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U.S. Begins Formal Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord. Here’s What You Need to Know

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  • The Trump administration officially announced it is withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change. The removal will fully take effect on Nov. 4, 2020.
  • President Donald Trump has long said he would pull the U.S. out of the deal, which he argued hurts the country’s competitiveness.
  • Critics have argued that the move will hurt the overall effectiveness of the deal because other countries will see the U.S., formerly a global climate leader, backing out of its commitments.

Trump Administration Announces Official Withdrawal

The Trump administration announced Monday that it has officially started the process of fully withdrawing the United States from the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change.

The international accord, first announced in 2015, was eventually signed by 195 countries that pledged to mitigate climate change and cut their greenhouse gas emissions, among other things.

The U.S. signed on in 2016 under the Obama administration. It was also considered a key leader in crafting the agreement and getting others to sign on. But President Donald Trump has long been critical of the Paris Agreement, arguing that it hurts U.S. competitiveness and the economy.

In June 2017, Trump officially announced that he was going to take the U.S. out of the agreement. However, the U.S. did not immediately leave the accord following that announcement.

That was because all signatories had agreed to rules set by the UN that said no country could leave for three years after signing. If a signatory country did decide to leave the agreement, they would then be subject to a one-year waiting period before the withdrawal took effect.

The Paris Agreement officially went into force on Nov. 4, 2016, and so on November 4, 2019— exactly three years to the day after the agreement was finalized— the Trump administration began to formally pull the U.S. out of the deal.

The move was announced by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Twitter.

“Today we begin the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris Agreement,” Pompeo wrote. “The U.S. is proud of our record as a world leader in reducing all emissions, fostering resilience, growing our economy, and ensuring energy for our citizens. Ours is a realistic and pragmatic model.”

Now the U.S. has one year before it is fully out of the climate agreement, which somewhat coincidentally puts the day that the U.S. would entirely be withdrawn from the agreement one day after the 2020 election.

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates have said if elected they would reenter the deal, but even if Trump were to lose to the election, he would still not leave office until January 2021. 

Unless Trump has a sudden change of heart, it seems like the U.S. is set to leave the Paris Agreement on climate change, making it the first and only country to do so.

With the U.S. officially taking the leap to leave the Paris Agreement, many are wondering what this means moving forward for both the accord and the climate crisis as a whole.

General Impact on Climate Change 

The most top-level implication of the U.S. withdrawing from the agreement is the potential impact on climate change and global climate change policies.

One of the main overarching goals of the Paris agreement was to keep global warming “well below” a rise of two degrees Celsius, with the general aim of not letting it go above 1.5 degrees Celsius if possible.

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) backed by an overwhelming scientific consensus has said that in order to reach that ambitious goal, we as a global community need to slash carbon emissions in half by 2030, and net-zero in 2050.

If we fail to do so, scientists and experts have warned that we could face irreversible impacts of climate change. So when signing the Paris Agreement, each country set its own goals to reduce emissions.

Many wealthier and more developed countries, which at the time included the U.S., also agreed to help poorer and developing countries cope with the effects of climate change.

Critics of Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement have said that this is a massive step backward in the fight against climate change, especially because the U.S. is the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world after China.

Effectiveness of Deal Without U.S.

Which brings us to the second implication: the impact of the U.S. withdrawing from the Paris Agreement on the effectiveness of the deal itself.

As noted before, the U.S. led by the Obama administration was central in crafting this deal in the first place. Now, the other signatory countries have to make the agreement work without the U.S.

Specifically, that means other major polluters like China and India have to step up and fill the vacuum left by the U.S. In 2017, the U.S., China, and India accounted for almost 50% of total global emissions.

As the number one polluter, China has made big promises to cut their emissions, but they have done little to deliver on those promises.

India, which has many of the most polluted cities in the world, is currently dealing with a massive, growing pollution crisis, which indicates it also has a long way to go.

However, the biggest difference between the U.S. and the other two nations is that under UN rules, China and India are still considered developing countries, and thus are not obligated to curb emissions.

In fact, under the Paris Agreement, China actually said it would peak emissions in 2030, while the U.S. had said it would cut them drastically.

But as many have pointed out, both India and China still agreed to cut emissions as part of the deal largely because of the actions the U.S. was taking and the commitments it had made.

With the U.S. no longer in the agreement, some have argued that China and India will now be even less likely to reduce their emissions.

Here’s the thing with the Paris Agreement: none of the commitments countries make are binding.

In this way, the accord is a double-edged sword. It is beneficial because it got countries that would otherwise not agree to be held to legally-binding commitments to sign on, but it also means none of the countries are held to their commitments.

So if a big power-player and climate change leader like the U.S. reneges on its commitments, it could signal to other countries that they can do the same.

Economic Impact

Another major effect of the U.S. pulling out of the deal is the economic impact.

In addition to the scientific warnings about rising sea levels, extreme weather, and the disastrous effects climate change will have on agriculture and wildlife, many have also said that withdrawing from the agreement is a bad economic decision.

This is largely because the Trump administration has not wanted to invest in clean energy and renewable technologies that are becoming a huge market.

As Andrew Steer, the president of the World Resources Institute, said in a statement, Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement “fails people in the United States, who will lose out on clean energy jobs, as other nations grab the competitive and technological advantages that the low-carbon future offers.”

However, long before Monday’s announcement, Trump and his administration have acted like the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is a foregone conclusion.

The administration has pushed ahead with plans and actions that entirely go against the country’s pledge under the agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by nearly a quarter of 2005 levels by 2025.

Among other things, the Trump administration has continually rolled back Obama-era environmental rules that attempted to reduce carbon emissions, such as regulations on coal-fired power plants and other regulations aimed at increasing fuel efficiency standards.

Already, this has made an impact on the U.S.’s carbon output.

In 2018, U.S. carbon emissions increased significantly. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) chief Andrew Wheeler specifically said that the rise was caused by “an uptick in manufacturing and industrial output.”

Trump for his part has made it abundantly clear that he views increasing fossil fuel and coal production as a more important priority than addressing climate change, even if those plans go against the findings of the administration’s own scientists.

Trump’s argument here is that fossil fuel and coal production are better for the U.S. economy, and that is more important than addressing the impending climate crisis.

“I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth. The wealth is under its feet. I’ve made that wealth come alive,” the president said speaking in France this summer. “I’m not going to lose that wealth — I’m not going to lose it on dreams, on windmills.”

But many economists and other experts have said that putting resources toward the clean and renewable energy sector would actually be a huge investment in the future of the economy.

As David Roberts of Vox explains: “Many climate policies pay off in the near term in jobs, economic growth, or reductions in local air and water pollutants, even putting aside their climate-specific benefits. In short, many carbon-reducing policies are things it makes sense for countries to do anyway, for reasons beyond saving the world from climate change.”

Counter-Efforts in the U.S.

Even if the U.S. federal government fully withdraws from the deal, there are still efforts to keep the goals the U.S. originally committed to in the Paris Agreement intact. 

As the Los Angeles Times reported, over 400 city leaders have joined the Climate Mayors association while 17 states and territories have joined the U.S. Climate Allianceboth of which are organizations that have promised to continue working towards the U.S.’s climate pledge under the Paris Agreement.

Additionally, 2,200 businesses and investors, 350 universities, 200 faith groups, and many more local and tribal governments have also signed onto the “We’re Still In” declaration, which also supports the goals of the accord.

According to the Times, all combined, these groups “account for nearly 60% of the U.S. economy, half the country’s population, and 37% of its greenhouse gas emissions.”

Others have also noted that there is significant public support to address climate change.

According to a poll conducted by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation in September, two-thirds of Americans say Trump is not doing enough to deal with climate change

The poll also found that about eight in 10 Americans “say that human activity is fueling climate change, and roughly half believe action is urgently needed within the next decade if humanity is to avert its worst effects.”

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Forbes) (Mother Jones)

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2 Officers Shot, 127 Arrested in Louisville Following Breonna Taylor Decision

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  • Protests erupted across the country Wednesday night following the announcement that officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor would not face charges related to her death.
  • One of the three officers was indicted on wanton endangerment because he blindly fired throughout her apartment, leading to some shots entering the neighbor’s apartment.
  • Over 127 people were arrested in Louisville, and two police officers in the city were shot but are in stable condition. A suspect has been charged in the shooting. 
  • Across the country, many protests were peaceful, but others led to unrest, including some held in Denver and Buffalo where drivers rammed into protesters. 

Louisville Protests

At least 127 people were arrested and two officers were shot Wednesday during protests in Louisville, Kentucky over the lack of charges filed against the officers involved in the killing of Breonna Taylor. 

Protests began in the afternoon and carried on throughout the night after Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron announced a grand jury’s decision. Two of the involved officers will face no charges, and one, Brett Hankison, was indicted on wanton endangerment. That charge does not directly link to Taylor’s death but was instead brought on over the fact that he blindly fired throughout her apartment, leading to shots entering her neighbor’s apartment. 

Many were outraged that none of the officers would face charges related to Taylor’s killing, prompting protests across the country. In Louisville, where the case took place, the Courier Journal reports that the majority of the 127 arrests were over curfew and unlawful assembly violations. Two of those arrested were reporters for the Daily Caller

Two officers were also shot after they responded to reports of gunfire at a busy intersection. They are both in stable condition and sustained non-life-threatening injuries. A suspect is in custody and was charged with two counts of first-degree assault of a police officer and other counts of first-degree wanton endangerment. The FBI will be aiding in the investigation into what happened. 

After this shooting, Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear addressed his state and the protesters in it. 

“Sadly we have seen at least one individual turn non-violent ways of expressing ourselves into the shooting of at least two law enforcement officers,” he said. “We know that the answer to violence is never violence. And we are thinking about those two officers and their families tonight. So I’m asking everybody, please, go home.” 

Other political leaders also responded to the shooting. President Donald Trump said he spoke to Beshear and said the federal government was ready to step in as protests escalated. Beshear had already approved the deployment of the National Guard earlier on Wednesday. A curfew was also implemented in Louisville. 

Presidential candidate Joe Biden said he was praying for the officers who were shot. 

“Even amidst the profound grief & anger today’s decision generated, violence is never & can never be the answer,” he wrote. 

Nationwide Protests

More protests were held at cities all across the country, including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. 

Many protests remained peaceful as demonstrators marched, calling for justice and changes to the criminal justice system. In some places, however, protests led to unrest. 

At least 13 people were arrested in Seattle during protests. Local reports say fires were set, explosives were thrown, property in the area was damaged, and some officers got hurt. In one incident in the city, a viral video shows a police bike riding over someone’s head. Police are aware of the video and told the Washington Post they would be referring it to the city’s Office of Police Accountability for an investigation.

In Portland, authorities declared a demonstration a riot after rocks were thrown at a precinct’s window. A protester also threw a molotov cocktail, which hit an officer, though the flames were extinguished. Officers said that multiple arrests were made. 

Video footage captured in Denver showed a driver ramming through protesters. No one at the scene sustained major injuries. Police have detained someone related to this incident. 

In Buffalo, another video shows a the driver of a truck barreling into protestors. Local reports say a person riding their bike was hit and has broken bones but is in stable condition. The driver of the truck is in police custody. 

Responses to Lack of Charges

Before protests began, many took to social media to express their dissatisfaction. Ben Crump, who represents Taylor’s family, said the decision was “offensive to her memory.”

“It’s yet another example of no accountability for the genocide of persons of color by white police officers,” he wrote in a statement. “With all we know about Breonna Taylor’s killing, how could a fair and just system result in today’s decision?”

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said it was time for a fundamental change in our criminal justice system. 

“Everyone-and I do mean everyone-should be against officers being able to walk into your home and kill you with impunity,” activist Brittnay Packnett Cunningham wrote

Celebrities also spoke out, including LeBron James, who said he was not surprised by the verdict but that his heart was still heavy. 

Kerry Washington encouraged her followers to vote, and Daniel Levy told his to donate to the Louisville Community Bail Fund. 

With all the ongoing public frustrations, Governor Beshear went on CNN and asked the state’s Attorney General to make information from the investigation public so that there can be transparency when it comes to how the decision was reached. 

Background

Taylor was killed in what has been described as a botched police raid in March. Three officers were sent to her apartment on a warrant because they believed her ex boyfriend had send drugs there. No drugs were found in the apartment.

While officers claim that they knocked and announced themselves, Taylor’s family, her boyfriend Kenneth Walker, who was there at the time, and her neighbors say they did not. When they entered the apartment, it was the middle of the night and Walker thought there was a break in, potentially by Taylor’s ex. He shot at the officers. The officers returned fire, killing Taylor. 

The case has led to national outrage as Louisville officials have been slow to respond, investigate, and announce consequences.

See what others are saying: (Courier Journal) (Washington Post) (Associated Press)

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4 UC Campuses Admitted Dozens of Wealthy and Well-Connected Students Despite Being Less Qualified, State Audit Finds

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  • University of California campuses admitted 64 less-qualified but well-connected students between 2013 and 2018, state auditor Elaine Howle said in a report published Tuesday. 
  • In the audit, Howle concluded that the UC system “has not treated applicants fairly or consistently.” In an interview with NBC News, she also said hundreds of more students could have been unfairly accepted into these four universities. 
  • In one example described in the audit, an applicant made the lowest possible scores on their application and was flagged as “do not recommend,” yet a donor relations admin passed on that application to a coach, noting that the applicant’s father had the capacity to donate major gifts to the school.
  • Howle has now recommended that the UC Office of the President oversees admissions for at least three years and said campuses should be required to verify athletic recruits’ talents.

Audit of UC Campuses

The University of California admitted dozens of less-qualified, well-connected applicants over a six-year period, “[depriving] more qualified students of the opportunity for admission,” according to a state audit report published Tuesday.

The report details how four UC campuses — Berkeley, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Diego — admitted 64 students (and possibly more) between the 2013-2014 and 2018-2019 academic years. According to state auditor Elaine Howle, the majority of those applicants were white, and at least half came from families with average yearly incomes over $150,000.

In one example outlined in the report, a child of a major donor applied to UC Berkeley but received the lowest possible score on their application, which was marked “Do Not Recommend.” Despite this, a donor relations administrator later passed that application along to an unnamed coach while noting  that the family had a “huge capacity” to donate and was “already a big supporter of Cal.”

According to the audit, the coach then identified that applicant as a qualified student athlete, even though the applicant “had played only a single year of the sport in high school and at a low level of competition.”

After accepting a spot at Berkeley, the student’s family donated several thousand dollars to the team, but as the report notes, “The applicant never competed with the team, and the coaches removed the applicant from the team after the season ended.”

Source: CA State Auditor

In a different example laid out in the audit, a UCLA coach admitted a student as an athlete as a favor to a donor, even though that student’s application had already been marked “Denied.” 

In fact, 22 of the total 64 applicants were admitted with the endorsement of athletic departments, despite not meeting the athletic qualifications. 

In another example, an applicant who babysat for the colleague of the former admissions director was accepted into one of the schools.

Howle’s Recommendations

In a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom and the California state legislature prefacing the report, Howle concluded “that the university has allowed for improper influence in admissions decisions, and it has not treated applicants fairly or consistently.”

“By admitting 64 noncompetitive applicants, the university undermined the fairness and integrity of its admissions process and deprived more qualified students of the opportunity for admission,” she added. 

As part of several recommendations, Howle said the UC Office of the President should oversee admissions for at least three years to “ensure that all admissions decisions are merit‑based and conform to the university’s policies on admissions.”

That recommedation will likely be especially stressed for UC Berkeley, which dominated the report with 42 of the total cases.

Still, in an interview with NBC News, Howle said she believes the UC system’s unfair admissions practice could run even deeper.

“There’s at least another 400 or so students… that were really questionable,” she told the outlet. 

Because of all those factors combined, Howle has also recommended that beginning with the current admissions cycle, campuses should be required to verify athletic recruits’ talents and review donation records for possible impropriety.

In general, Howle noted that “applicants’ chances of admission were also unfairly affected by UC Berkeley’s, UCLA’s, and UC San Diego’s failures to properly train and monitor the staff who review and rate applications.”

According to Howle, at times, admissions staff were “overly strict or overly lenient in their review of applications,” which made “applicants’ chances of admission unduly dependent on the individual staff who rated them rather than on the students’ qualifications.”

UC President Responds

UC President Michael Drake said Howle’s audit follows two internal audits that identified many of the same issues, with Drake noting that Howle’s audit will be used to improve the admissions system.

“Individuals involved in improper activities will be disciplined appropriately,” he stressed. 

A spokesperson for UCLA said its athletics-related incidents happened before the school adopted additional safeguards. Both UCLA and UC Berkeley noted that they have improved their admissions policies within recent years and that their review processes are fair. 

UC Santa Barbara also said it has adopted recent safeguards, including having faculty committees review an athlete’s academic and athletic history.

Still, Howle’s audit uncovered many more cases of unfair admissions than an internal UC audit released in February, which found only two instances of possible impropriety. That audit was ordered by then-UC President Janet Napolitano following the national college admissions scandal that has led to convictions for actresses such as Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (NBC News) (CNN)

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Celebrities, Tech Companies, and Others Draw Attention to National Voter Registration Day

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  • Celebrities including Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Ryan Reynolds, John Legend, and others took to social media to encourage their fans to register to vote in recognition of National Voter Registration Day.
  • Social media companies themselves have also launched their own efforts to get Americans to register. 
  • Facebook said Monday it has already registered 2.5 million people, but many say Facebook’s efforts do not go far enough and that people should be suspicious of its motives.

National Voter Registration Day

Thousands of businesses, election officials, celebrities, and others joined together Tuesday for National Voter Registration Day, a non-partisan campaign to register Americans to vote.

“National Voter Registration Day seeks to create broad awareness of voter registration opportunities to reach tens of thousands of voters who may not register otherwise,” the official website for National Voter Registration Day states.“Every year millions of Americans find themselves unable to vote because they miss a registration deadline, don’t update their registration, or aren’t sure how to register.”

The annual campaign has been highly successful in the past. According to the website, since the event first started in 2012, “nearly 3 million voters across all 50 states have registered to vote on National Voter Registration Day, including 1.3 million in 2018-2019 alone.”

But there is still a lot of work to be done. Nearly one in every four eligible Americans are currently not registered to vote, and as the campaign pointed out in a statement, “this year, due to COVID-19, voter registration is more important than ever.”

“Because of the closure of DMVs and halting of voter registration field programs amid the pandemic, the number of new and updated voter registrations collected across the country has fallen dramatically since March,” the statement continued.

To combat that, partners and community groups are hosting “both digital voter registration drives and safe, in-person registration events,” in addition to “working to provide accurate information to voters on how to prepare to cast a ballot, either through mail-in voting, early in-person voting, or going to the polls on Election Day.”

Celebrities Promote Campaign

Many partner organizations took to social media to promote the event Tuesday, as well as celebrities like Ryan Reynolds, Katy Perry, Kesha, John Legend, and more.

“This National Voter Registration Day, research the voting rights in your state and make a plan to vote,” Legend wrote on Twitter. “By making your voice heard at the polls, you can determine the future of our country’s criminal justice system.” 

Taylor Swift, who, accordiong to vote.org, inspired 65,000 people to register to vote in in 2018, also shared the campaign and emphasized its importance in an Instagram story.

“Hey guys, it’s National Voter Registration Day today. The election is November 3rd. It’s really coming up, and I’ve put together a swipe-up of resources,” the singer said. “You can register if you’re a first-time voter, you can check your registration, you can request an absentee ballot, you can figure out the process of voting early. We need everyone, and it is more important than I can even possibly say.”

Facebook’s Voter Registration Efforts

In addition to celebrities joining in on the campaign on social media, most of the major social media platforms themselves also took part.

Earlier this week, Twitter said it would roll out its biggest push yet to get people to register on Tuesday. Facebook, for its part, already begun its efforts even before National Voter Registration Day.

On Monday, the company said in a statement that estimated it has already helped 2.5 million people register to vote this year through Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger — already more than the 2 million it registered in 2016 and 2018. With just over a month until the election, the platform seems it is well on its way to completing its goal of registering 4 million people by the election. 

As part of its efforts to meet that goal and others, Facebook has implemented a number of initiatives. In August, the company launched a “voting information center” with resources about voting on Facebook and Instagram. 

Last weekend, it held a poll worker recruitment drive and announced it would be giving paid time off its U.S.-based employees who want to work at the polls. Just over this past weekend, Facebook also started providing users with information about how to register to vote at the top of Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. 

The platform has also done a number of things internally to prepare for the election. Earlier this month, it announced several changes it had made to fight against voting misinformation, most notably including not running new political ads the week before the election.

While some say these moves by Facebook are commendable, many have believe they fall short. Others have even said we should be suspect of Facebook’s motives.

“Corporations are political entities, and we should not assume that platform voter registration campaigns are being done with only public good in mind and aren’t also strategic,” Jennifer Grygiel, a communications professor at Syracuse University who studies social media, told USA Today. 

“Social media companies have a lot at stake right now as they face increasing regulation. Their efforts to register voters could be serving corporate goals, and we need to make sure they are not strategically registering voters in a way that could skew the election.” 

Facebook and the Election

Facebook’s recent voter registration efforts also come as the company is receiving significant public pressure to do more ahead of the election.

Last week, numerous celebrities including Kim Kardashian-West, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Lawrence, and others boycotted Instagram and Facebook for 24 hours to demand the company do more to address misinformation and hate speech as part of the Stop Hate for Profit Campaign.

That campaign also led major boycotts against Facebook back in July by persuading huge companies like Mircosoft, Adidas, Ford, Coca-Cola, and more to temporarily halt their spending on the platform.

Despite all the mounting pressure, it is still unclear if Facebook will take any drastic steps.

During an interview with the Financial Times on Tuesday, Facebook’s Head of Global Affairs Nick Clegg said that the company will take serious steps to “restrict the circulation of content” on the platform if the presidential election descends into widespread chaos or violent unrest.

While Clegg did not provide any specifics, he did say the company had plans for a variety of outcomes, including civic unrest or having in-person votes counted faster than mail-in ballots.

While the country prepares for what is widely expected to be an incredibly contentious race, many worry that Facebook is not doing enough to prevent unrest, violence, and the misinformation in the lead up to Nov. 3rd.

As far as if Facebook will heed the demands that it do more before the election, that remains to be unseen.

“As well as fighting a rising tide of misinformation from both foreign and domestic operatives, experts warn that Facebook must prevent the platform from being used to foment violence,” The Times wrote.

“Mr. Clegg said Facebook was carrying out ‘proactive sweeps’ for dangerous groups and incitement, including ‘in areas where we know that their activity is likely to be more pronounced in other parts of the country.’” 

See what others are saying: (USA Today) (The Financial Times) (Billboard)

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