Paris Climate Agreement: An Imperative to Protect our Playground

By Abby Levene

The United States intends to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, the White House announced on Thursday. The move is a serious blow to the country’s–and the globe’s–efforts to mitigate climate change. Abby Levene, Verde employee and MA student in the University of Colorado’s Center for Science and Technology Policy Research, responds with an opinion piece on how the outdoor industry (and communities at large) are responding and reacting to the news.

WHERE WE–THE OUTDOOR INDUSTRY–COME IN

The U.S. includes checks and balances, as well as a potent private sector, for a reason. Executive power is not absolute. Faced with a dearth in leadership, we– each and every one of us– must rise to the challenge imposed by the U.S.’ withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement.

And who better to lead the charge than the outdoor recreation industry, who feels both the moral and long-term imperative to act on climate, as well as immediate need. At a hearing on capitol hill regarding the role of the outdoors in the economy, health, and prosperity last month, industry leaders testified before congress over the economic incentive to take action against climate change– now.

“Outdoor recreation drives commerce and is among our nation’s largest economic sectors, representing the lifeblood of thousands of American communities and providing livelihoods for millions of Americans,” Amy Roberts, Executive Director of the Outdoor Industry Association <link in post> testified.

Leaders around the country are already stepping up. Three governors, 82 universities, and over 100 businesses have already pledged to meet the standards of the climate accord on their own. They are working with the United Nations to become the first non-country entity to ratify the agreement, The New York Times reports.

A TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS

In his speech from the Rose Garden on Thursday, President Trump contended that the historic 2015 agreement, which has been signed by 195 nations, shackles the U.S. to unjust environmental standards that would disproportionately hurt American businesses and workers. He promised to fight for Americans.

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburg, not Paris,” Trump said.

While perhaps a well-intentioned sentiment, this stance is shortsighted. Climate change represents a tragedy of the commons; it is in few people’s best short-term interests to take action, but in all of our best interests to do so. Like with recycling, no one person’s actions incur much difference. But if we all work together, formative change occurs.

America holds a moral responsibility to act on climate change. Our greenhouse gas emissions exceed all of the European Union combined. Encouragingly, many leaders in America recognize our moral, practical and economic onus.

REACTION FROM REPRESENTATIVES & INFLUENCERS

“As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future,” Mayor Bill Peduto tweeted shortly after President Trump’s announcement.

Independent action taken by states, businesses, and individuals before the Paris agreement was signed has already produced positive results. Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States dropped by 2.2 percent between 2014 and 2015, the EPA reported this year.

Continuing this downward trend in greenhouse gas emissions is imperative to the burgeoning outdoor industry, which accrues $887 billion a year in revenue and $125 billion a year in taxes, and provides 7.6 million jobs. This economic vitality relies on the health of our lands, waters, and the planet at large.

No more explicit example of the link between climate change and the outdoor industry comes from Jeremy Jones, professional snowboarder and founder of Protect Our Winters (EDITOR’s NOTE: POW is our next door neighbor at Verde’s Boulder office).

“What should be snow is in fact falling as rain,” Jones testified before congress. “Our seasons are noticeably shorter. We understand that if we don’t act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will see the end of winter as we know it.”

Jones cited his home mountains in the Sierras, where snowpack is projected to decrease by 70% by 2050. Action necessary to mitigate winter’s demise, Jones argued, is clear:

“In the press release to announce this hearing, Chairman [of the Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection subcommittee] Latta, you said you look forward to hearing first-hand from witnesses on how Congress can support the outdoor recreation economy’s growth and viability. I respectfully request that you act on climate and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to ensure the future and prosperity of outdoor recreation.”

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

We have stepped up to protect our cherished lands, like Bears’ Ears. Now it’s time we step up and protect our planet. As an industry reliant on– and committed to protecting and preserving– earth, we need to lead the charge.

As Jones asserts, in addition to working independently and collectively as citizens, businesses, cities and states to act on climate change, we must also continue to advocate for congressional action. It was so easy for President Trump to unilaterally revoke the climate agreement because President Obama unilaterally signed it. We need the House and the Senate to work together to pass a bill holding America accountable.

President Trump stated that he supports clean air and clear water; he just wants a “balanced approach to environmental and climate policy– one that promotes American jobs, economic prosperity, and energy security.” Who better to pioneer that path– and push for correlating legislation– than the outdoor recreation industry?

Most importantly, we must take a step back and remember that climate change is not a political issue. It’s an individual, economic, American, and global issue. It is an issue about protecting the planet and the places we love to play.

Businesses can join the Paris climate agreement here. And we can all call our senators and congressional representatives to let our voices be heard: we care about the climate!

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: climate, climate change, congress, Donald Trump, greenhouse gas emissions, Paris climate agreement

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