The Paris Climate Accord Is Superficial. That’s Why Trump Wants to Kill It.

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The Paris climate accord is not legally binding. At any time, the United States can simply announce that its goals have changed and release a new, less ambitious plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (a “Nationally Determined Contribution” in Paris-speak). Since everything is entirely voluntary and there’s no legal enforcement mechanism for any of it, David Roberts says there’s no reason to consider pulling out:

Trump can weaken the US NDC, without penalty. He can roll back all of Obama’s carbon regulations, without penalty. He can simply fail to meet the targets of the NDC, without penalty. All he has to do is explain himself at the five-year review, and the explanation can be as minimal as he likes.

Paris’s only constraint on Trump comes through intangibles like reputation and influence. It imposes absolutely no practical or legal constraint on his actions—not on trade policy, not on domestic energy policy, nothing.

That means all talk of Paris being a “bad deal” for the US, or hurting US trade, or affecting the US coal industry in any way, is nonsense. Paris does not and cannot do any of those things. The US voluntarily offered up an NDC and can voluntarily offer up a different or weaker NDC any time it wants.

This is an awkward fact for the nationalist contingent. They need Paris to be a boogey man. So they’ve ginned up a novel legal argument.

This novel legal argument is even more comical than these kinds of paper-thin justifications usually are, and you can read all about it at the link. But I think Roberts misses the point. Since Paris is voluntary, there’s no concrete reason for Trump to pull out or to stay in. The United States can do whatever it wants either way. The whole thing is about signaling, and that’s something that rules Trump’s world. Barack Obama considered it important to signal that America was committed to addressing climate change. Trump is committed to a worldview in which climate change is a hoax. He wants a dramatic way to signal this, and pulling out of Paris would be just the ticket.

Needless to say, you can decide for yourself if climate change is a hoax. The data is very clear and easily obtainable.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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