by Sander Gusinow
Trump’s decision to exit the historic Paris climate agreement was easy to understand. Our delicate President wanted our allies to court him on the agreement, to stroke his ego and gain his favor (after all, why else would anyone want to be president?) but Trump's visit to the G7 summit was anything but a victory lap. He was mocked by the media, asked questions he was too much of a simpleton to answer, and dominated by French President Emmanuel Macron’s Kung-fu grip.
Trump promised a better deal for the United States on Climate Change (whatever that meant) but Trump’s not actually any good at making deals, not with smart people. Instead of showing how paper-thin his dealmaking abilities are, he’s decided to pull out of the agreement like a frustrated five-year-old knocking over a board game he doesn’t know how to play.
This move will have lasting, disastrous effects. But not for the Paris Agreement. With the vast majority of the world’s business and political leaders convinced of climate change, (because, you know, duh.) green energy, nuclear power, and natural gas are still very much the technologies of the future. What is now lost is the United State’s role as the world leader in culture and innovation. Within minutes of Trump’s decision, Europe and China reaffirmed their commitment to the agreement, hungry for the opportunity it was, to take a leadership role on the world stage.
When you lead the world, you can lead it where you want. It is because of this global leadership that every decision made in the 20th century has been made with our interests firmly in mind. But now with Trump’s misplaced nativism, nations of the world will look elsewhere. The damage to our interests cannot be overstated, nor can the irreparable harm to our reputation.
But is this such a bad thing? American leadership hasn’t exactly had the best track-record as leaders the global order. Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union we’ve installed dictators to advance our interests, devastated countries with oil wars, and failed to make peace anywhere and everywhere we’ve tried. The United States may have risen to hegemony because of their success in the Cold War, as a world leader, however, the United States been a bull in a china shop. Indeed, many signatories of the deal were relieved by the exit of the United States
So why has the United States been such a lousy world leader? Perhaps it’s because, in every other election, our overly-religious Right elects a crooked buffoon to the presidency. Perhaps it’s because we still haven’t shaken the cold-war mentality, but with our Paris exit, the United States has finally face-planted in such splendid fashion that the world will no longer look to us as innovators of the future and hands the reigns to someone else all at the same time.
There’s reason to hope, though. Indeed, it was Sweden and the Oslo Accords which got the Israelis and Palestinians the closest to lasting peace. Not our blundering. It was France who mounted the most successful modern anti-terrorist operation in Mali in 2013. Not our bomb-heavy, casualty-stricken ‘shock and awe’ operations. As for China, there might be some cause for concern, but the Chinese integrate more into the world economy day by day, and the Chinese government is increasingly populated by bright young leaders with a liberal Western education.
It’s uncertain who will take up the reigns of global leadership in our absence, although it’s fairly evident who wants to. It’s possible that state leaders write climate change laws themselves, making our transition back to global leadership a smooth one. With our unrivaled economy, cultural influence, and technology sector, the United States could be in a position to lead the world again, but by the time we expel Trump’s toxic ichor from our system, we’ll have to play a lot of catch up... And the question remains, will the rest of the world let us back in when we do? After all, we are the country who elected a slimy, bloviating con-artist over a former Secretary of State. For all the uncertainty, one thing is perfectly clear: If exiting this agreement proves to be our demise as a world leader, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.