On November 30, 2015, the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC began drafting the Paris Climate Agreement. Written by representatives of 196 countries, the agreement was adopted by consensus on December 12, 2015. Within provisions of the Paris Agreement, each country plans and reports on its contribution to climate control. The long-term goal of the agreement aims to keep the global average temperature from surpassing two degrees above pre-industrial levels. The results are expected to reduce risks and the impact of climate change.
In early 2015, the Benenson Strategy Group conducted 1000 interviews with likely 2016 voters nationwide in advance of the U.N. Climate Change Conference later that year. The voters were asked, “Do you strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose, or strongly oppose President Obama signing an international agreement committing all countries to address climate change by reducing their carbon emissions?” Overall, the results showed that 72% support it and 24% oppose.
In June 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would cease all participation in the climate agreement. He stated that the deal would “undermine the U.S. economy,” and “puts the U.S. at a permanent disadvantage.” Per provisions of the agreement, the earliest withdrawal date can’t be before November 2020. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released shortly after this announcement found that 68% of Americans want the U.S. to lead global efforts in climate control and 72% agree that the U.S. should take aggressive action to slow climate change. What’s more, 57% polled support actions taken by majors and governors to honor the goals of the Paris Agreement despite the President’s withdrawal; 55% think their state and local government should do more, and a third believe its best to follow federal direction.
While the U.S. withdrawal of this agreement isn’t the beginning of voters demanding climate control, it proved to incite more interest and involvement from voters and activists alike. On March 29, 2018, a report was published by Gallup asking the same question it has polled about since 1992. The study’s results found that there has been a resurgence of interest in the government doing more for climate control, most likely reflecting the end of the recession and the new administration’s lack of concern with environmental protection.
Whether President Trump will ultimately decide to go through with the agreement withdrawal or if voters succeed in changing actions, climate change is in fact happening. There will be a global fight to reduce emissions and control global temperatures. The question is will the United States be a part of it? And if not, how much of an economic disadvantage might that cause?