A little after noon today, the White House rolled out a modicum of pomp and circumstance related to President Trump's announced speech on the Paris Climate Accords. Would we stay in? Would we leave? The President enjoys creating a certain amount of suspense and uncertainty, but today he ran late, and by the time the wayward teleprompter cables were fully functioning, word was out. He was withdrawing the United States from the climate accord. We would join Syria (as someone said, they're rather busy right now) and Nicaragua (who felt the accords were not strict enough) as the only three countries not participating.
A bit of history: 198 "Parties" participated in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which was adopted in 1992 and entered into force in 1994. The ultimate goal at the time was "to prevent dangerous human interference with the climate system...including greenhouse gas concentration."
In December 2015, the original parties to the UNFCCC met in Paris to update the 1992 agreement. The resultant Paris Agreement sought to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change. The objective now was to hold the increase in global average temperature well below 2 degrees Celsius above its pre-industrial levels.
Per a Scientific American repost of a Climate Central article dated 04-20-2016, the pre-industrial temperature data from 1881 to 1910 is considered the most reliable. It is those baseline temperatures we reference as NASA and NOAA monitor today's temps. Whereas the Paris Agreement specified a rise of 2 degree Celsius, scientists are working to limit the increase to 1.5 degrees. At that level, they feel a relatively stable climate, to which humans and other species can adapt, can be maintained. The 1.5 degree goal should also minimize the worst impacts of climate change such as drought, heat waves, heavy rain, flooding and sea level rise.
If current trends continue, scientists believe the world will cross that 1.5 degree threshold in ten to fifteen years. Around 2025-2030. Whereas, I may have shuffled off this mortal coil before then, I expect that my children and their children, not to mention those adorable great-grand babies just now beginning to put their feet on the ground, will still be calling this planet "home."
I wish I were more optimistic. I wish even more that President Trump was optimistic and positive and innovative and had written his 30 minute speech to encourage us all to join hands and hearts and minds across borders and seas and cultures and, together, address our climate issue. I know it's an extremely complicated one, but why did we throw up our hands, walk away, and decide to go it alone? If we're not in the room, we're not in the discussion. If we're not in the discussion, we're shortchanging all those who follow. And if we're shortchanging all who follow, we've failed.
June 2, 2017: Yesterday was not a happy day at our house. We both were disappointed with President Trump's decision and declaration on the Paris Accords and the questionable facts and figures he threw out so easily. Politifact has published numerous tweets in which he uses the word "hoax" to describe climate change, but he contends those are jokes. His exact words in a November 16, 2012, tweet are: "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive." I don't believe he was joking that time. And certainly not joking yesterday when manufacturing, mining and coal seemed to be writ large. Wind and sun and forward thinking had been left behind.
I hope you all remember Mr. Rogers and his calm and peaceful neighborhood filled with love and kindness. I loved Mr. Rogers, and often watched with my small daughter. I needed Mr. Rogers yesterday. And then I remembered a recent PBS Newshour segment in which we were reminded of Mr. Rogers' advice for times when we were frightened or worried. We were to "Always Look for the Helpers." That phrase had come from Mr. Rogers' mother. I told my Babboo, "We'll look for the helpers."
And, this morning? When I began to read the newspaper and, later, follow up with NPR morning news, I found them. The Helpers. They were all around us. Our Phoenix mayor, Greg Stanton, announced the city would continue to honor the Paris Climate Agreement. Soon, Tucson, Tempe and Flagstaff followed suit. By noon, 30 mayors, 3 governors, 80 university presidents and 100 businesses had announced their continued support of the Agreement. More followed. I learned that the northeastern states had already reduced their carbon emissions by 37% since 2008. There were helpers all across the country.
And then, the absolute highlight when it came to helpers: Dale Ross, mayor of Georgetown, TX, population 50,000. I might describe him as quintessential Texas. Unassuming, genuine, and good-old-boy (in the best sense of the phrase.) And...for purposes of this post, a Republican who proudly wears his lapel pin from President Trump's inauguration. His interview was all about the fact that Georgetown, TX, located an easy distance from Austin (but conservative to the core) is powered 100% by renewable energy. Ross is fairly blase about that, considering it simply an economic decision. In his words, "...sign today and know what the bill will be in 25 years," as opposed to oil and gas. Although Texas is rich in fossil fuels, Ross looked to its other natural resources, wind and sun. He looks at it as a "no-brainer." He contends the wind always blows in the Panhandle while the sun always shines in West Texas. Why waste that? He also praises our Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry who, as Texas Governor, vastly improved the state's electrical grid, thus making Georgetown's independence possible.
I think I'm beginning to feel a bit better. Still disappointed in our president, of course, but sensing a certain optimism. A budding certainty that our imaginations don't have to be stifled just because President Trump's seems to be. A firm certainty that our world is one, and together we can keep this beautiful blue ball alive and healthy and circling our far away sun. As long as we look for The Helpers and join hands with them, we'll be all right.