- Economic Justice, Environment & Energy, Immigrants & Refugees, Middle East & Iran, Nuclear Weapons, Peacebuilding
Why the Paris Decision Matters, No Matter What Issue You Care About
On June 1, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw the United Stated from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Paris Agreement.
This decision will have ramifications for years to come and signals a shift in how the U.S. engages in international diplomacy. It also leaves the U.S. as just one of three countries not in the deal. The other two are Syria, a war-torn nation, and Nicaragua, which didn’t join the agreement because it wasn’t ambitious enough.
This decision affects much of FCNL’s legislative work, going far beyond our Sustainable Energy & Environment program. Here’s why international action to address climate change is so important for all of the issues we lobby on.
Millions of people in the Middle East have already been killed, injured, or displaced due to the failure of the United States and the international community to act on climate change. Today, many teeter on the brink of starvation. Yemen’s capital city of Sanaa could be the world’s first capital to run out of water. The Syrian war was sparked in part by the most devastating drought on record, which forced tens of thousands of farmers to move to Syria’s cities, already overpopulated by Iraqi refugees fleeing the U.S.-led occupation and war. Pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement will risks more bloodshed throughout the Middle East and undermines U.S. diplomatic efforts to negotiate political solutions.
The vicious cycle of climate change and armed conflict has created an international humanitarian emergency at levels the world has never seen before. Nigeria, South Sudan, and Somalia are currently undergoing unprecedented levels of food shortages and famine. These are also countries affected by chronic violence and long-term conflict. International cooperation to address climate change – by providing assistance to communities to adapt to the most serious effects of climate disruption – can go a long way toward building peace and stability. President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement will mean that the U.S. is not willing to do its part and share the burden to address this global problem.
Most U.S. national security leaders understand they must prepare for the political instability a changing climate could foster. Beyond the immediate threats, climate-driven instability could pressure future political leaders into misguided militarized response. Worse still, by rejecting the widely embraced Paris agreement, the United States will be less trusted in other multilateral efforts to tackle pressing challenges, such as WMD nonproliferation and destructive regional conflicts.
Immigration and Refugees
Climate change has already forced more than a million individuals from their homes, exacerbating the largest refugee crisis in modern history. World leaders have stated that this crisis will only worsen in the absence of strong, coordinated action on climate. Climate change contributes to food and water shortages in refugee host nations, straining refugee assistance organizations’ limited resources and increasing the odds that the presence of refugees will spark political conflicts. Climate disruption is also tied to migrant rights and protection. Flooding in coastal zones, worsening access to clean water sources, crop loss, and extreme weather events leads to scarcity of resources, upsetting communities’ livelihoods, exacerbating violence, and leading to forced migration. A global crisis of forced displacement requires a global response; the Paris Agreement is one step in a larger framework of demonstrating global commitment to acknowledge – and internationally address – this challenge.
Environmental justice is inextricable linked with inequality. Low-income communities, which largely consist of people of color, are disproportionately affected by pollution and natural disasters, which are amplified by climate change. Flint, Michigan provides one example. Flint is a low-income, majority Black city and is entering its third year of a water crisis. Thousands of families and children continue to drink lead-poisoned water due to inaction by the government. Hurricane Katrina in 2005 is another example. Most of the families that were able to flee the disaster were wealthy, white families. Those left behind were low-income, Black families who experienced severe delays in relief and rescue. Today, these families are still picking up the pieces. Additionally, lack of economic opportunities can exacerbate mass incarceration Race and class play a significant role in one’s susceptibility to environmental pollution and natural disasters. Pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement is not just a threat to our planet; it is a threat to low income communities and communities of color.