Trump Just Reminded Everyone That He Has No Idea How The Paris Agreement Works


Robin Andrews

Science & Policy Writer

Here we go again. JStone/Shutterstock

During a recent press conference with Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, President Trump said a couple of things that – as usual – raised many eyebrows. Business as usual, then, but they’re worth mentioning for how frightfully empty his comments were.

While claiming that the Paris agreement would have taken away America’s “competitive edge”, he suggested that there may be a way for the White House to eventually reverse course.


“It’s an agreement that I have no problem with, but I had a problem with the agreement that they” – the Obama administration – “signed because, as usual, they made a bad deal,” he said, per BBC News.

“So we can conceivably go back in.” Trump then added, rather oddly: “We are very strong on the environment. I feel very strongly about the environment.”

Okay. Deep breath. This is all nonsense, so let’s quickly remind ourselves why.

Right now, America is the only nation on Earth that has rejected the Paris agreement. Trump has long wanted to exit the accords, but he’s always demonstrated that he knows very little about its workings.


When he announced that the US would ultimately withdraw as soon as possible – in 2020 – he seemed as ambivalent toward it as he was generally bemused. “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” he said at the time, showcasing his idiosyncratic style of witty repartee.

Despite claims that the Paris agreement will be somehow bad for the US economy, that it will harm businesses or that millions of jobs will be lost, there’s simply no evidence whatsoever to indicate that these prophecies will come to pass.


As one of the world’s most prolific polluters and contributors to climate change, America is rightly seen as having a heavier burden when it comes to fixing the problem. This includes contributing the most to the Green Climate Fund, which helps less developed nations make the switch to clean energy and build up their climate resilience.

The US originally pledged $3 billion over the course of several years, which may sound like a lot – but in reality, that’s just $9.41 per person. As a proportion of the 2015 federal budget, it’s 0.08 percent.


It’s also worth pointing out that clean energy actually boosts the economy for a wide range of reasons.

Although the President has on at least two occasions in 2017 said that he may nix his withdrawal from the Paris agreement, he’s always added that he’d only do so if terms more economically beneficial to the US could be negotiated.

No specifics have ever arisen in this regard, but it’s likely that he doesn’t want to be contributing to any major climate change research programs at the UN, or to the aforementioned Green Climate Fund. (Europe, as it so happens, has already announced they’d make up the funding shortfall for the former.)

Trump also can't really complain about the commitments made being unfair to the US. After all, each country made its own voluntary commitments; they weren't forced to do anything.


In any case, the specter of renegotiation is something that every other country on Earth has so far shot down. So, in reality, Trump changing his mind on the Paris agreement – something that would enrage his voter base – is about as likely as a pineapple writing a best-selling novel. Don’t hold your breath.

His second claim – that he’s very strong on the environment – is child’s play to disprove. From dismantling the EPA and the nation’s national monuments to trying to revive the ailing coal industry and cutting funding to federal science agencies, 2017 was a grim year for the environment, and 2018 is set to be even worse.


You know you’re on the wrong side of history when rebel alliances have sprung up in an attempt to undo the damage.


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