Last week, President Donald Trump decided to pull out of the Paris agreement, which former President Barack Obama had committed the United States to by executive order in September 2016. The move by our current president was widely criticized both domestically and abroad. Americans were even getting messages of sympathy from world leaders following the decision. When John Oliver addressed Trump's exit from the Paris climate agreement on Last Week Tonight, he pointed out just how confused Trump seemed to be on its exact terms, which is pretty on-brand for most of Trump's presidential decision-making thus far.
First off, Trump seemed to think that the agreement somehow committed America to shutting down all of its coal plants, while other countries got to burn all the coal they wanted. But the terms of the Paris Agreement are such that each country sets its own goals to meet however it wants. Trump also purported in his presser on the decision that America is the cleanest country on earth when, in fact, we're the world's biggest carbon polluters. Furthermore, he spouted off an incredibly misleading statement about America's participation in the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing nations adapt to the impact of climate change and reduce their emissions, using his old NATO line about how we're being unfairly gouged by its terms.
Trump's description of the agreement is so flamboyantly deceptive, it would have been equally accurate for him to say, 'Compliance with the Paris agreement would likely require all ducks to wear jean shorts and it would potentially cost each and every American citizen five fish and a dump truck full of hamsters.' That would be as true as what he just said.
Trump claimed that he was willing to renegotiate the agreement to "see if we can make a deal that's fair," but the leaders of Germany, France, and Italy were all adamant about how the deal cannot be renegotiated — mostly because it came under fire for not going far enough when it was first proposed.
The Paris climate agreement is completely voluntary and, again, each nation sets its own terms. The only penalty, as Oliver pointed out, is shame. But we're already feeling that from leaders like Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau, and the Vatican, all of whom have come forward to condemn the president's decision.
Practically speaking, pulling out of the Paris agreement directly harms American workers who might have benefited from the influx of jobs created by our need to comply with renewable energy needs in order to honor the terms of the agreement. Oliver stressed that the quicker we shift to running on renewable forms of energy, the quicker our country is back at the forefront of jobs, technology, and innovation. But if a global superpower like America pulls out of the Paris agreement, other countries are also less likely to comply.
In what has become a popular theme this season on Last Week Tonight, John Oliver spoke out, yet again, on the importance of turning to local government to accomplish what our president won't. In this case, that means looking to your mayors, governors, and representatives to hold progressive views on climate change and on our role in slowing its progress. Leveraging their power against the White House might be our only hope for a rapidly warming planet.