EDITORIAL: Pennsylvania must lead on climate

York Dispatch
  • Last month, the president turned his back on the entire planet - figuratively and literally.
  • Opposition to Trump and his lug-headed decision is the only appropriate response.

President Donald Trump does not hide the fact that he believes himself to be the smartest person in the room. Last month, he tried to hold himself up as the smartest person in the world, turning his back on virtually the entire planet — both figuratively and literally — as he announced plans to remove the United States from the global Paris Climate Accord.

The decision was as disappointing as it was reckless, but it need not spell the end of desperately needed responsiveness to the increasingly evident challenges of man-made climate change.

Many states, cities and companies have already pledged to continue efforts to reduce emissions of carbon and other gases that are contributing to the climatic calamity. Happily, Pennsylvania is among them:

  • Gov. Tom Wolf said Trump’s decision “hurts our economy and PA residents,” and declared Pennsylvania’s efforts to curb methane emissions – a known greenhouse gas – would continue unabated.
  • State officials including Western Pennsylvania state Sens. Wayne Fontaine and Jay Cost, both Democrats, have vowed that Pennsylvania will hold fast to its carbon reduction targets.
  • And the mayors of cities including Philadelphia and Pittsburgh – which Trump cited in his Thursday announcement – have rejected the president’s argument and say they will keep their sites on greenhouse gas reductions.

Unfortunately, not all state lawmakers have been beacons of light on this issue:

  • U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, a Republican, supported the withdrawal, arguing it would hurt the state’s economy and jobs.
  • Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, complained that the treaty should have been ratified by the U.S. Senate, but instead of urging such ratification, argued — head-scratchingly — that abandoning the accord was “a solid first step in reasserting the role of the U.S. Constitution in international affairs and domestic issues.”
  • And as for state Sen. Scott Wagner, his comments on the issue that body heat and the earth moving closer to the sun are behind any warming - were ridiculed Sunday by comedian John Oliver on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.”

Trump, in withdrawing from the historic international effort to keep the global temperature from rising more than 2 degrees Celsius, proclaimed, “I was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Thanks but no thanks, said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, tweeting in response, “I can assure you that we will follow the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy and future.”

Opposition to Trump and his lug-headed decision is the only appropriate response. Remember, the only other two countries that have not signed onto the accord are Nicaragua (which — defensibly — thought the agreement didn’t go far enough) and Syria (which is currently a country in name only).

The president’s assertion that the U.S. will somehow negotiate a better deal (with 190-some other nations?) and/or rejoin the agreement under better terms is ludicrous, and reflects how little the president understands (or, more like, cares about) not only the agreement, but the nation’s and world’s future.

So it is left to leaders on the state, city and local levels to do what Trump has thus far shown himself incapable of on any number of fronts: to lead.

The governors of California, New York and Washington formed an alliance to push for continued adherence to the Paris accord just hours after Trump’s announcement last week. That those Democratic lawmakers were joined by Republican Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts over the weekend is a welcome harbinger of the bipartisan effort that will be needed to reduce greenhouse emissions in the face of dwindling but still persistent conservative opposition.

Countering climate change shouldn’t be a partisan issue. It shouldn’t even be a political issue. Alternative energy research and production holds the promise of new jobs even as it delays or diminishes the worst effects of an increasingly hotter planet.

Absent federal leadership on this front, lawmakers at all other levels must step up and take action. And Pennsylvania’s leaders must continue to ensure the Keystone State is at the forefront of this much-needed effort.