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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.
News / Opinion / Editorials

In Our View: Inslee Takes Bold Position

Trump’s rejection of Paris climate accord demonstrates lack of vision, leadership

The Columbian
Published: June 5, 2017, 6:03am

Gov. Jay Inslee’s immediate response to President Donald Trump’s stance on the Paris climate accord was bold and forceful. Most important, it was necessary.

“For America, the country that defeated fascism and communism, to now have a president who has run up the white flag of defeat against this global threat of climate change is just pathetic,” Inslee said following Trump’s announcement that the United States is withdrawing from the agreement.

In announcing that Washington has joined with California and New York to form the United States Climate Alliance, Inslee took a step to position his state for the economy of the future. The alliance is much more than a wistful shout at the clouds. California, New York, and Washington have a combined economy that would be the fourth-largest in the world, ranking between Japan and Germany. Each state also is on the cutting edge of industry, standing at the forefront of the modern world economy.

That presents a sharp contrast to the message delivered last week when Trump announced the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris agreement — an agreement that was reached in 2015 as a global strategy for reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change. About 95 percent of the world’s climate scientists believe human activity contributes to climate change, a fact that visionary leaders view as a call for action.

In eschewing the agreement, the United States joins only Nicaragua and Syria in opposition to it. Nicaragua has declined to sign the accord because the plan does not do enough to address climate change, and Syria has been embroiled in a lengthy civil war. If the content of your character can be measured by the company you keep, the United States should take a good, long look in the mirror.

In announcing the decision, Trump delivered a fact-challenged speech that relied heavily upon studies paid for by supporters of the fossil-fuel industry. According to a fact-check by the Associated Press, one study financed by Koch Industries “makes worst-case assumptions that may inflate the cost of meeting U.S. targets under the Paris accord while largely ignoring the economic benefits to U.S. businesses from building and operating renewable energy projects. … Jobs lost at polluting companies tend to be offset by new jobs in green technology.”

In this regard, the United States would be wise to consider British Columbia. In 2008, the Canadian province enacted a steep tax on carbon emissions that raised prices on gasoline and other fuels. In 2016, The New York Times reported, “British Columbia’s economy did not collapse. In fact, the provincial economy grew faster than its neighbors’ even as its greenhouse gas emissions declined.” There are other examples, as well, and there are other means for governments to limit carbon emissions. Instead, Trump and his supporters cling to an outdated model that is being rendered obsolete

In the process, Trump lived up to a campaign promise to withdraw from the Paris agreement. Yet it remains incumbent upon visionary leaders and scientists who understand the issue to continue to sway public opinion. For naysayers who do not believe that climate change is a threat, we ask a simple question: If the economy will not collapse under the weight of carbon reduction, as has been demonstrated, what is the downside to reducing emissions and making a cleaner planet?

Inslee knows the answer, and he is wise to team with like-minded leaders to guide the country into the future.