President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement is the latest demonstration of his administration’s complete disregard for the health and safety of the American people, the economy on which those families rely, and the future of the planet we all share.
The landmark 2015 climate agreement was negotiated by 197 countries and has been approved by 147 nations, including the United States. It is our best attempt yet to deal with the increasingly negative impacts of climate change.
The president’s decision not only harms the planet but goes against the wishes of the American public, with 70 percent of people saying we should remain in the Paris accords.
The Trump administration has chosen to ignore the fact-based belief of the scientific community that human activity is linked to the increased carbon dioxide in our atmosphere and the climate change that results. But you don’t have to be a scientist to see the impact. Glaciers are rapidly retreating in Glacier National Park, the Florida coastline and low-lying areas of Miami are regularly flooded and the impact of rising seas is being felt in New Jersey and other coastal areas The headlines are full of heat records broken, with a new “hottest year ever” appearing regularly.
While Trump’s decision would have the federal government turn away from the fight against climate change, our organization is working to arm local cities and communities across America with a variety of tools to prepare their residents for the challenges at hand.
In Los Angeles, for example, a series of “green alleys” will use permeable pavement surfaces so rainfall is directed back into the ground, rather than running off into sewers. Newly planted trees and vegetation will provide cooling shade to the people who live there.
The trend toward “green infrastructure” in cities is accelerating. Aside from Los Angeles, communities in New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Providence, and others are building new parks and playgrounds that have these permeable ground coverings to funnel water back into the earth to help prevent flooding. We are working with all these cities—along with other vulnerable communities, such as New Orleans, whose residents know all too well the devastating effects of flooding.
Aside from cities, rural America also can play a role in combatting climate change, particularly through the protection of forests. In fact, the Paris agreement specifically recognizes forests as part of the solution, because they capture carbon that would otherwise rise into the atmosphere.
America’s vast forestlands capture and store about 1/7th of the carbon our nation produces.
One way to increase that carbon capture is to plant more trees, like this project we’re doing along the Tensas River in Louisiana.
Forests also face increasing challenges. The U.S. Forest Service recently warned that the ability of forests to capture carbon may slow down because of threats from fire and insects which kill the trees. It recommended policies that encourage planting more trees.
In addition to protecting large forested lands, local communities are also creating their own community forests, to protect nearby forests and the jobs those trees provide.
Climate change is perhaps the most serious problem our world faces, and solving it will take the kinds of efforts we’re working on in these local cities and rural communities, on a global scale.
The United States needs to not just be part of the solution, but must lead the world in fighting climate change. In the past century, we have led on almost every major advance in the globe, from securing and protecting peace, creating better medicines and health care, and protecting our global environment. It would be a shame for our nation to step down from its leadership role by exiting the Paris agreement.