Exiting Paris Accord Cedes U.S. Scientific Leadership Role, Says AAAS CEO

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The president's announcement came against a backdrop of pressure from influential businesses from Google to Exxon Mobil whose leaders urged the president to keep the United States in the Paris Agreement. | Soonthorn/AdobeStock

President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement puts future generations at risk and leaves the nation without a plan to mitigate the impact of climate change on society, said Rush Holt, CEO of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, on June 1.

“Research has found that the sooner we act and respond to climate change, the lower the risks and costs for the future,” Holt said in a statement. “Choosing not to address climate change abdicates our leadership role in a critical science policy issue and puts current and future generations at great risk.”

After days of speculation, Trump announced his decision to pull the United States out of the landmark 2015 accord, but said the United States will begin negotiations to re-enter the agreement and called on Democrats to join him in that effort.

“As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord,” said Trump from the White House Rose Garden.

Withdrawal from the historic accord that drew 195 nations to agree to take voluntary steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to curb global warming could be reversed, Trump said, if a new deal that is better for the American economy can be negotiated. The United States, the world's second largest greenhouse gas emitter after China, had committed to reduce its emissions by 26% to 28% below 2005 levels by 2025. 

“There is much the United States can do to address the risks that climate change poses to human health and safety, but disregarding scientific evidence puts our communities at risk,” Holt said.

The withdrawal process could take years. Under the terms of the Paris Agreement an official withdrawal could take up to four years to finalize. Trump said the United States would stop any further payments on the $3 billion the nation committed – $1 billion of which has already been made – to help poor nations meet their obligations.

Scientific evidence has established that human-caused climate change is underway and the scientific community has warned that ignoring the reality carries broad and deep risks to society, economic stability and the natural systems throughout the world.

In 2014, AAAS launched an initiative to open discussion of the risks of climate change and issued a report “What We Know” that reviews current climate science and lays out potential risk scenarios to expand scientific understanding of the potential impacts and how best to address them.

“The scientific evidence is clear: climate change is happening and impacting people and our environment today," Holt said. "Scientific research helps us better understand climate change and society’s potential responses, including decisions by individuals, communities, businesses and government agencies.”

[Associated image: Michael Flippo/AdobeStock]