The US has officially withdrawn from the Paris Agreement


Ariana Sanchez

Climate change is one of the top issues for voters in the United States. The U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement could not take place before November 4.

Mallory Tope

The U.S. has formally withdrawn from the Paris Agreement, but the Biden administration promises to rejoin. 

Three years ago, President Donald Trump announced he would leave the Paris agreement, an international climate change forum. The U.S. is the first party to withdraw from the agreement. President-elect Joe Biden plans to rejoin the agreement, but there are already some benefits and downsides to the withdrawal from the accord. 

The accord is an agreement that aims to prevent the Earth’s temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Revolution temperatures. The agreement was created in 2015, with nearly 200 countries signed. 

Former President Barack Obama signed the agreement in 2015 and promised the U.S. would reduce its emissions about 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

William Gutowski, professor of geological and atmospheric sciences, said reducing emissions as Obama promised would be a start to combating climate change, but more would need to be done. 

Many were confused when the official withdrawal date from the agreement was just a day after the election. However, there was a year-long termination period before a country could officially withdraw from the agreement, said James McCormick, professor of political science. 

The withdrawal from the agreement is not final; future presidents can rejoin the agreement. 

Biden has vowed to reenter the U.S. into the agreement. Biden said rejoining the agreement would be the first thing he does as president. 

Biden tweeted Wednesday, “Today, the Trump administration officially left the Paris Climate Agreement. And in exactly 77 days, a Biden administration will rejoin it.” 

Biden can join back into the accord with a 30-day notice, McCormick said. Leaving the accord might also weaken ties with the United Nations, but not by much.

Trump has also removed the executive order Obama put in place to combat climate change, said Scott Feinstein, assistant professor of political science. Biden could easily put them back in place with executive orders. The Biden administration will have a lot of hard work and catching up to do to put them back on track to reduce the emissions by 2025, Feinstein said. 

A benefit to leaving the accord is it has allowed other countries to take leadership positions in the Paris agreement, Feinstein said. 

Countries like China and South Korea have stepped up on their promises they made when the agreement first was signed. 

“China originally agreed to peak their CO2 emissions in 2030 but now are going to do it sooner by 2025,” Feinstein said. “Japan and South Korea have also shown to surpass their expectations … and recently committed to being carbon neutral by 2050 and China by 2060.” 

There was no punishment for countries who did not follow their promise or show reports of the progress, McCormick said. 

According to McCormick, the process to reduce emissions fell onto states and local-level officials rather than government regulation. 

States like California have taken their own actions, like requiring more fuel-efficient vehicles, Gutoswki said.

Some disagree with the choice of leaving the accord, but some believe it is a good idea that will benefit the U.S. 

Laura Emery, a senior in financial counseling and planning and UROC senator in Student Government, said she supports the withdrawal of the agreement and thinks it’s a good idea.

“I don’t really agree with more government regulation to solve a problem,” Emery said. 

Emery said she thinks having government-regulated energy increased the price and that there are better alternatives then government regulations. 

“I think the answer is allowing for the development and more research into green energy,” Emery said. 

Even before the agreement, climate change has been prominent in the U.S. and across the globe. Although leaving the agreement won’t directly affect climate change, it could start the ball rolling on climate change, which is increasingly affecting the U.S.

Leaving the agreement undermines the need to reduce our own carbon emissions, Gutowski said.

“We could be a leader in motivating the world to move to a carbon-neutral future,” Gutowski said. “By ceding that role, we are not helping the rest of the world to move in this direction, to a carbon-neutral future.”

Even with leaving the accord, climate change is still an ongoing issue. States like California and Florida have seen significant impacts from climate change with wildfires and hurricanes. 

Although Iowa most likely won’t have any wildfires or hurricanes, climate change can still have an impact here. 

The warming weather and precipitation are two important impacts Iowa could see, according to Gutowski.  

“We likely would not have much change in overall precipitation, but we would likely experience more frequent heavy downpours and possibly flooding,” Gutowski said. “The heavy downpours could increase land erosion.”

The warming of the weather would impact winter more than summer. With a warmer winter, the growing season would lengthen, meaning more agricultural pests, Gutowski said. 

“Agricultural pests, which are killed off by very cold temperatures, cold winter over in places closer to Iowa than in the past, so that they could move more readily into Iowa as the growing season progresses,” Gutowski said. 

Countries and the United Nations have been trying to combat climate change for years, and even with the U.S. leaving the Paris accord, those countries will still continue to work against climate change. 

“On a global level, there actually are a lot of issues that don’t stop at the edge of the states’ or nation’s border,” Feinstein said.