Whatever Donald Trump decides on the Paris climate change agreement, there are limits to presidential power. Even so powerful a man as America’s commander-in-chief cannot just yank his whole country out of a decades-old way of thinking about the planet.
Big business supports climate change initiatives. So does the US military. Even Mr Trump’s own defense secretary James Mattis once testified in Congress about the terrible effects of climate change. It “can be a driver of instability,” he said.
In fact, the US economy has increasingly prepared itself to deal with environmental concerns. More people work in the solar energy sector, for instance, than have traditional coal, gas and oil jobs combined. Billion-dollar US corporations such as Nestle and General Mills, have said they will continue to drive industry efforts to battle carbon pollution regardless of the Trump administration’s views.
Of course, US withdrawal from the Paris climate change agreement would matter enormously – in symbolic terms. Withdrawal would set a terrible example for other countries.
In real terms, withdrawal or not, the Trump administration is going to be bad for global warming anyway. Mr Trump has already said that he will end the Clean Power Plan. For the US, the world’s second-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China, to fail to reduce emissions is a negation of Paris. With or without withdrawal.