Parisian Problems: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Paris accord - castle ruins.jpg

Politics make my head hurt and surely I have company in this camp; not because it overwhelms intellectually or philosophically, but because of its divisive nature.  To keep the dinner party humming we will merely avoid the political and strive for an apolitical discourse on the Paris Agreement.  This piece will navigate around the political justifications for administrative decisions by the U.S. in order to articulate the good, bad, and ugly.  The effects felt or soon to be felt by an American withdrawal from the Paris Agreement are wide ranging; on one hand there seems to be positive proactivity by the private sector in the United States displaying unwavering support for sustainable action and on the other a displeasing symptom of apathy towards a major problem (climate change) symbolic of collusion, corruption, and graft. 

The Paris Agreement works within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and deals with mitigating greenhouse gas emissions.   The Paris Accord plans to hold countries accountable for global warming by determining goals and standards for emissions in the future.  The previous sentences display a basic gist, for this is not a political or scientific piece.  There are facets of good, chunks of bad, and pieces of ugly.

The discernable good, in regards to the United States’ withdrawal from the agreement, can be found in the private sector.  This post will focus on the private sector, more succinctly 25 major companies who wrote President Trump. They wrote, “Climate change presents both business risks and business opportunities. Continued U.S. participation in the agreement benefits U.S. businesses and the U.S. economy” (Letter to Trump, C2ES).  This letter, signed by Google, Apple, and Facebook (amongst 22 other Fortune 100 companies), expands lightly on three major components to the benefits for America with the Paris Agreement: strengthening competiveness, reducing business risks, and creating jobs, markets, and growth.  Although these 25 major companies (Intel Corporation, Microsoft, and Unilever) could not urge or persuade the oval office, the companies collectively pledge and support the aspirations of the Paris Agreement; each company’s CEO or President has spoken to the importance of cleaning up and reducing greenhouse emissions.  Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, said: “Climate change is real. Leaving Paris [Agreement] is not good for America or the world” (Twitter, 6/1/17).  Major companies represented in the letter are leading the way for environmentally cognizant action in order to reduce greenhouse emissions; ultimately to reduce the global average temperature climb (the agreement stipulates no more than a 1.5 °C increase from an average of pre-industrial times).  Companies, big or small, take a stand for the Paris Agreement because they strongly believe in its essence and importance for the of future humanity.

The bad seems, well, avoidable.  A U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Accords looks bad to all other participants in the UNFCC, poorly positions Americans in reference to being responsible for 15% of carbon emissions globally, and the agreement pledges fossil fuel divestment. This is bad in three major ways for the United States. One is optics; the look of leadership through proactivity pairs well with actual participation; pulling out of this agreement connotes and denotes badly to other nations.  Secondly, if the U.S. accounts for 15% of carbon emissions and has the largest consumer footprint globally (25-30%), then the harmful emissions result in pollution that is unhealthy for people (clean air and water). In some ways, the withdrawal from the agreement is a health problem first and an abandonment of global temperature rise second.  Finally we arrive at economics, which the Paris Accords foresees as a major incentive for participating nations.  Divestment of fossil fuels, which contribute harmful emissions that result in temperature rise, presents an opportunity for new industries. This opportunity for economic growth, though not squandered, remains largely untapped at the federal level.

As promised, the ugly.  The ugly, much like fear, is unknown.  The unknown remains as such, however, the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement by the President seems questionable.  Who benefits and why?  Scientific data, economic growth, and health organizations vehemently position themselves across the table. What interests for Americans are being served with an opposition to science, economics, and health?  

There is hesitant bias in this piece, though advertised as apolitical we discover an immeasurable challenge if not impossibility about this political action: it’s political! The lens of good, bad, and ugly can be employed for almost anything, but it operates here to demonstrate the challenges ahead for humanity.  To combat these challenges effectively takes strengthened continuity, most saliently we must recognize the strength in ardent alignment with what we deem best through science, economics, and health.  Corporate Social Responsibility readies itself for the challenge and aligns thoughtfully with science, economics, and health.