Withdrawal from the Paris Agreement Flouts the Climate Risks

by Keith Seitter, AMS Executive Director
President Trump’s speech announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement emphasizes his assessment of the domestic economic risks of making commitments to climate action. In doing so the President plainly ignores so many other components of the risk calculus that went into the treaty in the first place.
There are, of course, political risks, such as damaging our nation’s diplomatic prestige and relinquishing the benefits of leadership in global economic, environmental, or security matters. But from a scientific viewpoint, it is particularly troubling that the President’s claims cast aside the extensively studied domestic and global economic, health, and ecological risks of inaction on climate change.
President Trump put it quite bluntly: “We will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”
The science emphatically tells us that it is not fine if we can’t. The American Meteorological Society Statement on Climate Change warns that it is “imperative that society respond to a changing climate.” National policies are not enough — the Statement clearly endorses international action to ensure adaptation to, and mitigation of, the ongoing, predominately human-caused change in climate.
In his speech, the President made a clear promise “… to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth … to have the cleanest air … to have the cleanest water.” AMS members have worked long and hard to enable such conditions both in our country and throughout the world. We are ready to provide the scientific expertise the nation will need to realize these goals. AMS members are equally ready to provide the scientific foundation for this nation to thrive as a leader in renewable energy technology and production, as well as to prepare for, respond to, and recover from nature’s most dangerous storms, floods, droughts, and other hazards.
Environmental aspirations, however, that call on some essential scientific capabilities but ignore others are inevitably misguided. AMS members have been instrumental in producing the sound body of scientific evidence that helps characterize the risks of unchecked climate change. The range of possibilities for future climate—built upon study after study—led the AMS Statement to conclude, “Prudence dictates extreme care in accounting for our relationship with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life.”
This is the science-based risk calculus upon which our nation’s climate change policy should be based. It is a far more realistic, informative, and actionable perspective than the narrow accounting the President provided in the Rose Garden. It is the science that the President abandoned in his deeply troubling decision.

Taking a Dive in the Maldives

In the final days before the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, the intensity of rhetoric has been unrelenting. Inevitably, the science that got us to this moment takes a back seat:  the world’s policymaking apparatus is now steering.
The people who feel the most helpless in this process are not scientists, though. They may very well be politicians. Or at least, that’s what the government of the Republic of Maldives, desperately wants us to know. Living at an average elevation of just 5 feet, their population has every reason to be concerned about projections of sea-level rise.
So, if you’re slated to be the next Atlantis, what better place to take a stand about helplessness than underwater? The Maldives’ president and his Cabinet donned scuba gear

Swamped with official business in the Maldives.
Swamped with official business in the Maldives.

in October and communicated 16 feet beneath the ocean’s surface using hand gestures during a protest of the U.N climate summit in Copenhagen, which the Maldives claimed was too expensive to attend. During the underwater meeting, the Cabinet signed a declaration calling for global cuts in CO2 emissions, to be presented at the Copenhagen meeting.