A little while ago President Trump announced that the U.S. will be pulling out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. By so doing, we join Syria and Nicaragua as the only non-participating countries to this agreement. As the U.S. is the second largest global polluter, other countries might be discouraged from putting long-term considerations of climate ahead of short-term considerations of economic growth. Alternatively, China might take the lead and thus increase its global leadership over the course of this century. However, Trump’s decision might be offset by states such as New York and California, along with many cities that are implementing their own sustainable energy policies. Governor Jerry Brown of California has even stated that California will do all it can to encourage other states and businesses to go with renewable energy, something that is clearly underway (U.S. coal is in structural decline, due to its higher cost than competing energies and foreign competition).
So, although today’s decision may not have much effect on the future of climate change (scientists say it’s nearly too late to avoid catastrophic change), it reinforces the already sent signal that the U.S. is receding from the western alliance. As our global influence comes to rely more on our military might we risk becoming perceived more as a global threat. It also sends the signal that the U.S. cares more about protecting multinational corporations and the one percent that reap most of the former’s profits and less about future generations. The sixth extinction of species will likely accelerate.
In the meantime, it is more important than ever to photograph the changing landscape so future generations can better assess what we are doing.