Still In: Trump, Paris and Americans' Wake-Up Call on Climate


Approval of the Paris Climate Agreement, December 2015


Frontier Group intern Dugan Becker is a rising junior at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, majoring in Natural Resource Conservation.

“In Trump's first few months in office, he has done more to catalyze and motivate the private sector [on climate change] than Hurricane Katrina or Sandy, or the work of talented environmental organizations put together … Trump's latest decision will activate the private sector like we've never seen before,” claimed AutoDesk CEO Lynelle Cameron in a recent CNBC story.

The “latest decision” made by President Trump was his June announcement to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, a decision opposed by roughly 70% of the nation (including 47% of Trump voters). Trump’s announcement of the withdrawal produced an immediate and overwhelming reaction. A group led by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, known as “We Are Still In,” stepped forward, vowing to uphold their end of the Paris Climate Agreement and to “ensure that the U.S. remains a global leader in reducing emissions.” Comprised of 10 states, 125 cities, 183 colleges and universities, and more than 900 businesses (including more than 20 in the Fortune 500), the group collectively accounts for over $6.2 trillion of the U.S. economy and represents more than one in three Americans.

The public activism exhibited in the wake of Trump’s decision demonstrates that the American public will not sit idly by during this critical time for our planet, regardless of the actions taken by the White House. Cameron argues that Trump’s actions have been a “wake-up call” for many Americans: “For years, we trusted that government would act in our best interests, protecting the air we breathe and the water we drink … The Trump presidency marks a new era. As citizens and business leaders, it is now up to us to take the future into our own hands and create the change we want to see.”

While in recent years, catastrophic events and science demonstrating the severity of climate change caught the public’s attention, there was a lack of immediacy for some Americans, fueled by the assumption that the government was “working on it.” However, with Trump making it abundantly clear that he is not working on it, citizens who may have been concerned but not “active” are finally being kicked into gear.  

We don’t have four years to wait for action on climate change - especially if we hope to meet the U.S.’s original commitment of 26-28% emission reduction by 2025. Thankfully, however, in the words of Egyptian activist Wael Ghonim, “the power of the people is greater than the people in power.” With continued public engagement and leadership from states, cities, and businesses, we can maintain the momentum and inspiration necessary to reach that goal. In the words of Washington State Governor Jay Inslee (representing one of the many states signed onto “We Are Still In”): “Our states will move forward, even if the president wants to go backward.”