Reasonable people can debate whether the Paris climate accord represents the best way to address climate change. There is a case to be made that while climate change is real, there is not much that man can or should do to reverse what may not be a trend but rather a cycle that will correct itself. There is also an intermediate position that calls for defensive measures, particularly in the realm of national security, rather than focusing on emissions of various kinds. In any event, what is far less debatable is whether the United States, having signed the accord, should withdraw from it, as President Donald Trump has announced.
It is one thing to refuse to sign up to an international agreement. The United States has done so multiple times in the past, the most famous case being that of the treaty to create the League of Nations, for which President Woodrow Wilson advocated but Congress refused to ratify. There also have been cases where withdrawal from a treaty affected only one other country: America’s withdrawal from the bilateral 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in 2001 involved only Russia. Even in that instance, the treaty had been signed with a country that no longer existed, the Soviet Union. The Paris accord is an entirely different matter.
Nearly two hundred countries have signed the Paris agreement. Countries with tense relations, such as Greece and Turkey, or Algeria and Morocco, have joined each other in signing it. Countries that have been at war with each other and constantly remain on the brink of violence, such as India and Pakistan, or North and South Korea, have signed it. Countries with no diplomatic relations, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, or, for that matter, Israel and Iran, have signed it. Of the 195 signatories, 148 have already ratified it, including the United States in November 2016. By withdrawing from the agreement, the United States is doing nothing less than turning its back on the world, including all of its major (and minor) allies and partners.