- 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it is fully out of the climate agreement, which somewhat coincidentally puts the day that the U.S. would entirely be withdrawn from the agreement one day after the 2020 election.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)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.