Memoirs of the Addams Administration 23.

In 2015, President Barack Obama negotiated American participation in an international agreement to reduce carbon emissions.  The agreement committed the United States to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent of the 2005 level by 2025.[1]  This is known as the Paris climate agreement.[2]  Then President Donald Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the agreement.  The president’s decision inspired much criticism from home and abroad.[3]  Critics appear to be out of step with ordinary Americans.  Few Americans—of either party apparently—think that the environment is a pressing issue.  Most assign a higher importance to health care, the economy, terrorism, immigration, education, and crime.[4]

Opinion varied on this decision.  On the one hand, if the Paris agreement had been sustained by President Trump, it seems unlikely to have achieved its stated goals.  That goal is to limit global temperature rise to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.  One percent of that rise has already occurred.  The Paris agreement would limit further increases by 0.2 degrees.  Worse still, by one report world temperatures will rise by 3.1 degrees above pre-industrial levels by 3.1 degrees by 2100.  On the other hand, the admittedly flawed agreement set the ball rolling toward greater commitments in the future.  One reality appears to be that developing nations pursuing industrialization as the road to prosperity (China and India for example) will need to burn carbon to reach their goals.  The only way to prevent this would be to develop non-carbon alternatives.

Many people saw the decision to withdraw as an American abdication of leadership.[5]  President Trump, the critics said, has tossed aside the American leadership built up over decades.  Now, however, other leaders—especially Germany or China–would step forward.[6]  Right.

Then the “Trump-loves-dictators” theme reappeared.  The logic here failed.  Saudi Arabia has been a loyal American ally for decades; Israel has ruled over a captive Palestinian population since 1967; a series of American presidents have struck agreements on nuclear arms with the Russkies, Communist and post-Communist, while the Obama administrations sought a “re-set” with Vladimir Putin, and negotiated with Iran; and China has been an American “partner” ever since the chain-smoking dwarf Deng Xiaoping took power.  No American president who negotiated with those countries got called a dictator-lover.  Nor should they have been.

Elsewhere, the “Russia scandal” spun its wheels while awaiting the testimony of fired FBI Director James Comey[7] before the Senate Intelligence Committee.[8]  Then various brown dwarves of American popular culture (Kathy Griffin, Ted Nugent) attracted attention for their tasteless comments on public figures.[9]

Still, if you want to worry about something real, terrorists attacked the Iranian parliament and the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini.  ISIS claimed responsibility; Iran blamed the Americans and the Saudis; and the terrorists were Kurds.  Big storm coming.

[1] The agreement took the form of an executive agreement because President Obama recognized that a treaty would not be ratified by the Senate.

[2] “Trump pulls U.S. out of Paris accord,” The Week, 16 June 2017, p. 4.

[3] One poll found that a mere 28 percent of Americans supported withdrawing from the Paris agreement, while 59 percent opposed it.

[4] “Poll Watch,” The Week, 16 June 2017, p. 17.  Only 4 percent rank climate in first place on the list of problems.

[5] “Paris: Does Trump’s America still lead the world?” The Week, 16 June 2017, p. 6.

[6] “How they see us: Defying the world on climate change,” The Week, 16 June 2017, p. 15.

[7] Like Michael Flynn, another “good guy” according to all media reports.

[8] “Russiagate: The plot thickens—again,” The Week, 16 June 2017, p. 16.

[9] “Griffin’s Trump stunt: Has the Left lost it?” The Week, 16 June 2017, p. 17.

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