“We’re getting out!” President Trump declared before the press and a knot of governmental officials who had gathered in the White House Rose Garden on June 1. “In order to fulfill my solemn duty to protect America and its citizens, the United States will withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.”
characterized the Accord as being “less about the climate and more
about other countries’ gaining a financial advantage over the
continued his xenophobic message: “The rest of the world applauded
when we signed the Paris agreement—they went wild; they were so
happy—for the simple reason that it put our country, the United
States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic
singled out in particular the “Green Climate Fund,” which he said
has been siphoning billions of dollars out of the U.S. economy, “a
massive re-distribution of United States wealth to other countries.”
The fund was intended to help underdeveloped nations move to
renewable energy and mitigate the effects of climate change. So far,
the fund has raised a total of around $10 billion from wealthier
capitalist countries, including $3 billion from the U.S. (about
one-hundredth of one percent of the U.S. budget).
to the precepts of the Paris Accord, it will take more than three
years for the U.S. to formally withdraw from it. But Trump indicated
in his speech that he believes his announcement can help dampen any
legal challenge to the measures that his administration has already
put into place that weaken environmental safeguards in order to ramp
up oil, coal, and other extractive industries.
what about the climate? That burning issue was scarcely apparent in
Trump’s June 1 speech. Although his address was long, rambling, and
repetitive, Trump never found a single moment to utter the words
in the past, Trump charged that reports of climate change were
nothing but a hoax. But now he was silent on the question except to
cite statistics about the inability of the Paris Climate Accord to
make much of a dent in world temperatures. (Although it is true that
the goals set by the Climate Accord are inadequate to stave off an
environmental catastrophe, the data that Trump selected for his
speech distorted and exaggerated what scientists actually predict.)
the untruths and bombast, Trump’s remarks received whoops and
prolonged applause from his supporters in the Rose Garden. The
atmosphere of the afternoon event was celebratory, as a military band
swung its way through “Summertime” and other jazz tunes. Many on
Twitter later compared the scene to the moments after the collision
with an iceberg when a band had played on as the Titanic sunk to its
doom. Indeed, on the same day as Trump’s address, scientists
announced that ocean warming is causing the Larson C ice sheet to
break off from Antarctica and to form an iceberg the size of the
state of Delaware.
a good proportion of Trump’s allies felt they had reason to
celebrate. It was a victory for the most reactionary wing of the
Trump forces—from fascistic advisor Steve Bannon to
arch-conservative Vice President Mike Pence—as well as for a
section of the capitalist class invested in coal mines and other
the months leading up to the Rose Garden announcement, a number of
coal executives and politicians from coal-producing areas of the
country had strongly urged a pull-out from the climate pact. In a May
23 letter to Trump from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West
Virginia and nine other state attorneys general, Morrisey wrote,
“Withdrawing from the Paris agreement is an important and necessary
step toward reversing the harmful energy policies and unlawful
overreach of the Obama era.”
after four months of hemming and hawing on the issue, their man in
the White House had finally decided to fulfill a key promise of the
populist America First platform that Trump had promoted during his
presidential campaign. And as in his campaign rallies of last year,
the president pitched his June 1 speech ostensibly toward a section
of the working class, particularly in the decayed industrial areas of
the “Rust Belt,” who have been hard hit by unemployment.
course, it was all a charade, a cover-up. Neither the coal barons nor
Trump himself have any sympathy for the social problems of the
working class—and much less for its unemployed members, who will be
hard hit by the administration’s budget recommendations to cut
nutritional, medical, and housing aid to the poor.
critics of Trump also played their role in the cover-up. Thus we
heard protestations of Trump’s announcement from a segment of
corporate industry, including major polluters like Exxon, which after
decades of suppressing information about climate change and delaying
action to stop it, now professes to favor a “clean” and “green”
economy—based mainly on fracked gas, in which the company is a
much of the U.S. capitalist press—generally tied to the Democratic
Party—blasted Trump’s decision as being “shortsighted” in
ignoring the dire effects of climate change while isolating the U.S.
from sharing in the burgeoning market for renewable energy products.
The Washington Post took the occasion, on June 4, to extend
the criticisms to Trump’s America First policy as a whole, stating
that it “substitutes selfishness for realism. It implies that
nations can go it alone.”
a similar manner, newspapers gleefully reported that the “realistic”
pro-Wall Street grouping associated with Ivanka Trump and her
husband, Jared Kushner, had counseled President Trump to maintain “a
place at the table” in climate negotiations.
even while Trump was still in the Rose Garden trying to explain his
decision, former President Obama issued a warning that the U.S. would
risk missing out on the economic benefits of adhering to the Accord.
He said, “The nations that remain in the Paris Agreement will be
the nations that reap the benefits in jobs and industries created. I
believe the United States of America should be at the front of the
should be obvious, however, that Obama and the Democrats, who
expanded fossil-fuel production in the United States to an
unprecedented extreme, are hardly ones to lecture on the benefits of
and environmentalist Carol Dansereau, in a recent article
in CounterPunch, points out: “Obama and his Party have not
been climate heroes. They’ve been climate destroyers.
his two terms in office, Obama avidly served the fossil fuel
industry. He opened up vast new offshore areas for drilling, even in
the wake of the BP nightmare. He delivered giant leases to coal
corporations. Obama’s fracking rules were designed to reduce
pollution at fracking sites ‘without slowing natural gas
production.’ And as fracking proliferated in the U.S., Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton vigorously promoted it in other countries. Tens
of thousands of miles of pipelines were constructed in the U.S. with
Obama’s enthusiastic blessing….
a result of all this, vast quantities of greenhouse gases were pumped
into the atmosphere under Obama’s Democratic administration,
bringing us closer to environmental catastrophe.”
political leaders of the capitalist world, whose countries
compete in trade and investments with the U.S., also expressed their
displeasure with Trump’s pull-out. Of course, Trump made it easy
for the European leaders to mock him, with his disingenuous protests
that the United States—the wealthiest and most domineering country
in the world—has been victimized by less powerful economic
competitors. With little doubt, the major capitalist powers will try
to take advantage of the fissure with the Trump administration over
the climate issue in order to put forward their own economic
interests more assertively.
any of the pro-capitalist critics of Trump’s pull-out had really
cared about the climate, they would have made sure that the Paris
Accord had some teeth in it. They would have insisted on massive and
concerted measures that allowed each country, rich and poor, to
attain 100 percent renewable energy within little more than a decade.
And steps to achieve a reduction of world temperatures would be
mandatory, not voluntary.
recommendations contained in the Paris Accord—while arguably better
than nothing at all—will not stop the world from heading toward
climate catastrophe. In fact, the treaty serves as a convenient
cushion for world leaders and the capitalist economies that they
serve. It is a means for them to pretend that business as usual, with
non-binding promises and sluggish “market mechanisms,” can
somehow avoid the worst effects of climate change—or at least push
them off into the far future.
attitude is rife in U.S. ruling circles and in the media. It is seen
not only among Wall Street conservatives but even in the proposals of
the most liberal section of the Democratic Party.
a supposedly “progressive” bill in the U.S. Senate sponsored by
Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, and Corey Booker would delay the
attainment of 100 percent renewable energy to the year 2050—when it
would be too late. Moreover, the proposed law specifies waiting four
years until the miniscule first steps toward that goal would be
liberal Senators’ “100 by ’50” Act would allocate merely $150
billion per year, less than one percent of the GDP, as the maximum to
be spent in attaining their goals—nowhere near enough for the
monumental task that the country faces. It is unfortunate that
leading environmental leaders, like Bill McKibben, have decided to
stand behind this weak Senate bill.
be sure, Trump’s withdrawal from the climate pact, and the
other anti-environmental measures taken by his administration, are
crippling blows. But what are the alternatives? The world cannot
afford the consequences of the ineffectual nibbling at the problem of
climate change by allegedly “concerned” political leaders.
U.S. certainly can move toward the “front of the pack”
(in Obama’s misplaced words). It needs to do so by launching a
massive emergency project to put the country immediately on the road
to achieving 100 percent renewable energy. The means are potentially
at hand, but it will take utilizing the entire budget and resources
now wasted on the military and on perks for billionaire investors.
The project also will require a massive reorganization of
production and of society itself. Legions of workers must be
retrained and given employment and a clear voice in repairing the
earth from the ravages of capitalism and in rebuilding society in a
fully equitable, democratic, and sustainable manner.
in the environmental movement are coming to understand that the
present world rulers, the corporate titans and their political
representatives, who consistently put the striving for capitalist
profits above human needs, are incapable of carrying out such
working-class worldwide, which suffers the worst effects of climate
change, must look to taking the reins of power into its own hands,
and to supplanting the capitalist system with a system that can
fulfill the needs of human society. That system will be a socialist
>> The article above was written by Michael Schreiber, and is reprinted from Socialist Action.