Q of the Week: Are You Optimistic About Mitigating Climate Change?

Andrew Harnik / AP
Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

On Thursday, President Trump decided to pull the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, an international pact that aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. This week, we asked our Politics & Policy Daily readers whether they are optimistic about the United States’ ability to address climate change. Here’s what they said.

Betsy Schneier, a Seattle resident, is confident that states like hers can make some progress on their own:

Recently I’ve asked the same question at fundraisers for various candidates:  Do you envision teaming up with other western states to protect values that Washington D.C. seems intent on destroying?  Every candidate, from governor to senator to attorney general, assures me that plans are already in place with neighboring states to form a buttress against the damage this administration has and will continue to cause.

This means that not only all three coastal states, but regions that stretch across the Rockies down to the Mexican border have already forged ties and will continue to make progress.

Vernon Kerr, a California resident, is similarly hopeful:

I was not optimistic until hearing Governor Jerry Brown of California being interviewed on MSNBC Thursday evening.  

As the world’s sixth largest economy, Brown pointed out, California is in a position to set a positive example by forging accords with Canada, Mexico, and China (and perhaps other nations) to move forward in the quest to minimize potential harm to humanity from impending climate change.

No pipe dream from “Governor Moonbeam,” the plan has the potential to actually have the same kind of positive impact on climate change as the “California compliant”car has had on the automotive industry.

Tom Lucas isn’t mourning the loss of the Paris agreement, because he believes that efforts in climate-change mitigation will actually be led by the private sector:

The government has politicized the issue to the point that a rational debate based on science is no longer possible. When you have the House Science Committee tweeting links to Breitbart articles that denounce scientific studies, we obviously cannot look to politicians to lead the way in this area.

Businesses and states will continue to work to lower carbon emissions, submits Jan Galkowski, for one self-interested reason:

Whether people want them to or not, solar and wind technologies, along with energy storage (not just batteries!) and demand response reduction are just going to annihilate fossil sources of energies, fuels, their networks, and the businesses which continue to rely upon them. States and businesses which are early adopters will control the marketplace and, as a consequence, have huge economic advantages over states which lag and impede.

That’s what’s so “amusing and painful” about Trump’s decision to withdraw, William Pierce argues:

Most of corporate America, including many energy companies, acknowledge climate change and have begun to take action. They know the consequences. The Trump administration seems 10 years behind the curve.