America Won't Leave The Paris Climate Deal Right Away

by Chris Tognotti
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Well, it's official: On Thursday, President Donald Trump announced that he's pulling the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate deal. But actually withdrawing from the deal is a more involved process than Trump is letting on ― if you're wondering how long pulling out of the Paris climate deal takes, and you're hoping the answer is "a long time," you're in luck.

That's because the whole process could take not weeks, not months, but years. Despite the fact that Trump is flexing some of his go-it-alone muscle on the Paris deal, he's still holding to the withdrawal procedure that's laid out in the plan, as The New York Times notes.

And that procedure takes a long time. Specifically, the United States won't actually be out of the Paris deal for a whopping four years, which would mean its continuance could end up being a campaign issue for Trump in 2020, or in the event he cannot or chooses not to run, whoever the GOP nominee is. Presuming the deal isn't terminated prematurely ahead of the 2020 election ― and with Trump, who knows ― that would mean a Democratic nominee could (and surely will) argue in favor of upholding it, and reversing the trajectory Trump just began putting America on.

You can almost see the campaign commercials now. Although to be maximally useful, it would demand a media that actually prioritized and cared about climate issues a lot more than it did in 2016. As has been noted several places, there was not a single question about climate change in any of 2016's three presidential debates, with the only mention voluntarily raised by Hillary Clinton. It wasn't the first time, either ― there was no mention made of the climate in the 2012 Mitt Romney-Barack Obama debates.

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Moreover, Clinton's email controversy sucked up a vastly greater amount of time on nightly news broadcasts than the potentially existential threat of global warming did. Simply put, it was not America's proudest moment.

In simple terms, if you're a progressive, or somebody who is passionate about protecting Earth's habitability, this is not the time to ease off the gas pedal. Although it's impossible to undo Trump's electoral victory last November, and thus impossible to strip him of his authority to make many decisions about the climate and environment, it is still possible to influence future events by keeping up the public pressure.