Since the end of World War II, the United States has proudly carried the mantle of global leader of the international community. American leadership brought us the United Nations, the World Bank, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the Marshall Plan, which helped rebuild a continent decimated by war and secure a peace that has lasted for more than 70 years. As a senior member of Congress, a member of the Helsinki Commission, and member of the American delegation to the 80th Inter-Parliamentary Meeting of European Union and United States Legislators, one of my responsibilities is to work with the delegation’s European counterparts on cooperative efforts to address and resolve issues of mutual concern.
This is becoming increasingly difficult because in less than 150 days, President Trump has done more to damage relations with our allies and the standing of the United States in the world than all of his predecessors combined. On his maiden trip abroad as the leader of the United States, Trump embarrassed our country and alienated our allies by failing to affirm our commitment to Article 5 of the NATO charter which regards an attack on any NATO member as an attack on all of them. Driving a wedge between the United States and its European allies has been the long sought strategic objective of the Russians since the formation of NATO in 1949.
Compounding his disastrous performance at the NATO summit, the President has now renounced America’s commitment to the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, which encourages all nations to set and reach national climate goals every five years. The U.S. played the pivotal role in drafting the agreement, forging consensus, and securing the assent of 195 nations. In withdrawing from the agreement, Trump has elected to place the United States in the company of Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not to accept by the Paris Agreement. As U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham stated, by withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, Trump is affirming that “he believes climate change is a hoax.”
Climate change is not a hoax invented by the Chinese and the Paris Agreement is an example of America’s indispensable global leadership. Almost every credible scientific voice tells us human activity has and continues to have a dramatic impact on climate change. Moreover, scientists have warned that inaction by the major industrialized nations of the world could lead to global catastrophe.
According to NASA researchers, 16 of the 17 warmest years in the last 13 and a half decades have occurred since 2001. Evaporation patterns have shifted producing more frequent and powerful storms. The United States is the world’s second largest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Experts say the resulting polluted runoff is degrading water quality.
As the founder of the Congressional Children’s Caucus, I believe we have a duty to leave the planet we inherited in better shape for the generations that follow. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), changing weather conditions is cited as one of the main causes of trauma to children. According to the AAP, between 2000 and 2009, there have been three times as many extreme weather events as occurred between 1980 and 1989 and that following climate-related natural disasters, high numbers of children are found to exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Children under one year of age are especially vulnerable to heat-related climate change and there is more than a 90 percent chance that by the end of the 21st century average summer temperatures will exceed the highest temperatures yet recorded in many regions. According to the World Health Organization, more than 88 percent of diseases attributable to climate change occur in children younger than five. By 2030, climate change is expected to lead to 48,000 more children under the age of 15 dying from diarrheal disease in 2030, primarily in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. And in the world’s poorest regions, where the disease burden is disproportionately high, children will be the most affected by climate change influenced infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus, chikungunya, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, diarrheal illness, amebic meningoencephalitis and coccidioidomycosis.
Trump has often questioned the value of the Paris Agreement but has yet to provide any scientific or empirical basis to reject the consensus of experts that human activity is a leading contributor to climate change. Indeed, if the President had any legitimate concerns regarding the efficacy of the Paris Agreement, he could and should work with America’s partners to address and resolve them. He has made no attempt to do so.
According to a recent Gallup poll, 54 percent of Americans believe that climate change is a serious problem. As a member of Congress, I have always acted on the basis of facts and promoted policies that are both aspirational and grounded in reality. I have endeavored to always seek the truth by discerning what is real from what is fake. And when it comes to the issue of climate change, I have listened to the scientists.
The President needs to recognize that he represents the entire country; not just the Trump Organization.
President Trump’s isolated and short-sighted view threatens to quash years of deliberation and work by corporate leaders, scientists, educators, social actors and others who work tirelessly to protect the planet. Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement would be disastrous, not only because it jeopardizes America’s status as a world leader, but also because such action will undermine our competitiveness in the emerging clean-environment global economy.
According to studies, China is the world leader in renewable energy investment, pouring more than $78 billion into renewable energy projects last year alone. In contrast, the United States invested less than $24 billion last year. Many jobs are at stake, and that means non-participation in the Paris Agreement could undermine American economic interests. We cannot afford to be left behind as the rest of the world moves toward a clean economy future.
A resounding bipartisan chorus has called for continued American observance of the Paris Agreement. From Republican and Democratic Governors to Members of Congress to our NATO allies, the chorus of voices counseling against withdrawal continues to grow. Americans want their country to lead the battle against climate change and for a healthy planet.
The President needs to recognize that he represents the entire country; not just the Trump Organization. He is the President of the United States of America. If the President truly wants to ensure this nation’s continuing greatness, then he will reverse his decision to renounce America’s continued participation in the Paris Climate Agreement.