Doug Mills/New York Times

FILE -- President Donald Trump after announcing his intention to abandon the Paris Agreement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, June 1, 2017. The Trump administration formally notified the United Nations on Monday that it would withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, leaving global climate diplomats to plot a way forward without the cooperation of the world’s largest economy. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

November 11, 2019

U.S. to Withdraw from Paris Climate Agreement, a Form of ‘Generational Theft,’ Professors Say

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On Monday, the Trump administration officially notified the United Nation of the United States’ intention to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, a pact signed by over 200 countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, triggering a host of criticism from Cornell professors.

“It sickened me to read the news headlines the other day that President Trump had taken the highly symbolic final step needed to formally withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement,” said Prof. Bruce Monger, earth and atmospheric sciences.

Despite having to undergo a required one-year grace-period before formal withdrawal, the United States still sent a clear and immediate message with the decision; the US would not honor the emission reductions made when it signed the Paris Agreement.

The Paris Agreement is founded on each nation voluntarily reducing emissions. By formally withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, Monger fears that “President Trump has greatly harmed the prestige of the United States as world leader” by forcing the US “to now sit silently on the sidelines while other nations take over a global leadership role on climate action.”

Prof. Michael Hoffmann, entomology, is the Executive Director of the Cornell Institute for Climate Smart Solutions and called the decision to withdraw “dead wrong” and “a crime” in an interview with the Sun.

“The US should be leading the way for the rest of the world but the administration in Washington is taking us in the opposite direction. It’s an affront to science and to common sense,” Hoffmann said.

When asked about steps that the US should take to help fight climate change, Hoffmann pointed to a transition to wind and solar power, planting trees, improving building design and creating dialogue about the urgency of the situation in everyday life as really important.

“We’ve already gained one degree centigrade in the warming of the atmosphere; I believe we’re going to go past 1.5 in 10 to 15 years,” Hoffmann said.

In Hoffmann’s upcoming book Our Changing Menu: What Climate Change Means to the Food You Need and Love, to be published in 2020 by the Cornell University Press, he describes how according to Yale Climate Opinion polls only 70% of the US population agreed that Global Warming was happening and 57% agreed that it was caused mostly by human activities.

In Hoffmann’s expert opinion, Cornell students can help in the fight against climate change by “taking courses on campus to understand what the challenge is, the science behind it (and) how to make informed decisions; once the student is informed, start talking about it.”

Prof. Mark Sarvary, director of Cornell Investigative Biology, agreed with this view, citing students’ involvement in the Climate Change Forum, an exercise for students to identify and problem solve the unique and complex consequences of a changing climate.

“We want our Cornell students to be prepared to solve and participate in the global climate conversation. And they are,” Sarvary said. The forum has run for the past six years.

Though both Hoffmann and Monger lamented the United States’ failure to take a more proactive role in the climate change fight and that the US is the only country in the world to withdraw from the agreement, Monger struck a much more condemnatory tone.

“I consider President Trump’s decision to walk away from the Paris Agreement as generational theft. And I strongly encourage young people today to raise their collective voice and to vote leaders out of office. If a new US President is voted into office in 2020, the new President will almost certainly re-enter the US back into the Paris Agreement,” Monger said.