According to a Nov. 7 CNN article, Syria recently joined the Paris climate agreement, making the United States the only member of the United Nations to not have done so. President Donald Trump previously announced that the U.S. would withdraw from the agreement, stating, "We're getting out." Former President Barack Obama weighed in, stating that the decision would negatively impact American workers. What do you think of this development and how should the U.S. proceed?

Prof. Dan Perlman (ENVS)

I find myself mystified by the Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Accords. What do these people know that no other government knows? Climate change is — according to nearly all climate scientists, ecologists, and environmental scientists — the greatest threat facing humanity. Unless we take real action soon, there is a good chance that future generations of humans and other living creatures will experience massive negative impacts, with recent droughts and mega-storms just a taste of what may come. Equally mystifying to me is the lack of business sense that the Administration demonstrates. Regardless of how quickly the climate changes, the great business opportunity of this century lies in developing clean energy. The economies of China, India and many other nations are growing rapidly, while their people choke on the fumes of coal-fired power plants. The nation that develops clean energy will lead the world environmentally and economically in the 21st century.
Prof. Dan Perlman (ENVS) is a professor of Biology and Environmental Studies. 

Rebecca Weiss ’18

The U.S. should not withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, and Trump's goal of doing so is unacceptable. Over 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is “extremely likely due to human activities” (NASA). Withdrawing signals that the U.S. does not believe in science, and neither cares about combating climate change nor about the welfare of Earth’s population. This is both globally embarrassing and morally wrong. We all share the same planet, and pretending that climate change is "not our issue" is not going to work — it will affect everyone eventually. The agreement is not perfect, but it is our current best option; global action takes time. And 69 percent of Americans support remaining in the agreement (Yale study). Fortunately, we cannot pull out until 2019, this would not go into effect until 2020, and it could be reversed afterward (BBC). However, Trump is sending a shameful signal; the U.S. needs to work together with other countries to fight climate change before this change becomes irreversible.
Rebecca Weiss ’18 is a double major in Environmental studies and Anthropology. She is also an Undergraduate Departmental Representative for Environmental Studies.

Benedikt Reynolds ’19

I’m ashamed that this is the case. Thankfully, many cities, states, institutions and companies have subscribed to the Paris agreement. Even President Liebowitz pledged for Brandeis to follow the agreement. However, who’s to hold these parties accountable? Although subscribing and reporting to the Paris Agreement in the U.N. is voluntary, the U.N. does a great job of holding people accountable through peer-pressure, inspiration and collaboration. It is meant to highlight those who are doing a fantastic job, and expose those who could use help. Without the U.N., many of these promises from the U.S. cities, states, institutions, and companies can become hollow. Who’s to hold them accountable? Will there be effective collaboration? Is there room to inspire? Even with Brandeis: although Leibowitz has promised to uphold the Paris Agreement, why hasn’t there been any action from the administration in this last year? How can we foster positive environmental change on our campus? Why isn't anyone holding the administration accountable?
Benedikt Reynolds ’19 is chair of the Senate Sustainability Committee.

Jordan Mudd ’20

Trump’s intention to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is dependent on the American public’s division on the validity of climate change. Climate denialism itself was perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry and is a phenomenon unique to America — the truth is that climate denialism is endemic to privileged Americans, who are shielded from the effects of climate change, whereas frontline communities in the U.S. and the global south are facing food insecurity, droughts, changing seasons and extreme weather. It is an incredible injustice that the U.S. has greatly contributed to climate change, underdeveloped countries such that they are more vulnerable to climate change and has taken minimal responsibility to mitigate the crisis. In the absence of action by the Trump administration, it is imperative that local governments and institutions take immediate action by reducing emissions and selling investments in the fossil fuel industry.
Jordan Mudd ’20 is a member of Brandeis Climate Justice. 

Prof. Brian Donahue (ENVS)

Well, Syria joining the Paris agreement has little meaning, except that it does underscore the shame of Trump's decision to withdraw. Unfortunately, except for rare occasions the United States has failed to lead on climate change for the past 40 years — usually, just the opposite. We need U.S. leadership to help drive greenhouse gas emissions rapidly down. The Paris agreement isn't enough, but at least it’s a step in the right direction. About the only good thing you can say is that many states, communities, and organizations keep pushing on. Brandeis faculty recently passed a resolution calling on the Trustees to move towards divestment in fossil fuels. We hope we’ll see the University continue to reduce our own carbon footprint, and maybe increase our climate brainprint, too. But ultimately, these local actions need to add up to enough political pressure to drive sweeping policy change at the federal level.
Prof. Brian Donahue (ENVS) is an associate professor of American Environmental Studies. 

Gerrianna Cohen ’18

Without the backing of the federal government, it makes it that much more challenging to implement the necessary policies that successfully accomplish the goals of the Paris Agreement. We need these goals, such as carbon level limits and global warming indicators, to make progress and make sure we have a united effort to combat the problem. In lieu of federal support, we should look towards state governments, local municipalities, and private companies in the United States as leaders of change. Sub national groups can still support sustainable development and show the world that the United States is still willing to support climate change agreements. States like California have been leaders in supporting environmentally friendly policies. For example, California's clean energy targets are among the most ambitious in the nation at 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.
Gerrianna Cohen ’18 is an Undergraduate Departmental Representative for Environmental Studies.