In 2017, when President Trump announced his intention to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, it was the wrong move. We had hoped he and his administration would be swayed by the indisputable facts and science around climate change. Nearly three years later, as the administration finalizes our withdrawal, it remains the wrong move for our state, our nation and our planet.
With more than 180 signatories and a framework that includes specific emissions reductions targets and systems by which to hold nations accountable for their commitments, the Paris Agreement is the most significant global signal that the world recognizes the urgency and scope of the climate crisis. The world is rapidly deploying more renewable and clean energy. Instead of placing American innovation at the vanguard of this transition, this administration has put America behind the rest of the world in the race to develop and deploy carbon-free technologies.
The reason for urgency is clear. With each new report, from both international and U.S. agencies, the threats that climate impacts pose are growing in both number and size. Entire towns in Alaska are being relocated. Shellfish farmers are seeing harvests decimated by storms, ocean acidification and increased runoff. Many Floridians have waded through flooded streets on sunny days. We’ve seen ocean temperatures spike and threaten our coral reefs. It is clear that climate impacts not only happen to other people in other places. They are happening here and now.
Back in 2017, many stepped up even as the administration stepped back. Electric power companies are investing in renewable energy and increasingly making net-zero carbon commitments. Leaders from both sides of the aisle as well as CEOs of major corporations have been vocally in support of a price on carbon.
In Florida, city and county governments are forming coalitions and collaboratives to address the impacts of climate change and to increase the resilience and sustainability of their communities. Local NGOs are joining their elected officials and concerned citizens in advocating for and implementing policies that reduce waste and adopt the use of natural infrastructure to combat the effects of sea-level rise and impacts of extreme weather across the state. These actions demonstrate that this is an instance where the international community is not mandating this transition, but responding to it.
The danger has never been that the United States’ departure from the Paris Agreement would stop countries and companies from acting and innovating to secure a low-carbon future, but that they would do so and leave the United States behind. That doesn’t sound like a very good deal for the future of our economy, communities or planet.
The opportunities presented by the global transition that is already under way are substantial. Being on the front line of climate change, Floridians are poised and perfectly positioned to lead the way into a future where people and nature thrive. Both equally have the most to lose if we do not take action.
Temperince Morgan is the executive director of The Nature Conservancy in Florida. The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.