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For Trump, Paris pact is ‘an inconvenient truth’

President Donald Trump | AP file photo

WASHINGTON — “I happen to love the coal miners,” President Donald Trump said in a cheery aside on Thursday as he yanked the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement, mulling whether he can get to a “big opening” of a new mine in a speech that set him up as one man against the other world leaders when it comes to global warming.

Trump’s forte in his first months in office is to find things done by former President Barack Obama he can undo with his signature. But one day he will run out of them — and then what is he going to do?

The Paris deal, concluded in 2016, was just the latest jab at what was to be an important Obama legacy item.

Increasingly, as president, Trump sees issues only in one dimension: What does it cost and is the U.S. paying too much? That approach allows a lazy student such as Trump to not have to study up on the underlying issues, whether it be NATO or the very complex matter of climate change.

OPINION

What gets lost on Trump is that there are other important values or goals in pursuing a global united front on climate or in the NATO alliance, as we saw in his trip to a NATO summit in Italy a few days ago. That’s when he chastised the closest U.S. allies harshly because most of them are not paying their share of the bill.

Trump lives in his comfort zone.

If the talk is about making a deal, or being a bill collector, he can figure out what to do. The problem for Trump is once he proclaims that the U.S. is getting short-changed, he and some of his economic nationalist advisers act as if nothing else matters.

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Indeed, Trump gave short shrift to global warming — his own White House staffers could not say in a briefing after the speech if Trump believed in climate change — while framing exiting the Paris deal as “reasserting U.S. sovereignty” and preventing “a massive redistribution of United States wealth to other countries.”

As he put it, “This agreement is less about the climate and more about other countries gaining a financial advantage over the United States. The rest of the world applauded when we signed the Paris Agreement — they went wild; they were so happy — for the simple reason that it put our country, the United States of America, which we all love, at a very, very big economic disadvantage,” Trump said in a Rose Garden address.

Some thoughts:
• The Paris agreement is more about the climate than anything else.

It was pretty amazing to get 197 countries — almost all in the world except Syria and Nicaragua — to sign on to the pact and agree that the earth’s temperature rising is indeed a problem, a process that took years.

That is, as former Vice President Al Gore might put it, “An Inconvenient Truth,” the name of the 2006 documentary he was in warning about the rising global temperature.

• Trump touted exiting from the Paris deal almost as if it were an easy job creation plan for the U.S. mining industry, ignoring the cleaner energy solar, wind, natural gas, nuclear and geothermal industries growing in the U.S.

He was heavily playing to his fossil fuel base, weaving in mentions of coal states that voted for him: West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Trump, in office since Jan. 20, has made no moves to broaden his appeal beyond his base.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said, alliteration that earned this Twitter slap from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat.

Peduto said via a tweet, “I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement,” followed by another post noting that Hillary Clinton won 80 percent of the Pittsburgh vote.

• Trump is trying to have it both ways: Keeping a campaign pledge to quit the Paris deal, while at the same time claiming he may jump back in if he can negotiate a better deal.

“We will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.

Except that he can’t call that shot, especially after picking a fight with our NATO allies.

Shortly after his speech, the leaders of France, Germany and Italy — Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel and Paolo Gentiloni said in a joint statement, “We firmly believe that the Paris Agreement can not be renegotiated, since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies.”
And that is the inconvenient truth.