President Trump is said to be ready to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement because he believes putting jobs, the economy and “America First” are more important than protecting the environment from planet-warming pollution.
The president is still listening to advisers, though, including Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who said during his confirmation hearing that the threat of global warming is real and “requires a global response. No one country is going to solve this on its own.”
But we call on President Trump to also listen to the business and community leaders in South Florida, who represent an area that’s “Ground Zero” for sea level rise. Because of melting glaciers and ice sheets, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says the sea could rise nine to 24 inches here by 2060.
That’s why four Southeast Florida counties — Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Monroe — created the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact to coordinate responses. More than 30 cities have signed on, too, with the city of Miami the latest in April.
It’s rare to see leaders from this diverse region come together around an issue like this.
But South Florida leaders know the new reality of tidal flooding, salt-water intrusion in drinking-water wellfields and a sea literally lapping up our shores. They also know the need to raise seawalls and toughen building codes along the coast.
Did the president not see the photo of that octopus, which rose from a Miami Beach stormwater drain in November? We’re told to expect more such sightings as ocean waters push deeper into land.
Let the president listen to people like Palm Beach County Commissioner Steve Abrams, a Republican. “We don’t have the luxury of dealing in lofty debates,” he said. “We have to deal with results on the local level.”
Or Jennifer Jurado, chief resilience officer for Broward County, who told a Senate panel hearing in April: “We know that sea level has risen and continues to rise at an ever-accelerating rate. We are already grappling with the impact.”
Or James Donnelly, the founder and CEO of Castle Group, and chairman of the Broward Workshop business group. “We’re supportive of strategies to fight climate change,” he told us.
Or Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents Broward in Congress. “If President Trump won’t listen to the scientists, then he should listen to the business leaders who strongly support the Paris agreement. They understand that it will promote investments and create jobs.”
Democratic state Rep. Kristin Jacobs of Coconut Creek, who was a driving force in creating the climate change compact, says the regional effort will continue no matter what Trump decides.
“We will continue to be the grown-up in the room,” she said. “We’re going to carry on. I don’t think his decision changes things.”
But on the world stage, the president’s retreat does change things.
Quitting will hurt our credibility and send yet another signal that our nation cannot be counted on.
Only two other nations — Syria and Nicaragua — have refused to participate in the compact. Is that the kind of company we want to keep?
Trump once tweeted that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”
However, 195 nations believe otherwise. Each agreed to submit an individual plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions. The agreement was nonbinding without penalties. Under President Obama, the U.S. pledged to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025.
World leaders insist they will continue the effort, even without the United States onboard. But absent America — and our powerhouse economy — the historic agreement will have less impact.
Trump should realize that protecting the environment is good for business.
That’s why entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, Richard Brandon and Jeff Bezos founded the Breakthrough Energy Coalition to invest in energy systems with “near zero carbon emissions.”
And Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX and Tesla, is pushing electric vehicles that don’t generate carbon emissions. Musk tried to persuade the president not to withdraw from the agreement, and says he will withdraw from the president’s Business Advisory Council if he does.
Yes, some coal miners are cheering the possibility, but other coal companies are advising Trump to stay in, fearing Ameria will lose its seat in climate discussions and the voice of fossil fuels will be silenced.
There is little reason to end our participation in this agreement, other than it gives Trump a chance to tell his right-wing base that he kept a campaign promise, wrongheaded as it is.
Trump has evolved on issues before. On climate change, let him listen hard, not only to South Florida, but to those who are developing the businesses of the future.
Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O’Hara, Andrew Abramson, Elana Simms, Gary Stein and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson.