Scientists critical of U.S. withdrawal from Paris Agreement

A scene from the 2016 signing ceremony for the Paris Agreement. Photo: United Nations
Read statements from global sustainability scientists responding to the United States' decision to exit this major international agreement to combat climate change.

Today, the White House announced that it would withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, an international effort to limit the warming from climate change to below 2 degrees Celsius. Future Earth has assembled statements from experts from around the world responding to this decision. The views of the experts quoted are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the organizations they represent.   
 
To contact any of the scientists quoted, please email Alistair Scrutton and Daniel Strain at Future Earth.

Key figures and resources

Under the Paris Agreement, the U.S. pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% below its 2005 levels by 2025. See a 2015 fact sheet from the White House,
 
Data from the 2016 Global Carbon Budget, a publication of the Future Earth-sponsored Global Carbon Project: In 2015, China and the U.S. were the two highest emitters of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, contributing 29% (China) and 15% (U.S.) of the global total. The European Union contributed 10%. The U.S. outranked both China and the European Union in per capita greenhouse gas emissions in 2015, adding about 17 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere per person. China contributed 7.5 metric tonnes per person in 2015, and the European Union 7 metric tonnes per person.
 
In 2015, carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. were roughly 1.7% lower than in 2014. China experienced a similar decrease of 0.7%. The U.S. has delivered the largest cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution, followed by Europe and China.
 
Survey data from “Climate Change in the American Mind: November 2016,” published by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication: Seventy percent of Americans “think global warming is happening,” with 61% reporting that they are “very worried” or “somewhat worried” about global warming.

Statements

Paul Shrivastava, Chief Sustainability Officer, Penn State University, and Director, Sustainability Institute, USA, former Executive Director of Future Earth:
 
“As one of the largest producers of greenhouse gases in the world, the U.S. has moral and strategic responsibility to lead the world towards a low-carbon global economy by vigorously implementing the Paris Agreement. Such leadership offers the added advantage of making the U.S. economy and companies more energy and carbon efficient, and consequently more competitive.”
 
Rob Jackson, Stanford University, USA, Chair of the Scientific Steering Committee of the Global Carbon Project:
 
"Scrapping the Paris agreement is myopic and hurts more than the environment. It undercuts U.S. leadership and will make our products harder to sell in the global market. A low-carbon world is creating jobs, improving air and water quality and saving lives."

Josh Tewksbury, Director of the Colorado Global Hub of Future Earth, University of Colorado Boulder and Colorado State University, USA:

"In the Paris Agreement, the United States has committed to a series of actions that will stimulate the fastest growing sectors of our economy, reduce the need for burdensome regulation and give us a leadership role in defining the future. The United States has always been a nation that leads by example. We should continue on this path and will be a stronger nation because of it."

Wendy Broadgate, Director of the Sweden Global Hub of Future Earth:
 
“Climate change affects everyone, including the American people. The facts are clear: Trump's withdrawal from the Paris agreement attempts to threaten global cooperation but will not stop the transition already underway. It will instead isolate the U.S. from the enormous growth in business opportunities that will come from decarbonizing our economies.”

Susanne Moser, Director of Susanne Moser Research & Consulting, Social Science Research Fellow at Stanford University's Woods Institute for the Environment, USA:

"Trump supporters voted for an America that is a great place to live, to raise a family, to find meaningful work and see one's grandchildren have a better future. They did not vote to have floods wash away their dreams, droughts wither their livelihoods, wildfires to make their homes go up in smoke, rising seas inundate their communities and dirty air give their children asthma. Their legitimate needs and hopeful desires are being misused, not to make America great again, but to make America – and everyone else – suffer greatly."

Robert Richmond, University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA:

"Anything short of full engagement with and support for the Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC by the United States would be ultimately damaging to our economy and the quality of life of all who inhabit the earth. The impacts of failed U.S. leadership on climate change would range from declines in agriculture and food security to losses in coastal protection and fisheries, and would place a terrible burden on our children and future generations who would pay a very high price for such a short-sighted response to a problem for which the science is clear. It's time many of our elected officials replaced a false ideology with a strong dose of reality."

Robert Kopp, Rutgers University, USA:

“Every ton of carbon dioxide we emit moves the global thermostat up a notch, posing increasing risks to human health and welfare. In order to stabilize the climate, we must meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of bringing net greenhouse gas emissions to zero in the second half of this century. Paris' framework of bottom-up national commitments, ratcheting up over time, is an important path toward this goal, and it is foolish for the U.S. to cede its leadership role in this framework to China and Europe.”

Frank Biermann, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, Chair of the Earth System Governance Project, a global research project of Future Earth:
 
“The bottom line of global warming is clear: No country is an island. Walls don’t help. Ignorance is no solution. If the United States withdraws from global climate collaboration, all other nations need to collectively protect our common future.”
 
Karen O’Brien, University of Oslo, Norway:
 
“The potential U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is a threat to human security. Yes, national security is a concern for some, but human security is a concern for all. Global sustainability is critical to both national and human security – and so are continued interactions between science and policy through the Paris Agreement.”
 
Melissa Leach, Director of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK:
 
“America has long been a fount of great scientific ideas, advances and innovations, contributing to progress in its own economy and in the world. It has led in tackling some of the major challenges of our day. But these values and this position on the world stage are deeply threatened by new waves of policy to deny and hide scientific evidence, such as around climate change, and to shirk global leadership on the climate change challenge. If President Trump turns America from a welcoming to a hostile place for science and life and planet saving policy, everyone will lose.”
 
Chidi Osuagwu, Federal University of Technology Owerri, Nigeria:
 
“Nations can do the best they can to secure their borders and uplift their economies. Climate change and environmental disasters recognize neither borders, nor respect mighty economies.”
 
Asher Minns, head of communication for Future Earth Europe, University of East Anglia, UK:

“The U.S. will be missed from the rest of the world’s battle against climate change. Withdrawing from the world seems to me un-American and disadvantages its own people, current and future jobs and health, especially if withdrawing goes hand-in-glove with a renewed U.S. quest for coal.”