As Syria approves the Paris climate pact, the world should ignore the last holdout and achieve the goals it set.
President Trump is about to be a party of one.
Earlier this week, Syria announced during an international conference in Bonn, Germany, that it would add its name to the historic 2015 Paris climate agreement, in which nearly 200 countries pledged their best efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This would leave the United States as the only country to have rejected the Paris deal, which Mr. Trump did in a Rose Garden rant on June 1 that was notable, even by Trumpian standards, for its dishonesty.
Our advice to the delegates in Bonn is this: Ignore Mr. Trump, who seems, on this issue anyway, to be beyond persuasion. Honor your pledges. Get on with the talks, which are supposed to build on the Paris agreement by establishing benchmarks to measure how well you’re doing now and to lay the groundwork for even more ambitious targets in 2020. And hope, as we do, that efforts now underway by state and local governments and by private businesses to control emissions and move the United States to a cleaner energy future will make up for Mr. Trump’s indifference.
That Mr. Trump wants out of Paris is only one measure of that indifference. A better measure is provided by policies that would move exactly in the wrong direction, policies aimed at overturning greenhouse gas regulations on power plants, repealing limits on methane emissions, weakening automobile efficiency standards, enlarging subsidies for coal plants and increasing oil drilling in the Arctic.
Meanwhile, the hacks, industry careerists and global warming deniers he has appointed to run agencies responsible for climate policy are mostly a joke, the latest howler being Kathleen Hartnett White, a former Texas regulator whom Mr. Trump has named to run the White House Council on Environmental Quality. Mrs. White, who, if approved, would coordinate the administration’s environmental policy, has dismissed carbon dioxide as a “harmless trace gas” (but a useful “plant food”) and described as “paganism” the belief that man-made pollutants are warming the atmosphere.
Outlandish though her views are, she’ll fit right in with the see-no-evil likes of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who has scrubbed references to climate change from the agency’s website and barred its scientists from presenting reports on the subject; Rick Perry, the energy secretary with various oddball schemes to prop up coal plants; and all the others in high office who seem impervious to the real-time evidence of climate change — the wildfires, hurricanes and rising seas — as well as one authoritative study after another, the latest being a congressionally mandated National Climate Assessment that directly contradicts the administration’s view that humans are not responsible.
We’ve been here before. In the George W. Bush administration, government officials doctored scientific reports, Vice President Dick Cheney stacked the top ranks of government with friends of the fossil fuel industry, and the president himself rejected a climate agreement adopted in 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, as “fatally flawed” because, he said, it would damage the economy.
Mr. Bush made many of the same flawed arguments that Mr. Trump is making. He, too, fretted unnecessarily about federal overreach, while greatly underestimating the jobs and economic benefits a clean energy economy could bring. There was, however, one big difference. Amid all of Mr. Bush’s flimflam was a solid beef about the Kyoto agreement, namely, that while it committed the big industrial countries to making legally binding emissions reductions targets, it let developing countries — which then included China and India — off the hook.
That complaint is no longer valid. One of the great achievements of the Paris accord, engineered in large part by President Barack Obama and his secretary of state, John Kerry, is that it ropes in everyone. Everyone, that is, except the one nation whose president bailed out.