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By quitting Paris accord, Trump would open Pandora’s box

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Joe Schwartz

President Trump is expected to announce that the U.S. is withdrawing from the Paris climate accords, a global pact designed to fight climate change. The following Cornell University experts, including COP21 delegates, discuss the ecological, economic, health and political impacts of this move.

David W. Wolfe: Climate change is an economic and national security issue
Wolfe is a professor of plant and soil ecology and faculty fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Wolfe says:

“Climate change is an economic and national security issue.  If we don’t lead the way, other nations will fill the vacuum. China has expressed interest, and is already ahead of us in solar energy technology and sales. For America to remain a global power we need to be at the forefront of the transition to a renewable energy future, which will be a major economic engine of the 21st century.

Robert Howarth

David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology

Robert W. Howarth: It is a tragic mistake for President Trump to turn his back on this global consensus
Howarth is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and an expert on the atmospheric implications of methane.

Howarth says: 

“With the COP21 Paris agreement in December 2015, all of the major nations of the world came together to acknowledge what the scientific community has been saying for decades: humans are changing the climate, and in dangerous and possibly irreversible ways, through our excessive burning of fossil fuels.

“The agreement was never enough by itself: the targets set were not ambitious enough and were voluntarily. Still, the message of urgency was real and important, and has set most nations on a path toward real solutions. It is a tragic mistake for President Trump to turn his back on this global consensus. We can only hope that the states and local communities of the U.S. will pick up the slack.”

Christopher Johannes Lehmann: It will jeopardize U.S. economic and security interests
Lehmann is a professor of soil and crop sciences and is a fellow at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

Lehmann says: 

“A U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord is a legally unnecessary and geopolitically damaging move that will jeopardize US economic and security interests.”

David M. Lodge

Director of the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability

David M. Lodge: The Trump administration can change the laws of the land, but not the laws of nature
Lodge is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and director of the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell.

Lodge says: 

“The Trump administration can change the rules and laws of the land, but it cannot change the laws of nature. While there can be reasonable debate about how, when and where to reduce carbon pollution, policies that deny realities of chemistry, physics and the environment – as such a decision would – doom U.S. taxpayers to a future of more costly responses to rising sea levels, increased droughts and floods and damaged infrastructure.

“The U.S. private sector, state and local governments and consumers can continue the inexorable economic-driven shift to renewable energy, but a decision to withdraw from the Paris accords cedes to other nations the full opportunities that the green economy offers.”

Natalie Mahowald

Irving Porter Church Professor of Engineering, Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences; Reducing Climate Risk Working Group co-leader for the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability

Natalie M. Mahowald: Paris agreement supports high-tech industries that drive innovation in the private sector
Mahowald is a professor of atmospheric sciences and faculty director for the environment at the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future at Cornell.

Mahowald says: 

“It is extremely unfortunate that the Trump administration could be stepping back from leading the world on climate change.

“Supporting the Paris agreement is a vote for supporting the high-tech renewable industries driving innovation in the U.S. private sector, and will spur more economic growth. If the U.S. backs off from new innovative technologies in favor of old-fashioned, dirty technologies like coal, it will fall behind its trade partners like China and Europe.

“Most countries and industry representatives, as well as the U.S. military, would like there to be more action on climate change, because climate change can cause so much damage from high temperatures, droughts and flooding. This is likely to cause more migration, political insecurity and less profits for companies.”

Steven Osofsky

Professor of Wildlife Health and Health Policy

Steven A. Osofsky: The costs to public health are extraordinary
Osofsky is a professor of wildlife health and health policy at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and a pioneer of the One Health movement which looks at how human and planetary health are tightly intertwined.

Osofsky says: 

“One of the many ironies here is that the costs to public health of throwing out our commitments to the Paris accord are extraordinary. From increases in smog and associated cardiopulmonary disease, to heat waves and hurricanes, to floods and vector-borne diseases like Dengue and Zika and whatever emerges next, we are talking about billions and billions worth of public health impacts at a time when we are already struggling to equitably meet the healthcare needs of our nation’s people.”

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