously are fully cost competitive. They will skip over the scrubber option and go straight to low carbon energy.

The official start of the Ganges River in Devprayag, India. Both India and China have adopted aggressive climate goals in their 5-year plans. © Ian Shive/Tandem Stills+Motion

It’s highly unlikely that all of these players—our best companies, our most progressive cities and states, the nations of the E.U. that have led on wind and solar technology and governments in the developing world who can protect the health of their people from air pollution while simultaneously protecting the climate—will shrink from the challenge just because the United States has abandoned its role as a leader among nations. But they will often say to all of us who meet them in the public square, and with good reason, “Shame on you.”

The problem isn’t that the world isn’t going to step up to the plate without us. The problem is that they will, and they will leave us behind. Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement will make us late to the game. And when we come to our senses and ask to rejoin, we’ll pay a heavy price for our tardiness. We could do our part much more cheaply if we acknowledged the science now and harvested the low hanging fruit. Waiting while other nations leap forward with new energy technologies is a significant threat to our economy.

Global warming caused by carbon dioxide pollution is a very real and very urgent threat. Eventually all nations, even the United States, will need to act to protect our planet. When we are finally forced into a race to catch up, we will pay dearly for the mistake that President Trump has made.

If you believe in the work we’re doing, please lend a hand.

Comments

  1. Thank you for speaking out about the ill-informed decision that President Trump has made in abandoning the rest of the world by pulling the USA out of the Paris Agreement.

    As the leader of the most significant conservation organization in the world, I hope we hear your voice in joining others to castigate the fool we have somehow elected to run this country.

    Additionally, I believe The Nature Conservancy should harness every resource at its disposal to thwart the actions of this administration related to its actions on climate change and make this a top priority.

    I know that the Conservancy does not consider itself an advocacy organization, but believe that as a result of these unprecedented developments, that you should reconsider this stance to fight the reckless decision-making coming from the White House.

  2. Excellent summary.

  3. Thank you for some measured news.

  4. This piece s remarkably lacking in facts. More a talking points memo for Paris Agreement boosters. What’s happend to the independent and free thinking TNC?

    1. I notice you wrote this drivel at midnight. Seems like you need more sleep! The article says ‘we believe in the science’. Take your weary brain to google and look up the science for yourself.Think instead of react.

    2. Right on.

  5. Thank you for the glimmer of hope. I believe that ultimately economies and common sense will win the fight. I am sorry and embarrassed that there is so much greed and ignorance in the current Whit House

  6. I’m so glad President Trump got us out of the horrible agreement. The biggest poluters in the world were not bound by this agreement. China and India were not going to have to go along with this horrible deal. It was going to cost all Americans a lot of money, FOR WHAT? CHINA AND INDIA WERE STILL POLLUTING THE AIR WITH NO CONSEQUENCES. This was a bad deal for America and a good deal for our corrupt politicians. SHOW THEM THE MONEY!

    1. Mary, educate yourself! We weren’t forced into anything; the United States also made voluntary pledges with the Paris Accord!. Because of Trump pulling out of The Paris Accord, he has cost us GOOD JOBS in the Clean Energy sector, more jobs than coal and oil COMBINED!

    2. We have the biggest polluters here, get rid of the EPA and there will be no compliance whatsoever.

      I agree that the US should not hand out money like water; however, we can lead by innovation, science, research and share our knowledge.

    3. You are remarkably misinformed….read about the Accord more, and you’ll see that China is now closing many coal plants and investing in renewable energy much more, leaving us behind and soon leading the nation in renewable technology. And yes, they are both going along with this deal. Also, the cost you mention is mistaken…the agreement is voluntary, with each nation using different methods to try to comply. This deal would gave been excellent for our economy and our country overall, with thousands of new jobs being created. Read the agreement!

    4. Mary, you need to re-read this article. It says that China and India are going further to clean up their air and pollution than the Paris accord requested. China will wind up taking the lead in renewable energies while the US falls further and further behind. Hopefully, our cities and states will continue to honor the Paris accord regardless of Trump’s speech.

    5. “A human population approaching 7 billion can be maintained only by desolating the Earth. If wild habitat is given over to human cultivation and habitation, if rainforests can be turned into green deserts, if genetic engineering enables ever-higher yields to be extorted from the thinning soils—then humans will have created for themselves a new geological era, the Eremozoic, the Era of Solitude, in which little remains on the Earth but themselves and the prosthetic environment that keeps them alive. ~” John Gray
      http://www.gopiswrong.com/environment.htm

    6. Oh Mary!
      This is the Paris agreement not the Kyoto Protocol where developing nations weren’t bound and could continue polluting. Here, every single country has volunteered to bring emissions down by an amount that they feel they can achieve. And not to mention that even without the threat of climate change it makes economic sense to go for renewable and cleaner sources of energy.

  7. Having read Pope Francis’ document “On The Care of Our Common Home” and being a native of the Louisiana Gilfcoast, I would urge all people of right moral thinking to take very seriously what The Nature Conservancy is saying. Our “Common Home” depends on “right moral thinking.”

  8. There are always more than ONE TRAIL up a mountain.

  9. Data to substantiate global “warming” is skewed for the proponents of their argument. Climate change is part of the natural world and is cyclical. There is not enough information to conclude any claims of climate change is athropegenic and that CO2 levels are a root cause of any detrimental effect. It is speculative theory at best. I agree with Trump and the mistake it would have been to stay in the Paris Agreement. I would encourage Mark to get off the bandwagon now as time will prove the argument for Globing Warming and Man-Made Climate Change is incorrect.

  10. Mary has it right. The climate of this planet, like all that of the others in the universe, is not run by political hoaxes, but by natural laws. Indeed, global warming is real, no question. The spot where I live was covered by glacial ice, 2 miles thick, only a few thousand years ago. I’m glad it’s gone, frankly. 12 Thousand years hence, this area may well be tropical. So what? Voting Democrat won’t help the climate, but it will surely curtail Freedom & Liberty; just look at the record. At 90 years of age, I’ll have barely a tenth of the liberty and Freedom that were my lot in those days. Congress has seen to that.

    Mert

  11. Yes, it’s embarrassing that the US, which is the single largest CO2 polluter since the 1850’s, is not doing its part to to save us from worsening climate change. It was also embarrassing to learn that the US’s financial pledge to the Paris Accord would have only been roughly $9/person , or one-fifth the per capita amount of other countries, like Sweden, which pledged roughly $50/person.
    The good news is that the cost of solar power has dropped so dramatically recently , that India is already cancelling planned coal-powered electric plants. The drop in solar cost must be due to China focusing on the manufacture of solar panels, and as previously predicted, China will now almost certainly dominate in this 21st century industry.
    As I see it, the US has the most to lose from climate change, considering the value of our Eastern seaboard cities, which are at great risk of flooding as sea level rises, and the value of the west coast, which is at risk of droughts and massive fires, and the value of our interior cities, which are at risk of tornados. We ‘ll also be losing economic leverage , as well as alliances and world respect to maintain our security.
    Unfortunately, the greed and ignorance that got us here is not limited to just the White House. Somehow we’ve lost our common sense by denying science, and lost our moral values by placing companies’ bottom lines above human suffering. Now let’s hope the rest of the works can lead us .
    Donna

  12. The US should not have been part of the Paris Accord in the first place! Committing the US to a significant financial obligation (voluntary or otherwise) is the responsibility of Congress, not President Obama.
    Trump merely undid what never should have occurred without the approval of “the people.” Does not mean the US will stop improving its environment.
    But we also cannot stop investing in fossil fuel extraction- especially for natural gas. Reasonable and responsible extraction of oil and gas will also help to stabilize energy markets while giving renewable energy technologies a chance to mature.
    In the meantime, we should continue to assist developing countries to meet their energy needs without bankrupting them. As the WSJ recently noted, “The best form of climate-change insurance is a large and growing economy so that future generations can afford to adapt to whatever they may confront.”
    I am a pragmatic conservationist. I support TNC’s land preservation activities but also believe we must be practical and realistic about our near term energy requirements. And we shouldn’t get enamored with “window dressing” international agreements that ultimately achieve very little.

  13. Can states sign on the Paris Agreement as a symbolic measure?

  14. The purpose of the agreement is to encourage more awareness to the effects of our actions in our environment. Since all signed up a pledge to continue that awareness, this is good and should be supported.

  15. The World may know climate change is real but the World also knows The Paris Climate Agreement is basically a pig in lipstick. Looks good, sounds good. Take a look at the details of the agreement and you will quickly see the pig under the lipstick. Regardless of what other countries “say” they will do the United States will ultimately pay the financial price. If companies need the Federal Government to force them to do the right thing when it comes to pollution then we as consumers should simply not do business with those companies. Consumers, citizens, have the final say in this. We need to practice what we preach. Don’t be a Leonardo DiCaprio type and preach climate change while making 5 trips in a private jet within two weeks. I plan on continuing my financial support to TNC but the day they begin political belly aching like the sierra club is the day my financial support will end.

    1. Amen

  16. FACTS about the Paris accord:

    *The US would lose 6.5 million industrial jobs, including 3.1 million manufacturer in jobs by 2025.

    *Cost to US economy – $3 trillion in lower GDP.

    *Household income would drop $7,000+.

    *The agreement imposed NO “meaningful obligations to the world’s leading polluters”. Even if all members met all of their commitments, the impact would be negligible. (.02%)…which China could wipe out with just 14 days of emissions.

    *This agreement keeps us from becoming energy independent.

    *Energy costs would rise by up to 20% for Americans.

    *Obama bypassed Congress to sign this agreement because he knew they would kill it.

    *China is able to INCREASE emissions for the next 13 years.

    *China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants.

    *India’s participation is contingent on receiving billions of dollars from developing countries.

    *India will be allowed to double it’s coal production, but WE are to get rid of ours.

    *The agreement BLOCKS the development of clean coal in the US.

    *Europe is allowed to continue to build coal plants.

    ***THE AGREEMENT DOESN’T ELIMINATE COAL JOBS, IT JUST TRANSFERS THEM TO FOREIGN COUNTRIES.

    “This agreement was not about climate, it was about gaining financial advantage over the USA. It was nothing more than a massive redistribution of US wealth to other countries” and to the “elites” who invest in programs that will be funded by the trillions that would have been taken from American taxpayers.

    1. Wow! Laura, if your facts are correct, then only a fool would have agreed to such an accord. Or if they are anywhere, maybe just 10% correct, it would be disaster to agree to that accord. On the other hand we all know industrial pollution killed all the dinosaurs and similar species. I am concerned that we put all our eggs in one basket and just look like another bunch of radical environmentalists. Let’ s face it, we need to save the US first and coal and gasoline is not our biggest threat, over population is out biggest threat. Urban sprawl and millions of new babies and of course 19 million undocumented folks. Illegals in Calfornia alone consume 219 bilin gallons of water per year.

  17. As a long-time Nature Conservancy member, I’m disappointed that our organization seems to have been hijacked by left wing activists who are using environmental issues as a bogeyman to frighten the public into accepting a political, social, and economic agenda that will damage our country, lower our standard of living, and reduce our personal freedom.

  18. If all the people who say the Paris accords are so important live by them the result will be the same as if we’d stayed in. Personally I think we’re trying futilely to play god. We need a Krakatoa.

  19. I have supported Nature Conservancy because it was not partisan and political. If that policy changes, I will not be involved.

    Your objective is to conserve nature, not to critique a president. You can accomplish the former without the latter. Please stay focused on your proper mission.

  20. Your desire for protecting our planet simply requires common sense. Thank you for using it.

  21. The beauty of our federal system is that each state can enact its own environmental laws and do not have to rely on the federal government to baby sit.

  22. Wonderful article ~ Thank you ! It does shed a brighter light and hope for our Planet, in spite of the current *leader* of our country. His decisions and those of his cronies are self-serving and very threatening to ALL Peoples in a world we ALL share and Must Preserve !

  23. We Must Do our part..to fight Global Warming!!

  24. Wouldn’t it be good for mankind to stop using fossil fuels just because of the acidulation of the oceans?

  25. “Almost everyone else BELIEVES (not KNOWS) that Global Warming is real.” And why do they BELIEVE this? Because of arguments presented, data collected, and dire warnings issued, BY OTHERS……

  26. The Nature Conservancy use to be about conservation work but also about working with others where BOTH sides could agree on a solution like easements and so forth. I do believe in climate change as a fact in the natural world we live in but I am not convinced that man is necessarily the main problem. Climate change started long before us and will continue long after us. I believe that the TNC started out as a wonderful organization to protect and restore vital habitats around our country and the world at large. However, sadly I think the TNC has become more politically partisan and less about what it’s main purpose was-protection and restoration of critical habitats and working to find common ground between opposing views to find solutions for the natural world we live in. That was the TNC that first impressed me-always trying to find common ground, not taking sides which ultimately causes division.

  27. If global warming due to man’s unchecked CO2 emmissions is true, why then do recent NASA polar photos and scans show more polar ice than in the last 15 years? Why is there no real data to prove that man has caused any temperature rise over the last century? Why is it that when Pinatubo exploded, the tempurature worldwide actually got colder? Same with the explosion of Mount St. Helens and Krakatoa. Normally I am in agreement with the Conserrvancy, but on this issue I cannot agree.

  28. It’s unfortunate that the naysayers here know nothing about the science.

  29. Your parroting comments do not impress. Keep clear of politics – you are not equipped for it.

  30. “Facts” are meaningless without source reference. Please ignore those questionable statements above.

  31. Great Article..Everyone read this and Suggest what we do to Reduce global warming..Thanks for sharing this..

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