It started with a tweet.
On Saturday, President Trump set much of the world on edge when said on Twitter that he will make his long-awaited decision on whether the United States will exit the Paris climate accord in the next several days.
I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2017
It was the tweet that launched a thousands pleas. Trump has before indicated that a decision on Paris was imminent without following through, but the world is taking this latest announcement (of an upcoming announcement) seriously. With new urgency, a chorus of voices making closing arguments rose over Memorial Day weekend on social media, on television and, notably, in private meetings and letters with the president urging him to stay or leave the accord.
Many of the stakeholders voiced their opinions in the president's favorite medium:
From Hawaii's Democratic senator:
If Trump bails out of Paris, the GOP will lose generations of voters permanently.— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) May 28, 2017
From Americans for Tax Reform's head:
Top 5 reasons USA should withdraw from Paris ‘climate’ debacle https://t.co/4VLJjq0Fjb— Grover Norquist (@GroverNorquist) May 27, 2017
From an Oregon Democrat:
And from this Illinois Republican:
There was no shortage of arguments on both sides of the issue. We break them down for you here:
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) for STAYING: On Sunday, Graham rebuked 22 of his GOP colleagues, who wrote a letter last week urging Trump to withdraw from Paris, and told CNN that withdrawal from the agreement "would be taken as a statement that climate change is not a problem, is not real."
He added: "That would be bad for the party, bad for the country."
Sen. Ted Cruz for LEAVING: Trump's one-time rival for the GOP presidential nomination argued in an op-ed in CNN for withdrawal by appealing to Trump's economic sensibilities. On Monday, Cruz wrote: "Efforts to unwind some of the deal's more onerous regulations are welcomed, but that is not enough. Unless the US completely withdraws, the Paris Agreement will continue to cause sustained harm to our security and economy..."
ExxonMobil for STAYING: On Sunday, it was leaked to the Financial Times that the oil major once run by Trump's secretary of state sent a letter to the Trump administration reiterating its desire for Trump to stay in the agreement. Exxon's manager for environmental policy and planning wrote: "It is prudent that the United States remain a party to the Paris agreement to ensure a level playing field, so that global energy markets remain as free and competitive as possible."
The emergence of Exxon, a company currently under investigation in New York and Massachusetts for potentially misleading shareholders on climate change, as one force for staying in the Paris agreement may seem surprising. But the agreement could boost demand for natural gas, a fuel that emits less carbon than coal and constitutes a significant portion of Exxon's portfolio.
Well there's a headline I never thought I'd see pic.twitter.com/RIBcn8PmAF— Martin Tisné (@martintisne) May 28, 2017
Ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) for LEAVING: On Sunday, the former Arkansas governor told Fox News that existing legislation, like the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, are sufficient for protecting the environment: "We're not putting out the kind of pollution we once were. Everybody wants a good environment. This idea that the number one threat we face — I think Donald Trump is on the right track. He's trying to change the climate of terrorism because he knows a beheading is still worse than a sunburn."
And most notably, G-7 world leaders for STAYING: Perhaps the most dramatic lobbying effort came on Friday, when the leaders of the other G-7 nations used their audience with President Trump to press the case for Paris. The Financial Times characterized a meeting between G-7 leaders on climate change as one punctured by "protracted exchanges." The New York Times called it an "extended discussion" that involved Trump citing the environmental awards he has gotten.
(Trump in the past has bragged about the "many, many environmental awards" he has received, even though, as my Post colleague Michelle Ye Hee Lee reported this year, "[m]edia outlets and environmental groups have tried to find evidence of this claim since 2011 but have come up short.")
The G-7 leaders strategy, according to The Times, was a cautious one: "They spoke to the American president, concerned that they could anger him easily, which could result in his deciding to pull the United States out of the Paris agreement after he returns home."
But European leaders left the meetings with little of the clarity they sought. Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian prime minister, said: "There is one open question, which is the US position on the Paris climate accords." Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany, was more pointed: "The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying."
The U.S. line on the climate talks was decidedly more upbeat. The Post's Karen DeYoung and Philip Rucker report:
Earlier, in an off-camera briefing for reporters, National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn said of the climate discussions, “We’re all trying to get to the right place, respectful of each other.” He described a “very robust conversation . . . a lot of give and take” in discussions that included leaders from Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Canada and Italy.
Asked whether Trump had given a sign of which way he was leaning on the accord, which he called a job killer and vowed to rip up during his campaign, Cohn said, “I don’t know.”
--Cohn added that Trump's position was "evolving," a word heard often from the Obama administration as that president deliberately prepared to announce his support of gay marriage. In this case, the invocation of that term by Cohn, a Trump economic adviser who favors staying in Paris in a White House split on the issue, may be more wishful than anything else.
“He came here to learn," Cohn said. "He came here to get smarter.”
--The talks culminated in the G-7 communiqué that again kicked the can down the road: "The United States of America is in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics."
The G-7 summit is an opportunity for the heads of state of seven of the most influential nations to stand in front of the rest of the world as equals to declare their common interests. If Trump did not assuage the fears of his European counterparts, he did at the very least accomplish one thing with his indecision. By sitting high on the fence, Trump made sure all eyes were on him and that he was the center of attention.
Or put another another way: The former reality-television host knows how to keep people watching.
The former mayor of San Francisco put it this way:
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THREE MORE NOTES ON PARIS:
1) Last week, 22 GOP senators sent a letter to Trump asking him to make good on his campaign promise to pull out of Paris. Sen. Jim Inhofe, who helped organized that letter, is confident he’ll heed their call.
“I have no reason to believe that he will change his mind on that,” he told me last week. “Because that’s one of his campaign promises.”
Why did only 22 of the 52 Republicans in the Senate sign? Inhofe said he distributed the letter at a GOP caucus meeting early last week, and that probably “two-thirds of the ones that we’re there” signed. Others brought the letter back to their staffs to review, but Inhofe said he decided pulled the trigger on the letter ahead of the G-7 summit before some of them could reply.
“We could have gotten a lot more signatures,” he said. “There’s no question about that.”
Democrats in the Senate showed a more unified front, penning their own letter in support of Paris with 40 names.
2) The relationship between Trump and perhaps the most powerful pro-Paris voice in the administration -- the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner -- could be getting strained after the Washington Post revealed that Kushner tried to crate a back-channel for communication with the Kremlin before Trump's inauguration. Now a New York Times report on that strain contains this detail on Kushner's views on the climate accord.
Mr. Kushner appears to be modifying his centrist stances. Instead of urging the president to keep the United States in the Paris climate accord, as he sought to months ago, he has come to believe the standards in the agreement need to be changed, a person close to him said.
It's unclear to me what "standards" mean in the context of the climate agreement. I'm not alone:
From TIME's energy and environment reporter:
Interesting tidbit. Not really sure what a change in "standards" would entail https://t.co/chigE0C6la— Justin Worland (@JustinWorland) May 29, 2017
David Waskow, director of the International Climate Initiative at the World Resources Institute and an expert on the Paris agreement, is stumped too.
"It's not clear what standards in terms of the Agreement itself this would refer to," he told me. Under the agreement, each nation can set its own emissions targets or, in the terminology of the accord, their own "nationally determined contribution." "Perhaps it’s a reference to the U.S. target," Waskow said.
3) One voice that was quiet over the weekend was that of Trump's top environmental law enforcer, Scott Pruitt, who has appeared on cable television with some frequency since becoming administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. The reason, potentially: "Trump has privately told multiple people, including EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, that he plans to leave the Paris agreement on climate change, according to three sources with direct knowledge," Axios reported over the weekend.
Pruitt, Axios reports, is laying low because he does not want withdrawal from the accord to seem like his victory. The grain of salt to take here: Trump at times has privately told people want they want to hear, only to end up saying or doing something different later.
-- Even the EPA has been swept up in the Trump administration effort to reduce the role of the federal government in fighting racial discrimination. Juliet Eilperin, Emma Brown and Darryl Fears report: "The new leadership at the Environmental Protection Agency, for instance, has proposed eliminating its environmental justice program, which addresses pollution that poses health threats specifically concentrated in minority communities. The program, in part, offers money and technical help to residents who are confronted with local hazards such as leaking oil tanks or emissions from chemical plants."
-- At the 100-day mark of hs presidency, Trump had a patchy record of keeping campaign promises. But not so with the regulatory rollback, report Politico's Andrew Restuccia and Nancy Cook. They describe how the deregulatory sausage is being made with factory-like efficiency: "The fight is getting personal attention from Trump, whose desire to streamline regulations and speed up permits originated with his decades-long career as a real estate developer, according to people who have spoken to the president and his top advisers. Which regulations the administration should eliminate often comes up in Trump’s White House meetings with CEOs, according to three people briefed on the meetings. Executives who meet with the administration often name regulatory reform as their top agenda item, even ahead of tax reform, according to officials have held discussions with hundreds of business leaders."
-- High Country News has the story of a scientist-turned-activist who decided to leave a two-year Energy Department post earlier: "Previously, Zelikova, a 39-year-old Ph.D. soil ecologist, had envisioned a future as a research scientist, working in academia or in government. But Trump’s election, she said, is changing her in ways she never could have imagined. Her whirlwind metamorphosis provides a glimpse into just how disruptive the last six months have been for some in federal government."
-- Higher global temperatures = less sleep? That's a theory being pushed in one new academic paper. The New York Times reports: "In a paper published online Friday by the journal Science Advances, Nick Obradovich and colleagues predicted more restless nights, especially in the summer, as global temperatures rise. They found that the poor, who are less likely to have air-conditioning or be able to run it, as well as the elderly, who have more difficulty regulating their body temperature, would be hit hard."
-- The Times also added to its gorgeous Antarctica series with a photo essay of the continent's McMurdo Dry Valleys, the "largest ice-free region in Antarctica and one of the driest places on the planet."
Coal-country power plants are increasingly turning toward wind and solar to meet the demands of corporate customers -- many of them West Coast-based tech companies -- whose shareholders and employees firms find renewable energy sources, The New York Times reports: "[In Virginia,] Dominion, a leading utility based in Richmond — near where commercial coal mining got its start — designed a special rate to make it easier for Amazon Web Services and similar customers to buy renewable energy. In Kentucky, a chance meeting between a state regulator and a Facebook employee ultimately led the Public Service Commission to advise utilities that they could offer customers renewable energy packages, part of an effort to attract new business and hold on to automakers like G.M. and Toyota. And in Wyoming, the nation’s leading coal producer by far, Black Hills Energy worked with Microsoft to create a complex arrangement for the technology giant to get enough wind energy to fulfill current and future needs at Microsoft’s data center in Cheyenne."
Some other news from around the U.S.:
- CA: The Big One is going to happen, no matter how much you want to deny it, California scientists say
- MI: Protesters against Grand Prix at Belle Isle worry about the environment
- ND: Supporters of Roosevelt National Park seek to block refinery
- NY: Cornell’s climate-conscious urban campus arises on Roosevelt Island
- WA: Dead minke whale washes ashore at Long Beach Peninsula
Here's a look at Trump's controversial management style:
Watch how Jared Kushner rose to power:
Tiger Woods got arrested on a DUI charge: