Environmentalists, political leaders and business groups in California slammed President Trump’s announcement Thursday to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement aimed at boosting renewable energy and reducing heat-trapping pollution from fossil fuels.
“Donald Trump has absolutely chosen the wrong course. He’s wrong on the facts,” said Gov. Jerry Brown, who is scheduled to go to China Friday to work on climate partnerships.
“America’s economy is boosted by following the Paris Agreement,” Brown added. “He’s wrong on the science. Totally wrong. California will resist this misguided and insane course of action. Trump is AWOL but California is on the field, ready for battle.”
Billionaire Elon Musk, the founder of electric car maker Tesla, announced after the speech he will step down from Trump’s business advisory council, known as the Strategic and Policy Forum, and a presidential advisory panel on manufacturing jobs.
“Climate change is real,” Musk said via Twitter. “Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”
Former President Barack Obama signed the Paris Agreement in 2015. Every country in the world but two — Syria and Nicaragua — also endorsed the agreement. It is not a binding treaty, however, and was not submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification.
Instead, it is a commitment in which each of the 196 participating countries agreed to different voluntary targets for reducing emissions of greenhouse gases. The U.S. — the second largest greenhouse gas polluter on Earth behind China — agreed to cut its emissions up to 28 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. So far, the U.S. has reduced emissions by 12 percent.
The goal of the Paris agreement is to limit the increase in global temperatures to 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, as a way to reduce the impact of increased droughts, forest fires and rising sea levels. Over the past century, the global temperature has increased about 1 degree Celsius.
Trump said Thursday the Paris agreement will cost Americans jobs, particularly in industries such as coal mining, steel production and auto manufacturing, and said that the U.S. agreed to tougher targets than economic rivals such as China and India. He said he is open to renegotiating the deal.
“I was elected to represent the citizens off Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said.
Trump framed the agreement as an example of other countries taking advantage of the United States.
“We don’t want other leaders and other countries laughing at us anymore, and they won’t be,” he said.
Silicon Valley leaders, however, said that boosting renewable energy creates far more jobs than are lost.
“In life there are missteps and major stumbles,” said Carl Guardino, CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a non-profit that represents major technology companies. “When it comes to our economy, environment and global moral standing, this move by our president is a major stumble.”
Guardino said Trump’s move will not only companies that fund and manufacture solar panels and wind tubines, but also companies that do everything from make software that improves the energy efficiency of buildings to build charging stations for electric cars.
“This undercuts those efforts that benefit our economy and equally important, save our environment,” Guardino said.
Jim Wunderman, CEO of the Bay Area Council, a group representing 275 of the largest Bay Area companies, said addressing climate change helps create new markets to sell clean technology in China, expands construction jobs in BART and other mass transit, boosts wetlands restoration around San Francisco Bay and creates markets for electric vehicles.
“California and the Bay Area remain on an irreversible course forward to lead the world into a sustainable clean energy future,” said Wunderman said. “Addressing climate change is not just an environmental or moral imperative, it is an economic imperative and an economic opportunity
Environmental groups, as expected, blasted the news.
“Generations from now, Americans will look back at Donald Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement as one of the most ignorant and dangerous actions ever taken by any president,” said Michael Brune, national executive director of the Sierra Club, based in San Francisco.
“Trump’s decision to ignore the vast majority of the American public and the scientific community will harm our country, costing us lives, jobs and our role as a world leader. Trump has isolated our country on the world stage, ceding our leadership position and our economic advantage on clean energy to India and China, and justifying it all by chanting a slogan from a baseball hat.”
Scientifically, there is no question that the Earth is warming. Overall, 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded in California since modern temperature records were first taken in the late 1800s. The previous record for statewide average temperature was 2015, and the previous record was 2014. In fact, the 10 hottest years globally back to the 1880s all have occurred since 1998, according to NASA.
Brown, who has made climate change a centerpiece of his governorship, signed a law last year requiring that 50 percent of the electricity generated in California by 2030 come from solar, wind and other renewable sources like biomass and geothermal. In the most recent year available, 2015, such renewable sources made up 23 percent, and are growing. Natural gas generated 60 percent, nuclear power 9 percent, hydroelectric power 7 percent and coal and other sources 1 percent.
Trump has questioned the science of climate change, which is accepted by the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientific institutions, including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the World Meteorological Organization, NASA, NOAA and the national scientific societies of nearly every major industrial country.
In 2012, Trump tweeted: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
In many ways, the decision to pull out of the Paris agreement was symbolic. Trump was working to scrap two of the main ways that Obama had planned to reduce greenhouse gases to meet the U.S. goals under the agreement: his regulations doubling the gas mileage standards for U.S. vehicles, and the “Clean Power Plan,” a series of Obama EPA regulations aimed at reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants. The latter regulation is tied up in lawsuits.
Last month, more than 20 Republican senators, led by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyoming, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, said in a letter to Trump that “It is clear that those advocating for greenhouse gas regulations will use the Paris Agreement as a legal defense against your actions to rescind the Clean Power Plan if you decide to remain in the Paris Agreement. This is why it is so important for you to make a clean exit from the Agreement.”
Large employers such as Microsoft, Google, Nike, DuPont, Johnson & Johnson, however, urged Trump to remain part of the Paris agreement.
Several oil companies, including ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips, also urged Trump this week not to drop out. Their argument: the U.S. should retain a seat at the table to help influence international climate rules, because they sell their products in other countries and will be affected by them.