The Paris climate agreement has done what few international pacts have ever been able to do. It has united oil companies, environmental groups, CEOs, labor leaders, socialists, Wall Street titans, Catholics, Buddhists, atheists and the leaders of nearly every nation on earth.
The world agrees. Climate change is just that important.
Then came Donald Trump. The president has turned his decision of whether to honor or renege on his country’s commitment to the Paris agreement into a global reality show — with a formal announcement coming Thursday at 3 p.m. from the White House Rose Garden. If he pulls out, as promised, Trump will flout the consensus of the world’s most powerful nations — including China, India and members of the European Union — that we must urgently tackle the carbon crisis. The United States would join Nicaragua and Syria to become one of just three nations on Earth who have not signed onto Paris.
To understand why the agreement is so popular, it’s helpful to take a look at who supports the pact and who has pushed for Trump to abandon it. There is almost total agreement from the private sector and civil society that the United States should stick with Paris. But the holdouts have an outsized influence on the president.
Here’s a partial list of influential people, private businesses and other organizations who support Paris. The breadth of this lineup is staggering.
- Senior advisors to the president, including National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner
- Oil and gas companies, including ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell, ConocoPhillips and Cheniere Energy
- Coal companies, including Arch Coal, Peabody Energy and Cloud Peak Energy
- Electric utilities, including National Grid and Pacific Gas and Electric
- Renewable-energy trade groups, including the Solar Energy Industries Association, American Wind Energy Association and the American Council on Renewable Energy
- Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, 350.org and the Union of Concerned Scientists
- Republican members of Congress, including Rep. Kevin Cramer (ND), Sen. Lindsay Graham (SC) and Sen. John McCain (AZ)
- Democratic members of Congress, including Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (NY), Sen. Ed Markey (MA) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI)
- Republican governors, including Phil Scott (VT) and Charles Baker (MA)
- Democratic governors, including Jerry Brown (CA) and Andrew Cuomo (NY)
- Mayors of 75 U.S. cities
- Veterans of George W. Bush’s White House, including former Ambassador to NATO Nicholas Burns, former EPA Chief Christine Todd Whitman and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice
- Veterans of Barack Obama’s White House, including former chief climate negotiator Todd Stern, former EPA Chief Gina McCarthy and former Secretary of State John Kerry
- Conservative pundits, including Bill O’Reilly and Joe Scarborough
- Liberal pundits, including Paul Krugman and Tom Friedman
- Retired generals and admirals, including former Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command Admiral Sam J. Locklear, former Chief of Staff of U.S. Central Command Lieutenant General John G. Castella and former Deputy Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Strategic Command Lieutenant General Arlen D. Jameson
- Investment banks, including Bank of America, Citigroup, JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs
- Manufacturers and retailers, including Walmart, Unilever, General Mills, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Intel, Hewlett Packard, General Electric, Tesla, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Cargill, Coca Cola, Johnson and Johnson, Proctor and Gamble, Walt Disney, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Levi’s and The Gap
- Labor unions, including the AFL-CIO and SEIU
- Faith leaders, including Pope Francis, the Dalai Lama and a coalition of Islamic leaders
- Scientific societies, including the American Meteorological Society, American Geophysical Union and 377 members of the National Academy of Sciences
- Seven in ten Americans, including a majority of Republicans
The opposition is far more narrow. Those calling for Trump to pull out of Paris are largely right-wing ideologues.
- Senior advisors to the president, including chief strategist Steve Bannon and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt
- Fewer than half of Senate Republicans, including noted climate deniers Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY), Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) and Sen. James Inhofe (OK)
- Conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, the Heartland Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute
- Conservative media, including radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh, online news outlets like InfoWars and most of the talking heads on Fox News
People may forget, but the opponents of Paris are a small minority. On climate change, there is consensus. The world is moving forward, and by fighting the tide of progress, Trump is creating turmoil.
Set aside the grim science of climate change. Set aside the cost — in human life and prosperity — of rising seas, powerful storms, and punishing heat. Set aside the threats to our national security as drought and famine destabilize vulnerable regions, spurring the rise of extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. There are numerous reasons to stay in the Paris agreement.
Fossil fuel giants want to stay in the agreement because major trade partners like Canada, Mexico and France may enact a carbon tax on U.S. goods if Trump pulls out. Generals, admirals and politicians on both sides of the aisle support the pact because leaving the agreement would wound relations with our closest allies. America’s largest corporations have pleaded with Trump to support the accord because they want market certainty, which depends on sensible and predictable public policy. Instead, Trump has delivered chaos.
Put more succinctly:
Why would Trump pull out? The president’s motives are inscrutable, but his chief influencers have made their intentions clear. Bannon and Pruitt are ideologues who maintain that climate science is a farce and believe government has no role in regulating industry. They are flanked by right-wing media who have lambasted the Paris accord since before the ink was dry, and by the throngs of Trump supporters who cheered when the president promised to “cancel” the agreement.
.@POTUS decision to withdraw from Paris is a political one. Feeding the base. His economic advisers, business leaders advised against.
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) May 31, 2017
The president and his advisors will likely frame this as an example of Trump refusing to stoop to foreign powers. Paris is a “bad deal,” they’ll say, and Trump put “America first.”
But, this decision defies the narrative Trump has spun about himself. Trump is allegedly a man of the people, but on this issue, he has dismissed the preferences of the large majority of Americans. Trump says he is willing to spurn right-wing orthodoxy, but on this issue he toed the party line. Trump touts himself as a shrewd negotiator, but he is walking away from deal that would allow the United States to avoid trillions in damages in exchange for relatively modest emissions cuts.
Trump has shown, once again, that he is a showman. He has kept the world waiting with repeated promises of a big announcement, a spectacle fit for prime time. His supporters will applaud. His detractors will groan. Everyone will tune in.
Trump may win the ratings war, but he will lose the goodwill of nearly every nation on Earth.