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Trump to pull US out of Paris climate agreement: U-M experts respond

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ANN ARBOR—President Trump announced today that he intends to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement. The University of Michigan has experts who can comment on the decision.

Paul Edwards, professor of information and history, is author of the book "A Vast Machine: Computer Models, Climate Data and the Politics of Global Warming." He attended the first half of the 2015 Paris conference that led to the Paris Accord.

"Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris accord is the worst in a series of short-sighted, ill-informed choices his administration has made on the environment," he said. "He has effectively ceded U.S. leadership on the most momentous issue of our time. Climate change is a slow-moving catastrophe that already affects our generation—and every generation to come will suffer the consequences.

"Trump's choice will not stop the world from acting on climate change. Nor will it do more than delay the decarbonization of the U.S. economy, a process already well under way due to the simple economics of renewable energy costs. Instead, Trump's ignorant decision contributes mainly to the rapid decline of America's reputation. In its place, China and the European Union will now lead the way."

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David Uhlmann served for 17 years at the U.S. Department of Justice, the last seven as chief of the Environmental Crimes Section, where he was the top environmental crimes prosecutor in the country. In 2007, he joined the Michigan Law faculty as the inaugural director of the Environmental Law and Policy Program.

"President Trump's decision abdicates American leadership on one of the most significant issues facing our nation and the world, even as it betrays our moral obligation to protect future generations from the devastating effects of global climate change," he said.

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Barry Rabe is a professor at the Ford School of Public Policy and a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was the first social scientist to receive a Climate Protection Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2006 and currently chairs the EPA's Assumable Waters Advisory Board.

Rabe can discuss any political, management or federalism issues related to the implementation of the president's environmental agenda, ​including climate change, vehicle emissions and fuel economy, and water policy.

"Paris offered a test of whether a global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could be honored through loosely structured national pledges," he said. "That process now gets its stiffest test, determining whether that resolve continues despite American reversal or instead evaporates."

Rabe's blog post, What will Scott Pruitt do if he cannot sue EPA?, appeared Dec. 12 in Brookings Brief.

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Richard Rood, professor of climate and space sciences and engineering at the College of Engineering, can discuss the intersections of weather and climate, and climate and society. He recently wrote about adaptive management in the Trump administration for the Climate Policy Blog, an American Meteorological Society project.

"If the U.S. pulls out of the Paris Agreement, it isolates the country in a dangerous way," he said. "It is backward looking and provides an outstanding opportunity for our economic rivals."

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Mark Barteau is director of the U-M Energy Institute, the DTE Energy Professor of Advanced Energy Research and professor of chemical engineering.

"Withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement is a symbolic victory for the arrogance and ignorance of the right wing that has found its embodiment in Donald Trump," he said. "In taking this action, he is heeding his howling base rather than much of American business, including fossil fuel companies such as Exxon Mobil, not to mention the broader interests of the nation.

"This action by itself may have relatively small impacts within the U.S., as the Trump administration has been taking every opportunity to dismantle the programs and policies of the Obama administration that would have helped us to live up to our Paris commitments. It is ironic that in pursuing his 'America First' strategy, Trump is ceding global leadership—moral, economic and technical—to China and other nations eager to displace the U.S. from its post-World War II dominance."

He has written essays in The Conversation titled What President Trump means for the future of energy and climate and Will President Obama's clean energy legacy endure?

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Daniel Raimi is a researcher and lecturer at the Ford School of Public Policy and an analyst with expertise on energy policy issues, including oil and gas markets and policy.

"A withdrawal by the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement would be a major symbolic move," he said. "However, a withdrawal by itself would not affect the suite of domestic policies and technological innovations that do far more to shape U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

"For example, withdrawing from Paris would do nothing to affect low-cost domestic natural gas supplies, which have been the main driver of reduced U.S. emissions through the displacement of coal-fired electricity. It would also have no bearing on the fate of the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which the Trump administration is working to roll back with or without Paris."

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Joe Árvai is a member of the Environmental Protection Agency's Science Advisory Board, which is tasked with providing scientific advice to the EPA administrator. He is director of U-M's Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise and the Max McGraw Professor of Global Sustainable Enterprise at the School of Natural Resources and Environment and the Ross School of Business.

"The decision by Donald Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord is exactly that," he said. "It is a decision based on a Republican and anti-science ideology, and it was made despite the opinion of a majority of voters—in each of the 50 states—that the United States remain in the agreement.

"To characterize this decision as 'America's withdrawal from the agreement' is both misleading and disingenuous. This was Trump's and the Republican party's decision, and it disregards the will of the American people. The decision also puts at risk the profitability of American businesses who will have to contend with reputational risks, and trade restrictions that are likely to be imposed by their international customers.

"There is no denying that Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord will increase the levels of risk and vulnerability faced by American communities, American citizens, and America's natural resources as a result of inevitable and significant impacts of climatic change. The United States took a bunch of backward steps today."

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Andrew Hoffman is the Holcim Professor of Sustainable Enterprise at the Ross School of Business and School of Natural Resources and Environment, and he serves as education director of the Graham Sustainability Institute.

"This decision represents a profound lack of leadership and vision," he said. "With one more stroke, the Trump administration is turning its back on bringing the economy of the future to the United States, preferring instead to support the technologies of the past.

"Corporate leaders have long complained of the lack of policy support for new forms of energy generation and storage, and their resultant need to develop them abroad. In the words of Ross Perot, there is a great sucking sound of technology and talent looking elsewhere for the future.

"On the political front, this will further inflame opposition politics. The primary common thread that seems to be emerging from this administration is a deep desire to insult progressives and erase the legacy of President Obama. It does not seem to represent a desire to 'make America great again,' as it further weakens our nation by dividing the population at home and damaging its credibility abroad."

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Avik Basu, researcher in environmental psychology at the School of Natural Resources and Environment, is co-editor of the 2015 book "Fostering Reasonableness: Supportive Environments for Bringing Out Our Best." He has led U-M's delegation to the United Nations climate conferences since the pivotal Paris meeting in 2015.

"The fear is that a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement would set the stage for other countries to also withdraw," he said. "However, talks at the May 2017 UN climate conference suggest that some countries, like China, see it as an opportunity to take the lead in the burgeoning renewable energy industry.

"In addition to abdicating economic leadership on renewables, a U.S. departure from the Paris Agreement damages its international reputation to address not only climate change but also other global challenges requiring multilateral cooperation. Despite the lack of national level climate policy, U.S. states, cities, corporations, NGOs and universities will play an increasingly important role, as they have already begun to do, in mitigating and adapting to climate change."

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Ben van der Pluijm is a professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences and editor-in-chief of the journal Earth's Future. His work focuses on societal resilience and the impacts of resource needs, hazards and global change.

"Too much of the reporting and comments on the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accord is bordering on the hysterical. Regardless of this decision, the U.S. will continue to play a major role as the world's ingenuity engine," van der Pluijm said.

The United States faced a similar situation in the 1990s with the Kyoto Protocol climate treaty, he said. The U.S. never ratified that treaty, for the same short-term economic reasons we're hearing today. "Global voices and good intentions remained mostly just that, and most of the developed world's carbon dioxide emissions barreled forward," van der Pluijm said. "We need to address climate change and move away from theatrics and political optics." 

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Rosina Bierbaum, professor of natural resources and environment and environmental health sciences, is an expert on environmental policy, sustainable development, and climate change adaptation.

Former dean of the School of Natural Resources and Environment, Bierbaum chairs the Science and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility. She served on the Obama Administration's President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, was the lead author of the climate adaptation chapter in the latest U.S. National Climate Assessment, and was a review editor of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report about climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability.

"Dropping out of the Paris climate accord defies science, economics, and morality. The children of today deserve better from our generation. We may be the first to leave the next generation a truly irreversible problem. "

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