President Trump has told multiple people, including EPA head Scott Pruitt, that he intends to pull the U.S. out of the landmark Paris Agreement on climate change, according to a new Axios report based on information from three anonymous sources with direct knowledge of the conversations. Earlier Saturday, Trump announced on Twitter that he would make a decision on the accord next week. Over the past three days, European leaders and even Pope Francis have lobbied Trump to support the agreement, but while leaders from the six other nations in the G7 signed a statement reaffirming their commitment to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions on Saturday, Trump abstained. “The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very unsatisfying,” announced German chancellor Angela Merkel, clearly frustrated with Trump’s indecision during the talks.
Axios adds that it’s possible Trump will impulsively change his mind, as Trump has done after telling people he would do something in the past; Axios also points out that all of Trump’s options for withdrawing from the deal would require as much as a year to carry through on, allowing for some additional uncertainty.
Speaking of uncertainty, in a Face the Nation interview set to air on CBS Sunday, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that he was “quite certain the president is wide open on this issue as he takes in the pros and cons of that accord.” Speaking with the New York Times, Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary Cohn, also made it sound as if Trump was still making up his mind after “a lot of give-and-take between the different countries” at the G7 summit. But according to Axios’s sources, Trump has already made his decision to ditch the pact, and that would definitely be consistent with his numerous past statements as one of the world’s most notorious deniers of the consensus scientific conclusion that human activity is the primary driver of global climate change. He also said during his presidential campaign that he would cancel the deal and has infamously and repeatedly called global warming a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese (and scientists) — but Trump says a lot of things and has, at least a few times, also hinted that he understood the threat of climate change.
President Obama helped negotiate the historic Paris Agreement in 2015, and it was officially ratified by the U.S. and 194 other signatories last year. Should Trump leave the pact, the U.S. would be the first country to exit, which would also be the second time that America has signed onto a global climate deal under a Democratic president only to walk away from the same agreement under a Republican predecessor, as President George W. Bush ultimately reneged on the Kyoto Protocol agreed to by President Bill Clinton in 1997.
America’s exit from the Paris Agreement wouldn’t invalidate the accord, which still has the support of most of the world, including China, and is likely to proceed without U.S. participation. But the failure of the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions, being the world’s second-highest producer of such pollution, will worsen and likely accelerate an already dangerous problem. If other countries follow the U.S. out of the agreement, which remains a risk, that danger only multiplies.