By GREGORY ZELLER //
President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to abandon the Paris climate accord has met with swift and punishing reactions from around the globe – with some of the sharpest vitriol spewing from Long Island and New York State.
Environmentalist Adrienne Esposito, executive director of the Farmingdale-based Citizens Campaign for the Environment, said the president “made America into an international laughing stock as a fossil fool.” Attorney Heather Leibowitz, director of New York City-based watchdog Environment New York, castigated an “embarrassing decision.” Governor Andrew Cuomo lambasted a “reckless” act with “devastating repercussions.”
Gordian Raacke, executive director of green energy and sustainability action group Renewable Energy Long Island, lamented another poor decision by a president with a “horrible” environmental track record, and said suggestions that Trump’s thinking is to encourage more state-level action by reducing the federal government’s climate-change role are laughable.
“There’s not a lot of thinking here,” Raacke said.
Following months of speculation and noting his “solemn duty to protect America and its citizens,” Trump announced Thursday that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, an accord under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiated by 195 countries and adopted by consensus at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in December 2015.
Set to take effect in 2020, the agreement – which as of this month had been signed by the 195 countries and ratified by 148 of them – is focused primarily on the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. The United States joins Syria and Nicaragua as the only nations on Earth not party to the agreement.
Several prominent Republicans praised Trump’s decision. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, “commend(ed) President Trump” in a statement, while Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, applauded the president “for dealing yet another significant blow to the Obama Administration’s assault on domestic energy production.”
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, meanwhile, tweeted his belief that the decision is “great news for the economy and could save as many as 6 million U.S. jobs.”
Beyond party lines, however, Trump took it on the chin. National and global reactions were fast and furious, led by Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vermont, the former presidential candidate who noted “an abdication of American leadership and an international disgrace.”
From across North American borders: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is “deeply disappointed.”
From overseas: “A sad day for the global community,” according to Miguel Arias Canete, climate action commissioner for the European Union.
From America’s mortal enemies: Russian television station Ren TV warned that climate change “could turn into a real catastrophe” after the U.S. withdrawal.
From the One Percent: Elon Musk, who resigned as a presidential adviser following Thursday’s announcement, tweeted, “Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world.”
From worldwide environmentalists: Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune labeled it “one of the most ignorant and dangerous actions ever taken by any president.”
From space: “Too bad someone didn’t tell his father that he shoulda pulled out, too,” quipped George “Mr. Sulu” Takei.
The negativity was particularly rampant across the Long Island region. Esposito, the Citizens Campaign for the Environment exec, cited “a dark day in American history” and blasted “a president who doesn’t understand science, doesn’t understand technology.”
“This failure to fight climate change will make America sick again,” she said.
Trump and his followers could also use a few lessons in managing a national economy, Esposito added, calling the idea that clean-energy initiatives cost American jobs “antiquated thinking from the 1970s.”
“We’re not losing jobs, we’re transitioning jobs,” she told Innovate LI. “We no longer pit clean water and clean air against jobs. We can do both of those things – we can protect the environment and our Earth and put people to work.
“We have been meeting with clean-energy businesses over the past year, numerous businesses across Long Island and New York State focused on engineering, science, ecology, even sales,” Esposito added. “These are all good jobs that are now going to head to nations where there is more stability and a mandate for their work.”
Raacke agreed that Trump “is slamming the door on the economic opportunities that come with building a clean-energy economy.”
“What the president is doing is abandoning future generations of Americans who will have to cope with the consequences of his actions,” the RELI director noted.
Leibowitz, whose J.D. from Pace Law School includes certificates in environmental and international Law, noted that Trump “has got it exactly backwards” regarding the science and economics of climate change – and spearheaded a call for more localized action in the face of a president who “pretends to prioritize the economy over the wellbeing of the world.”
“There’s no sound economy in our future without a healthy planet,” the Environment New York director said. “If national leadership chooses to ignore that reality, then governors and mayors must step in to fill the leadership void.
“If President Trump won’t stick by the U.S. commitment to reduce pollution, then our states, cities and industries must do so.”
That was the basic thrust of Cuomo’s reaction also. Shortly after the governor echoed Sanders by skewering the Trump administration for “abdicating its leadership and taking a back seat to other countries in the global fight against climate change,” Cuomo – along with California Gov. Jerry Brown and Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee – announced the formation of the United States Climate Alliance, a coalition that will convene U.S. states committed to upholding the tenets of the Paris climate accord.
Combined, New York, California and Washington represent more than one-fifth of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product. Through the Climate Alliance, the three states are committing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 28 percent from 2005 levels – potentially exceeding the targets of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Clean Power Plan, according to a statement from Cuomo’s office.
“The president has already said climate change is a hoax, which is the exact opposite of virtually all scientific and worldwide opinion,” Brown said in the statement. “I don’t believe fighting reality is a good strategy.
“If the president is going to be AWOL in this profoundly important human endeavor, then California and other states will step up.”
That’s music to the ears of Raacke, who predicts “this failure at the federal level will serve to get more action going at the state level,” and Leibowitz, who applauded the “hundreds of cities in the United States and around the word that have pledged to accelerate carbon reduction to meet the goals of the Paris accord.”
“Nine Northeastern states are working to strengthen America’s best climate and clean air program, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative,” Leibowitz noted. “Every city and every state in the country must step up and take similar action, and clear-eyed players in the business community must lead on this issue as well.
“[Congress] must act to protect vital pollution-cutting programs, including clean-car standards and clean-air standards, from any attack,” she added. “We must all work together to reduce and eliminate the pollution that’s causing the world to warm.
“Our families’ health and the future of the world ecosystem are at stake.”