- 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it is fully out of the climate agreement, which somewhat coincidentally puts the day that the U.S. would entirely be withdrawn from the agreement one day after the 2020 election.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.
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 Alliance— both 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)
Mother and Boyfriend Charged After Abandoning 3 Children in Apartment With Sibling’s Remains
Authorities said the malnourished children had been living in the unit without their parents for months.
Abandoned Children Discovered in Houston
Police in Texas arrested a mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday after finding the woman’s three children abandoned in an apartment unit with the remains of their sibling.
Authorities found the 7-, 10-, and 15-year-old boys on Sunday when the teen called police to report that his brother had been dead for a year and that his body was in the unit.
When authorities arrived at the scene, they found the children living in “deplorable conditions.” Police also found the skeletal remains of an 8-year-old, who they emphasized had been decomposing for an extended period of time.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said the boys were fending for each other, with the eldest doing his best to care for the younger ones. According to the teen, his parents hadn’t been living in the apartment with them for months.
Gonzales called it one of the most shocking cases he had ever seen in all his years in law enforcement, and many are now asking how these kids could have been suffering for so long without anyone ever noticing.
Signs That Went Unnoticed
The Daily Beast reported that the kids hadn’t been attending school since May 2020, claiming that the school even conducted an unsuccessful home visit in September of that year.
On top of that, the children had been without power for several weeks, with one neighbor telling local reporters that the teen would often charge his phone at her place.
Another neighbor, Erica Chapman, said she had once found the teen sleeping on a playground slide, so she gave him some food and drinks.
“I asked him if he was hungry. He said, ‘Yeah,’ and I brought him out some food and some drinks,” Chapman told KHOU.
She said he “wouldn’t talk about his parents,” and she didn’t push because she wanted him to feel safe coming to her if he needed food. Chapman added that she would drop off food at the apartment sometimes but said it was hard to tell what was going on inside.
Police also described a foul odor coming from the unit, which a different neighbor said she complained to management about more than once. That woman claimed the smell was so vile, she could not turn on her air conditioning.
Dianne Davis, who lived in the complex for two years, told The Houston Chronicle that the building manager performs regular inspections on the units, with the most recent one happening last week.
“How come they couldn’t detect this?” Davis told the paper. “How could that not have been found?”
Mother and Boyfriend Face Charges
According to Child Protective Services (CPS), the agency does have a history with the family, but there was no active investigation at the time the kids were discovered.
After they were found, the boys were treated at a hospital and placed with CPS while the agency seeks emergency custody of them.
At the hospital, doctors discovered fractures in the 7-year-old face and said two of the three boys were malnourished. Meanwhile, the medical examiner’s office said the deceased child suffered multiple blunt force injuries and ruled his death a homicide.
Police located the mother, 35-year-old Gloria Williams, and her boyfriend, 31-year-old Brian Coulter, on Sunday. They were interviewed and initially released without charges.
ABC13 reported that the teen texted his mother, who lived just 15 minutes, before calling the police.
On Tuesday, the couple was finally arrested while allegedly reading articles about themselves at a library. Williams, faces multiple charges, including injury to a child by omission and tampering with evidence involving a human corpse.
Meanwhile, Coulter was charged with murder over the death of the child, though both he and Williams are expected to face more charges as investigators continue to unpack the details of this case.
See what others are saying: (The Houston Chronicle) (The Daily Beast) (The Washington Post)
Man Spent COVID Relief Loan on $58,000 Pokemon Card, Feds Say
The man is facing a wire fraud charge, which carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
COVID Relief Funds Used on Pokemon Card
Authorities have accused a man in Georgia of misusing COVID-19 relief funds, claiming that he spent $57,789 on a single Pokemon card.
Prosecutors said Vinath Oudomsine made false statements about the gross revenue his business earns and the number of workers he employs when he applied for aid authorized under the CARES Act.
On his July 2020 application, Oudomsine allegedly claimed he had 10 employees and 12-month gross revenues of $235,000.
The following month, he was given about $85,000 from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which means he spent nearly all of the money on the rare card.
Authorities have given few details about the specific card purchased, though they have said Oudomsine was charged with wire fraud and is expected to appear in court on Thursday.
The charge carries a max sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison, along with a $250,000 fine.
Misuse of COVID Relief Funds
Oudomsine is far from the first person to face charges for fraud related to small business loans issued amid the pandemic. Others who received relief funds have been accused of spending the money on Lamborghinis, nights at strip clubs, and even an alpaca farm, among other purchases.
In fact, the first person to be charged with fraudulently seeking a pandemic relief loan was recently sentenced to 56 months in prison following a nationwide search after the man faked his own death.
According to The Washington Post, a federal watchdog said this month that the SBA overpaid $4.5 billion in grants to self-employed people and that “no system of controls was in place to flag applications with flawed or illogical information.”
On top of that, the SBA inspector general determined earlier this year that the agency rushed to send out billions of dollars in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) “at the expense of controls” that could have blocked inappropriate aid.
In a statement on Sunday, the agency said that under the Biden administration, it has worked with Congress and the inspector general to add antifraud measures. Meanwhile, defenders of pandemic relief programs have argued that flagged loans and grants represent only a small fraction of the distributed aid that has been critical to small businesses and their pandemic recovery.
See what others are saying: (NPR)(USA Today)(The Washington Post)
FDA Authorizes Moderna and J&J COVID Vaccine Boosters, Approves Mix-and-Match Doses
The approval will allow at-risk Americans who received Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to get any booster six months after their initial series and all Johnson & Johnson recipients 18 and older to do the same two months after their single-shot dose.
New FDA Authorization
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday authorized boosters shots of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines and approved a mix-and-match strategy that will allow people who got one company’s shot to get a booster from a different maker.
The decision paves the way for millions of more at-risk Americans to get extra protection, and not just certain Pfizer recipients as previously approved by the FDA.
Under the authorization, people who received Moderna or Pfizer can get any one of the three booster shots six months after completing their initial series if they are 65 and older, at high risk of severe COVID, or face increased exposure because of their work.
Meanwhile, all J&J recipients 18 and older can get any of the approved vaccines two months after they received the one-shot jab.
Hazy Recommendations, For Now
Notably, the FDA did not recommend a certain combination of vaccines, nor did the agency say whether or not it would be more effective for people to stick with their original vaccine maker for their booster.
The new authorizations draw on a study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that there are no safety concerns with mixing boosters and that vaccine combinations were at least as effective in stimulating antibodies as matched vaccines.
In the case of J&J recipients, the NIH found that people actually had a higher boost from mixing either Moderna or Pfizer boosters.
However, some of the scientists who worked on the study said it should not be used to recommend one combination over another because the research was limited.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which determines vaccine recommendations, could issue more guidance on when and whether people should switch vaccine makers for their booster shots.
An advisory panel for the agency is meeting Thursday to discuss the new FDA authorizations and recommendations.
Once the panel makes its decision, the CDC director has the final say on the guidelines. If the agency agrees with the FDA’s decisions, the booster shots could be rolled out as soon as this weekend.