It probably shouldn’t have been a surprise. Donald Trump ran a campaign based on denying climate science, so his June 1 announcement that he would be pulling out of the international climate agreement represents a promise fulfilled.
But the advantage of having a president who was elected by a minority of voters (3 million less than Hillary Clinton) is that the majority of the voting public actually disagrees with the policies Trump ran on.
There are more climate change believers than deniers — 70 percent of the country, according to the Yale Program on Climate Communication — and this is the chance to show it.
Yes, Trump’s decision undermines the federal government’s role in fighting climate change, but much of the time it is actually state and local governments that would do the work of reducing emissions, through negotiating with local utilities or building green infrastructure.
An alliance including governors from three states representing one fifth of the country’s population — California, New York, and Washington — plans to reduce carbon emissions enough to fulfill the United States’ commitments in the Paris Agreement. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a billionaire, has pledged to send the $15 million to the United Nations originally pledged by the United States to help developing countries fulfill their commitments under the Paris Agreement.
In an earlier version of this column that was posted online, I urged Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker to join this climate pact, as well. He has since done so, and we celebrate that move. He is wise to have joined. According to the Yale climate communication program, Massachusetts residents believe in climate change at a higher rate than all but five other states, higher than Washington state, one of the climate pact’s founders. That same research shows that a majority of residents in all 50 states believe climate change is happening and a majority in 31 states — including Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and both Carolinas — believe it is caused primarily by human activities.
Mayors in cities like Atlanta, Salt Lake City, and Pittsburgh (a city Trump claimed to represent in his Paris Agreement withdrawal announcement), have signed on to fulfill U.S. commitments, as well. And so have U.S. companies including Hewlett-Packard and Mars. And so have dozens of colleges and universities.
And so have I.
The evening Trump made his announcement, I made a special Dave Agreement, and pledged to reduce carbon emissions by walking to work at least once per week instead of driving. During my 25-minute stroll to the office the following day, I reflected that this is just an infinitesimal drop in the bucket for climate change. But it is also a way for me to become a part of a larger worldwide effort to slow it down. The words of one man in Washington, D.C., can not stop any of us from joining the global effort.
Trump’s departure from an agreement with the rest of the world is an opportunity for all of us to affirm, individually or as a part of a political or other type of group, our own beliefs in where the world should be headed on climate change. And if anyone else wants to join the Paris Agreement as an individual, I’d love to hear your own pledges. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org.