Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris Agreement has drawn near-universal opprobrium from leaders across the globe. In perhaps the most forceful rebuke of the United States thus far, French president Emmanuel Macron addressed the world in English Thursday, urging American scientists to come to France where their talents can better serve humanity. For the New York Times’ Paul Krugman, Trump’s withdrawal from a climate pact signed by 195 countries is even more blinkered, malicious and cynical than it might first appear.
In his Friday column, Krugman debunks the president’s claim that the Agreement is a hindrance to the U.S. economy. The country’s energy future is not in the coal industry, which has been in steep decline for decades and is now beyond revival, but in nonpolluting sources like wind turbines and solar panels. The transition would take time and likely require the construction of a massive power grid to transport electricity across the country, as well as dynamic pricing to incentivize customers to consume less energy, he argues, but its effect on our day-to-day existence would be virtually nil.
“What would life in an economy that made such an energy transition be like?” Krugman asks. “Almost indistinguishable from life in the economy we have now.”
In fact, there’s every reason to believe that adopting clean energy would save the country money by dramatically reducing the health costs associated with air pollution, to say nothing of potentially preserving human life on Earth. Environmentalists unanimously urged the president to honor the Paris Agreement, however toothless its regulations have proven; even major corporations like ExxonMobil, Shell and Wal-Mart wanted him to stick with it.
So what compelled Trump to act so recklessly?
The answer, incredibly, appears to be “sheer spite”—aimed at Barack Obama, who helped broker the accord, and the entire liberal establishment that supports it.
“If all this sounds too petty and vindictive to be the basis for momentous policy decisions, consider the character of the man in the White House,” Krugman concludes. “Need I say more?”