Our Pledge To You


U.S. turns its back on the nations of the world and the planet itself

President Donald Trump speaks about the U.S. role in the Paris climate change accord June 1 in the Rose Garden of the White House. | AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

I confess.

As 2 p.m. CST Thursday approached, the hour set for an expected Rose Garden announcement that the United States is turning its back on both the unified nations of the world and on the planet itself, pulling out from the Paris climate accord, a spark of hope flickered.

Could he…? Could he possibly…?

See, one good thing about Donald Trump — I almost said “the redeeming quality” but let’s not get carried away. But one positive attribute, as I’ve mentioned before, is that he doesn’t believe in anything. Nothing at all except of course himself. No causes, no ironclad convictions, other than utter certainty that he is the very center of the twirling universe.

And a strange, non-Euclidian space it truly is, folding in upon itself. Should Donald Trump be emboldened to venture any distance in one direction he winds up right back where he began: himself. All vectors lead to Donald.

Trump never cared if we built a wall and Mexico paid for it. Not given the alacrity with which he dropped the notion once in office. Or for repealing NAFTA. His daft campaign promises mere empty words mouthed to draw the naive, vote-paying public into his gaudy tent.

Hours before he abandoned our country’s commitments to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, it was announced that, despite his vows to the contrary, the U.S. embassy will not move to Jerusalem.

If he could change course like that to avoid ruffling the eternally frothing waters of Israeli politics, why not when the fate of the earth is at stake?

So just maybe … fresh from his Innocents Abroad Tour, veering from the joy of having his ample backside smooched in Saudi Arabia and Israel, and the vexation of at least dimly perceiving the head-shaking contempt his antics drew in Europe, maybe the whole idea that the United States exists on a planet with others was dawning on the man.

The appointed hour came. And went. The president finally arrived,  a half hour late.

“The United States will withdraw from the Paris climate accord,” Trump said. “We’re getting out.”

Ah. Yes. Never mind then. Too much to hope. Though worth pointing out, to readers who gripe I never give Trump credit for doing something right: I was ready, a garbage can lid in each hand, tin whistle clenched between my teeth, poised to celebrate. The door to redemption is always unlocked.

Instead, let’s review, shall we?

Thomas Newcomen fired up the first steam power plant in 1712, starting the industrial revolution. Three centuries of carbon dioxide pumped into the atmosphere began to hike the temperature of the earth, melting polar ice caps, unleashing storms, raising the ocean’s level. This is as certain as electricity.

But change is expensive. And Republicans set themselves against it for two reasons: first, certain sagging industries, like Big Coal, would rather not bother. And second, it takes government to corral them, and they don’t want government doing anything, particularly anything that costs money that could otherwise pad profits.

If that were the basis of their objection, I could almost respect it. But blatant commercial self-interest and anti-government hysteria lacks the mantle of nobility, so they also attack the science, for good measure, which comes easily to people who believe the earth is 5,000 years old, called into existence by their imaginary friend.

Government raises armies, paves roads, and makes hard choices nobody else is willing to make. Left to their own devices, as we saw through much of the 20th century, business will foul the air and poison the water, sometimes with government’s enthusiastic help. Never forget Chicago reversed its river to keep raw sewage from poisoning our drinking water in Lake Michigan, sending it to St. Louis, for St. Louis to worry about. That was in 1900.

I don’t want to project occult powers upon the Paris accord. With the polar ice caps disintegrating daily, even total concerted global effort starting now would only slow the damage, never mind repair or reverse it. And there might be positive unintended consequences — China and Europe will  embrace the Paris agreement with more vigor, now that doing so also shows up the mooted United States, whose status and authority is melting away like Popsicles on a hot sidewalk.