SEABROOK — Climate change may not be at the top of the president’s agenda, but local representatives are keeping up the fight against it in the wake of the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.
On June 1, President Donald Trump announced his intent to withdraw the U.S. from the agreement, made between 193 nations around the world to avert a global temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius. Each country sets its own carbon emission reduction goals and mechanisms.
Immediately after the announcement, Maryland’s senators came out strongly against the decision.
“President Trump’s decision today to remove the United States from the Paris Agreement is a shocking reversal of American global leadership and transparently political, the clearest sign yet he will do whatever he can to dismantle President Obama’s legacy purely for the sake of it,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D).
His colleague, Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D), agreed, pointing to the extreme weather events that scientists say are likely to increase in severity and frequency as temperatures rise.
“President Trump is also abdicating responsibility to protect communities in Maryland and across the country from the costly threats of drought, wildfire, storms, and sea level rise,” Van Hollen said. “On President Trump’s recent trip to Rome, the Pope gifted him a copy of his encyclical on the moral imperative to act on climate change – the president should have read it before making this ignorant and destructive decision that will affect generations to come.”
Over in the House, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-Md.-4) said he was “very disappointed” in Trump’s decision. He argued that withdrawing will weaken America’s economy because other nations will have the opportunity to take the lead in green technology and infrastructure jobs.
“I think the decision lacks foresight. A commitment to address the challenges presented by climate change gives the United States an opportunity to demonstrate leadership,” Brown said, “In that absence, you’re going to have other countries demonstrate leadership instead.”
But Brown said the withdrawal itself, while a bad move, is not an isolated incident. Rather, he sees it as “a sign or symptom” of a larger ideology by Republicans in Congress, one that also includes rolling back clean air and water requirements and other environmental protections. It is also evident in Trump’s budget, Brown said.
“When the president talks about zeroing out the Chesapeake Bay Fund, when the president switches the focus to fossil fuels and away from renewable energy sources, that hurts Maryland,” he said.
But Brown is pushing back against those policies, he said. Recently, he was the author of a letter sent to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and signed by a bi-partisan group of legislators urging him not to open the eastern seaboard of the U.S. up to oil drilling.
“We don't want to see Deep Water Horizon happen at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay,” he said.
Cardin, in the Senate, is also taking a leading role. He is the main sponsor of a resolution in support of the Paris Agreement, which he introduced in May when the possibility go withdrawing was first raised but before Trump had made his decision. S. Res. 155, if approved, would resolve that the sense of the Senate is that U.S. should “remain party to the Paris Agreement” and “work in cooperation with the international community” to “address the causes and effects of climate change.”
“The cost of inaction on climate change will have devastating impacts to the United States economy, costing billions of dollars in lost GDP… extreme weather, intensified by climate change, has already cost United States taxpayers billions of dollars each year in recovery efforts and will continue to increase if climate change is left unaddressed,” both of which increase budget deficits, the resolution reads. “Climate change will have devastating public health implications, including increased rates of asthma and other respiratory diseases, especially in vulnerable populations like children and low income communities, the spread of infectious diseases, risks to food and water supplies, and increased premature deaths.”
Cardin is the ranking member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, where the resolution was referred, but it is up to the Republican leadership when – or even whether – to bring it up for discussion and vote.
Cardin believes the U.S. should be taking the lead in climate change efforts.
“If the president and his aides choose the path of an informed, fact-based decision about the national security interests of the United States and the safety of the American people, then the only decision that can be reached is not just to remain in the Paris Agreement, but to lead the world in achieving the Agreement’s benchmarks,” Cardin said. “We know the climate is changing. We know it is having an impact on health, agriculture, and military readiness here at home and worldwide. It’s time to get serious and not retreat from this existential threat to the United States and humankind.”