This afternoon, President Donald Trump announced the decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement on climate change. The agreement, reached at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, is an historic accord negotiated in December 2015 by 190 countries—the United States included—to limit global temperature increases to no more than 2°C above preindustrial levels.
By pulling out of this international agreement, President Trump deals a serious blow to global efforts to combat climate change and mitigate its effects. The administration’s decision is one that will signal to many across our country and around the globe that the U.S. government fails to recognize the gravity of climate change and the urgency with which we must act.
The withdrawal—a political decision by the Trump administration—does not change the science of how our planet works. The American Geophysical Union (AGU) made its position clear in 2003 with the adoption of the position statement “Human-Induced Climate Change Requires Urgent Action.” While scientists continue to study the effects of climate change on the Earth and on humanity, the basic science showing that climate change has already occurred and is human-induced, due to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, is well understood.
Purposeful inaction by the Trump administration that runs contrary to the Paris Agreement’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and contrary to slowing the planet’s warming will mean that the effects of climate change already being felt by citizens around the world will grow more severe. A changing climate means more extreme weather events and rising sea levels, threatening human and environmental health, particularly for vulnerable populations. What’s more, we know that the U.S. economy and national security will also be negatively affected by climate change.
Scientific research into the growing threats from climate change can and will continue. As members of an international organization dedicated to promoting Earth and space science for the benefit of humanity, AGU scientists—even in the face of tight budgets—will continue their vital work to, as called for in the Paris Agreement, “strengthen scientific knowledge on climate.”
Moreover, AGU will continue its work to inform and engage diverse audiences on climate change science worldwide. Policies may change, but the science does not. To ensure economic prosperity and global health, we need a broad understanding of the societal consequences of a warming planet and honest and open communication of scientific evidence to the public and policy makers.
—Chris McEntee (email: [email protected]), Executive Director/CEO, AGU; Eric Davidson, President, AGU; and Robin Bell, President-Elect, AGU