Withdrawing from Paris agreement signals end of American exceptionalism
© whitehouse.gov

On Thursday afternoon in the Rose Garden, President Trump announced his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris climate agreement.

Adopted by nearly every country, the Paris agreement was a historic step forward in the fight against climate change. Every signatory — nations both big and small, developing and developed, and including all of the world’s biggest polluters — volunteered to do their fair share by enacting an individualized plan to cut their carbon emissions, thereby reducing the harmful effects of climate change. To hold each other accountable, they also agreed to reconvene every five years to raise their standards and publicly disclose progress.

By choosing to back out of this global agreement to solve a problem too big for any one country the Trump administration and allies in Congress are making a catastrophic choice out of ignorance and short-sightedness.

ADVERTISEMENT
American leadership made the Paris agreement happen. By backing out now, we lose serious credibility and will have a harder time forging progress on critical security and diplomatic issues ranging from terrorism to trade. What’s more, countries will no longer view the U.S. in our traditional role of rallying the world to the common cause of solving big problems — indeed, China and the European Union are already announcing a new alliance for cleaner energy source.

 

We’re starting to look like a country that goes it alone — specifically by turning tail when the going gets tough.

Speaking of tough, the highest price for pulling out of the Paris agreement may well be paid by our men and women in uniform. Climate change isn’t a scientific, economic or health issue, but a national security one too. The Department of Defense even describes climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it makes things tougher for our troops.

More frequent extreme weather events mean more requests for humanitarian aid across the globe, and droughts and resource shortages end up strengthening the very extremist groups our troops face on the battlefield. Secretary of Defense James Mattis put it clearly in recent congressional testimony when he said that “climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.”

Meanwhile, U.S. troops are also on the front lines defending the very resources contributing to the adverse effects of climate change. In the Strait of Hormuz, located between Iran and Oman, the U.S. Navy spends $84 billion each year protecting 20 percent of the entire world’s oil as it passes through the strait’s waters. Securing oil supply lines like these across the globe puts the lives of servicemen and women at risk, to say nothing of the operational risks of using big containers of very flammable liquid and gas fuels in active war zones.

If we do not take steps to move away from fossil fuels of the past and towards clean energy of the future, we will be condemning our allies, our children and our loved ones in uniform to an increasingly dangerous world — and a world in which the United States is no longer a leader, but a backwards outsider. 

As the partner of a Public Health Service officer who has been deployed more than 10 times to combat Ebola and Zika, aid victims of hurricanes and flooding and provide support to thousands of migrants, the fight for common-sense climate policies is personal to me.

Carlos has experienced more heartache and desperation in the eyes of victims — specifically underserved populations — facing outbreaks and natural disasters than any one individual should endure. Yet he believes so strongly in America’s leading role in the world that he continues to dedicate his life to global health.

As President Trump tries to tear the United States away from the Paris agreement, we must stand strong alongside our allies and men and women in uniform, while also demanding a safer, more secure future for our children who will have to live in the world we choose to leave behind.

Kevin Walling (@kpwalling) is a Democratic strategist, co-founder of Celtic Strategies, and a contributor for Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network.


The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.