Leaving the Paris Climate Agreement: Your Questions Answered

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By now, the world knows that the U.S. has pulled out of the Paris climate agreement to mitigate global warming.

This was one of the many campaign promises President Trump made and one he decided was worth following through on.

As news broke about President Trump’s decision, I saw the same questions bouncing around on social media and various comment threads. After reading through numerous articles and digging through several studies, I’ve found answers to these questions. Here are the highlights of just what leaving the Paris climate accord really means.

Will This Decision Prevent Job Loss?

Job loss is one of the main reasons President Trump felt the U.S. needed to leave the agreement. Given that this agreement moved away from the use of fossil fuels and toward renewable energy, many people were likely to be impacted by it.

Three studies were done to figure out exactly what impact the Paris climate agreement would have on the job market. Before we look at the results of these studies, however, it’s important to remember that all studies like this have bias built in, often favoring the organization that paid for the study.

The first study was commissioned by the American Council for Capital Formation (which is backed by the oil industry). This study estimated that the Paris agreement would eliminate $3 trillion in GDP and cost 6.5 million jobs by 2040.

A second study commissioned by The Heritage Foundation, a conservative research think tank, estimated the agreement would cause a loss of $2.5 trillion to the GDP and cost 400,000 jobs.

So the basic answer is yes, leaving the Paris climate accord will save some jobs in the short term, but these are all jobs in the coal and oil industry.

This industry has been declining for a number of years, in part because of the falling price of renewable energy. Meanwhile, the renewable energy sector has seen massive job growth over the past few years.

The solar industry alone employees approximately 200,000 people across the U.S.

One study published in the journal Energy Economics found that the jobs lost in the coal industry could be absorbed by the solar industry. So these jobs that would have been lost because of the Paris agreement may have been replaced by jobs in the renewable energy sector.

Despite leaving the Paris agreement, the U.S. will likely continue to see jobs grow in the renewable energy sector. As renewable energy continues to become cheaper and cheaper, more companies will move toward it, spurring greater job growth.

Will We See a Decline in the Use of Renewable Energy?

There were many, many companies that supported staying in the Paris agreement. In fact, just about every major company that made a statement about the Paris agreement made a statement in support of it. Even coal executives lobbied the president to stay in the agreement, as did corporations like GE and ExxonMobil.

Why would all these companies that make money from fossil fuels want to stay in the agreement, you ask?

Well, as the world transitions away from fossil fuels toward renewable energy, there is a great deal of money to be made. These companies have the technology to make that transition. They want the U.S. to be a part of the agreement so they can sell their tech to companies and countries around the world.

Given the support many companies have for renewable energy, along with its falling costs, we’re not likely to see any decline in its use.

Will Other Countries Abandon the Agreement?

This is a concern I’ve seen bubble up on social media quite a bit.

It’s important to remember that the Paris climate agreement was really just that. An agreement between countries around the world to set goals in reducing their emissions.

Each country sets its own goals. And every few years, representatives from each country will get together to report on their progress.

If a country fails to meet its goals, there is nothing any other country can do — that is, there is no legal consequence.

Given how new the Paris climate agreement is (it was adopted in late 2015), we’ll have to wait and see how effective it is in the long run at reducing global emissions.

While there’s no way of knowing what other countries around the world might do now that the U.S. has left the agreement, it’s unlikely we’ll see significant change in other nations’ commitment to the agreement.

Although the U.S. leaving the Paris climate agreement is saddening, I remain hopeful that citizens of our country and companies that operate here will continue to push forward in the use of renewable energy and reducing harmful emissions.

Feature photo courtesy of Avivi Aharon / Shutterstock.com

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Brian Brassaw

Brian Brassaw

Brian formerly managed the Earth911 Recycling Search and shared green living tips and tricks on Earth911’s Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter accounts. Brian also shares DIY projects on Little Pilots Lounge.
Brian Brassaw