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Donald Trump just cemented his legacy as America’s worst-ever president

Posted on 1 June 2017 by dana1981

In an inexplicable abdication of any semblance of responsibility or leadership, Donald Trump has announced that he will begin the process to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate treaty, joining Nicaragua and Syria as the only world countries rejecting the agreement. It now seems inevitable that the history books will view Trump as America’s worst-ever president.

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris treaty is a mostly symbolic act. America’s pledges to cut its carbon pollution were non-binding, and his administration’s policies to date had already made it impossible for America to meet its initial Paris climate commitment for 2025. The next American president in 2020 can re-enter the Paris treaty and push for policies to make up some of the ground we lost during Trump’s reign.

However, withdrawing from the Paris treaty is an important symbolic move – a middle finger to the rest of the world, and to future generations. America is by far the largest historical contributor to climate change. Ironically, on the heels of Trump’s claim that most NATO members aren’t paying their fair share to the organization, America has announced that we won’t do our fair share to curb the climate change threats that we are the most responsible for.

The Rotting Republican Party

And the GOP has become the Party of Trump. His decision was reinforced by a letter from 22 Republican senators urging withdrawal from the Paris climate treaty. Those senators have coincidentally received over $10m in donations from the fossil fuel industry over the past five years.

Their reasoning was dubious at best, arguing that environmental attorneys will cite the international agreement in their efforts to prevent the Trump administration from eliminating President Obama’s Clean Power Plan. By law, the US government is required to regulate carbon pollution under the Clean Air Act, because it poses a threat to public welfare. The Republican Senators wrote:

Environmentalists will argue that these [Clean Air Act] Section 115 requirements are, in fact, met more easily by the Paris Agreement because it includes enhanced transparency requirements in Article 13, which establishes a process for nations to submit plans to reduce emissions to one another and then to comment on the plans of one another.

As National Resource Defense Council climate and clean air program senior attorney David Doniger explained to me, this argument is nonsense:

They are making things up. EPA did not rely on Paris to justify the Clean Power Plan, and none of the parties defending the Plan has cited Paris as a legal basis. On Clean Air Act Section 115, no one I know has made, or even thought of, this argument.

It’s difficult to discern the Republican Senators’ motivations behind this letter. Even big oil and coal and many of America’s largest companies supported America staying in the Paris agreement. Industries don’t like the uncertainty involved in lurching in and out of international treaties, and experts are concerned about the effect on America’s international influence from tearing up this critically important agreement that we helped broker less than two years ago, that was signed by nearly every world country.

Perhaps the Republican Senators are trying to ride Trump’s nationalist, anti-globalist coattails. Maybe they think that their right-wing base will be excited if they stick it to the rest of the world on Paris. However, majorities of voters in every single county in the US support regulating carbon as a pollutant, and 71% of Americans (including 57% of Republicans) think the US should participate in the Paris agreement.

In short, efforts to pull out of the Paris treaty are woefully misguided, and almost everyone knows it. Everyone except 42% of Senate Republicans including leader Mitch McConnell, James Inhofe, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and of course Trump’s senior advisor Steve Bannon and his EPA administrator Scott Pruitt. Additionally, the Koch brothers and Vladimir Putin are not fans of the treaty. Those two factors may best explain this decision by Trump and the Republican senators.

Good luck kids, you’ll need it

Political calculations aside, pulling America out of the Paris agreement is grossly immoral. Human-caused climate change puts the well-being of our children and grandchildren at risk. That’s especially true for poorer countries that lack the resources to adapt to its impacts, and that contributed the least to the problem. However, the move will also hurt the American economy, as Joseph Robertson wrote on these pages earlier this week:

With China, India, and the EU all moving toward record investments in clean energy and high-efficiency construction, transport and industrial production, withdrawal from the Paris Agreement risks making the US into an economic backwater. Withdrawal would effectively deprive American businesses and communities of the most efficient ways to boost investment, hiring, innovation, and return on investment.

Some Republican leaders are struggling to preserve their party’s credibility and viability. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) warned against the withdrawal. 20 House Republicans have now joined the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, whose goal is to craft economically beneficial climate policies that both parties can support. And a group of Republican elder statesmen including Secretaries of State and Treasury to Presidents Reagan, George HW Bush, and George W Bush met with the White House seeking support for a revenue-neutral carbon tax plan.

So far, these leaders’ laudable efforts have failed. Trump and the majority of Republicans in Congress are doing everything they can to increase American carbon pollution. They want to repeal all of America’s climate policies with no replacement plan. In short, they’re happy to let the world burn, and for our children and grandchildren suffer the consequences.

2020 election will be a climate referendum

This is the rotten state of today’s GOP. They’re happy to sell out the future of humanity for their own short-term political gain.

Click here to read the rest

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Comments 1 to 30:

  1. Trump ended the US participation in the charade that is the Paris Climate Accord. Even if the US and other signatories fulfilled their commitments it would make less than a 0.3 degrees Celcius difference by 2100, assuming one believes the models that have failed to reflect reality.

    The agreement requires no commitment at all from the world's number one emitter of CO2, China, until 2030. Trump is quite correct; The Paris Accord was a very poor deal for the US, even if you think increasing a benefial trace gas by one part in ten thousand is a problem.

    0 1
    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  This venue has a Comments Policy that all participants implicitly agree to abide by.  Please read it at length and formulate future comments to adhere to it.   Thanks!

    Sloganeering snipped.

  2. Sorry to have run afowl of the comment policy on "sloganeering".  Let's try again...

    The Paris Accord requires that China's CO2 emissions to continue upward until 2030 (Fact)

    Full compliance with the accord by all parties would not limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius (Fact)

    Trump fulfilled a campaign promise by withdrawing from the Paris Accord. (Fact)

    Millions of Americans elected him to change the direction of the US federal government (especially the EPA) with regards to climate change.

    I don't think there is any "sloganeering" in that remark.

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] To avoid claims of sloganeering you back your claims by providing links supporting your statements.

  3. Lancifer @2, none of what you say makes the Paris agreement a bad thing, or bad deal for America. In my opinion the agreement is a step in the right direction, and that is how good agreements start.

    America has much to gain by embracing renewable energy, as has been explained on this website numerous times, and this industry has already shown it can work well and provide low cost energy. That is also a "fact".

    Concessions to China were made for reasons, and not pulled out of some hat. In international agreements many compromises are inevitably made. That is also a "fact" . Nobody can get things all their own way.

    America is a huge emitter so some compromises are fairly expected from America. The irony is under Obama emissions were stabilising, and renewable energy was advancing without the huge economic costs and problems claimed by his detractors. So why Trump is making a fuss mystifies so many of us.

    Yes sure a few millions of Americans voted for trump to change direction regarding the epa, but by no means a majority. Public polling clearly shows a  clear majority of people want action on climate change, and other environmental matters, and this is also a "fact"  So why should a minority of climate denialists and people who hate the epa dictate the terms?

    Trump won't renegotiate the Paris deal. He doesn't care and has shown terrible negotiation skills on health care. 

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  4. Good article, and agreed on all points. This is about money in politics and excessive executive powers. American government has clearly and provably taken a turn towards ultra conservatism, general science denial, made up realities, and autocracy, and has virtually lost its mind.

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  5. The Paris Accord requires that China's CO2 emissions to continue upward until 2030 (Fact)

    Well no.  It ALLOWS China's emissions to continue upward.  China is making serious efforts to reduce them... unlike the USA. 

    Millions of Americans elected him to change the direction of the US federal government (especially the EPA) with regards to climate change.

    The negative 3% "majority" he enjoyed does not give him the right, or the moral authority, to cut the throats of future generations to allow the corporations that back denialism to continue to profit from the protection of the US Government.

    The moral authority would be lacking even if he had a real majority, as Jefferson pointed out at the birth of the nation.   Millions of Americans voted to revolt and get the swamp drained.  To their disappointment,  we see more and larger gators.

    He had the opportunity to save his Presidency by doing the right thing as the previous discussion here pointed out...

    He failed.   

    There is no science to back his statements.  There is desperately little economic support for them.  The only real support here is the lies from the corporatocracy and the continued well-being and power of the big contributors to Republican Campaigns, the CEI and Heartland.

     The US part of USA is gone now... it is the antagonistic states of A, the ASA,  more divided than at any time since the civil war and getting even more divided now I think.

    The polarization has increased to the point where I doubt that intermarriage between the two political parties can be successful.  

    We may be seeing the beginnings of a new species?  :-)   

    What fun... I wonder how long humans who intentionally adopt ignorance can survive?    

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] Please read and comply with the comments policy - no accusations of fraud.

    Fixed link. Please learn to create links yourself using the link tool in comment editor. Thanks.

  6. Two points 

    First - The paris accord is  a treaty.  The reality is that the worst Trump has done is to not submit the treaty to the senate for ratification.  The senate is not going to ratify the treaty any more than the senate was not going to ratify the treaty under Obama.  Same reason on why Kyoto was never submitted to the senate.  Very simply, the question of whether Trump did the right thing or the wrong thing is moot.

    Second - The best the paris accord was going to accomplish was less than .1c / or .2c ) by 2030 / 2100 vs the RCP 8.5 estimate.  Those amounts are way below the rounding error.  So tell us again, what the paris accord was really going to accomplish, other than symbolism?

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] "The best the paris accord was going to accomplish was less than .1c / or .2c ) by 2030 / 2100 vs the RCP 8.5 estimate.  Those amounts are way below the rounding error"

    Please provide a citation to a credible source for these claims.

  7. British Petroleum estimates there are 1.7 trillion barrels of oil left underground.  At $48/barrel that's about $80 trillion.  All of that could be rendered worthless if what China and Europe have begun catches fire globally (hint: China now subsidizes the purchasers of electric vehicles).  I don't think any formal agreement is needed to know that the owners of $80 trillion in assets, at existential risk of being declared worthless, will find a way to express their gratitude to Trump and the Republicans who support him  (BTW: that $80 trillion is just oil.  It doesn't include the value of natural gas and coal currently underground).

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  8. joe, both of your points are false.

    First - The Paris Agreement is not a treaty. Rather, it is an agreement amongst the signatories of the existing United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change treaty... which the U.S. senate ratified in 1992.

    Here is the statement President Bush made when signing the ratification

    Second - The 'only 0.2 C' canard is based on the initial reduction pledges. Those pledges are intended to be revised every five years... and thus greater reductions are not only possible under the Paris agreement, but likely. In any case, 0.2 C reduction in planetary temperature is not a "rounding error".

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  9. CB - the Paris accord is a treaty.

    The Volohk conspiracy ( a libertain law blog) has several good articles explaining why the Paris accord is a Treaty under the US Constitution.


    Article II , section II of the US Constitution.  

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  10. Country commitments should be expressed in per capita amounts as well as total. If China were split into North China and South China, the US would regain its position as the largest emitter.

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  11. Does anyone have any ideas as to how this decision might affect future projections for 2050 and 2100 - will there be a revised estimate?

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  12. Good summary =>

    That's where Trump was getting some advice from =>

    In briefing, White House official responds to question about whether Trump thinks climate change is real: "Can we stay on topic?" =>

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  13. Re 2: Lancifer.

    Individual nations have to take responsibility for their per capita carbon emissions. It frankly does not matter if another nation emits more than your nation, a nation takes the high moral ground by doing better than others, once you are doing better (emitting less carbon) then you can justify campaigning to get others to reduce theirs.

    Fact (World bank Stats emissions per capita data):

    China = 7.6 tons
    UK = 7.1
    US = 16.4
    EU = 6.7

    Basically this also implies inefficient use of energy, or wasted use of energy. You get a low emission rating by also using energy efficiently and hence spending less of burn fuels. Trump will drag the US into being less effective and efficient, whilst it's competitors develop new technology and exploit it.

    Alternatively US states and businesses will just ignore Trumps swamp and just carry on developing modern electric technology and renewable energy systems and the US coal industry will fade away as it should do and be replaced by real modern systems.

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  14. BTW hurray for the hero of America, Elon Musk, he is reality and a true pioneer, unlike Trump who just sells his name as a gold franchise.

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  15. As the opening sentence of this article states :

    "In an inexplicable abdication of any semblance of responsibility or leadership, Donald Trump has announced that he will begin the process to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate treaty,

    Under Article II, Section II of the US Constitution, all treaties required 2/3 consent of the Senate.   All Trump has done is not submit the treaty to the Senate for Ratification. Neither did Obama submit the treaty to the Senate, since neither the 114th Senate or the 115th senate was going to ratify the treaty.  

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] First, please provide the appropriate citations requested of you in this comment earlier.

  16. Joe @9, you appear to be claiming the paris agreement is really a treaty.

    Personaly I feel agreements like this should "ideally" be considered treaties, in an "ideal" world, with a vote in Congress or the senate. Alternatively maybe even a binding public referendum, if that is possible in your American system of government.

    However the senate would have obstructed Obama,and so he used executive powers "because he could" just as Trump has made huge use of executive powers, because he could.

    There is nothing in the constitution that says international agreements must be treaties. It only says that the president has the power to make treaties if he wishes.

    It is also debatable whether the Paris agreement is really a treaty, as has been pointed out by various people above. Given presidents can use executive powers it's all academic.

    The real issue here, which you and all your quoted sources have missed, is executive powers. If presidents can use these they probably will (examples Obama and Trump and virtually every president in history) and any criticism is rather impotent. I'm opposed to Trumps policies, and annoyed at the way Trump has used exective powers on some things, but in fairness he is not alone in using these powers. If you realy want to change anything, you have to change the law that governs the extent of executive powers.

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  17. Joe @15, you have missed the point. Nobody is really criticising Trump for making use of exective powers here today (although this may be raised in due course). They are calling him irresponsible for pulling out of the agreement, because of how this harms both America and global interests.

    Are you familiar with the concept the tragedy of the commons? The climate does not recognise international boundaries. When one country acts in a way that alters the climate, everyone potentially suffers. It's "neighbour from hell" material. This scenario has logically lead to the Paris agreement.

    In addition, Trump claims America gets a bad deal, and it hurts american business. This doesn't even remotely stand up to scrutiny, for example the study he quotes finding trillions in costs was funded by business and oil industry interests, and is based on all sorts of cherry picked data and assumptions, and has huge vested interests.

    Trump provides no evidence renewable energy destroys jobs. Renewable energy has already created jobs, in the governments own statistics, and if anything can get the 3% gdp growth Trumps wants, renewable energy would be that thing. 

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  18. Moderator - [DB] First, please provide the appropriate citations requested of you in this comment earlier.

    1) I cited Article II Section II of the US constitution. Any first year law student would recognize the citation as valid.

    2) The paris agreement is a treated as acknowledged in the first sentence of this very article.  

    3) your reference to providing a citation in comment #6 dealt with a different subject matter.  



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    Moderator Response:

    [DB]  All parties:  This user has recused themselves from further participation here.

  19. Nigelj - Trump provides no evidence renewable energy destroys jobs. Renewable energy has already created jobs, in the governments own statistics, and if anything can get the 3% gdp growth Trumps wants, renewable energy would be that thing.

    Nigelj - you brought up a subject which is off topic - However, how do you get an increase in GDP using renewable energy when the man hours is 20-30 times more than to produce the same quanity of energy using coal or gas.  

    For example this forbes article points out that solar employs more people than oil gas and coal combined.  How efficient is renewable when it employs more people to produce less than 3% of the electricity and power of gas, coal and oil.  GNP goes down,  not up, when costs of production go up.


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  20. joe @19, the Paris Agreement, as its critics are quick to point out, is non-binding.  It follows that it is not a treaty.  Its' legal standing in the US as a means to constrain government policy has always been non-existent, and that would not have changed even if it was called a treaty and the Senate ratified it because the asperations are non-binding.

    What Trump has done is simply told the world that he, as President, will not even aspire to reduce greenhouse emissions.  There is reason to question the title of this article, as if a purely symbolic gesture can make his record significantly worse when he as already taken the practical measures that will ensure that, so far as federal legislation goes, he is committed to massively increased emissions.  Arguing, however, that a non-binding, asperational statement is a treaty as if such a statement could have legal effect even if ratified is just silly.

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  21. #19 Joe 

    What is the comparison base?  Are we comparing the economic growth assuming that not only we do nothing to mitigate but also that, in contradiction of every scientific and economic evaluation of what is happening, there will be no climate related damage to the economy?  

    That is what Forbes and you just did. 

    The use of CO2 emitting sources of electricity is going to be incredibly un-popular when the consequences start happening.  This year we have the State of Georgia in difficulty with its Peach crop,  a trend that is just a continuation of the reality that the t-rump and his advisors deny.  A trend that is scientifically quite certain.

    As long as we maintain that "nothing bad will happen" it makes sense to do nothing to prevent it.  As soon as we recognize that there is a problem we no longer can use the "status-quo" is the basis for comparison.    When the use of Fossil Fuels becomes unacceptable, the alternatives we build now will be orders of magnitude more valuable, and their absence (in comparison with more foresighted nations) will be incredibly costly to our economy. 

    Basically, your comparison is false because your assumptions going in are false.  What is going to happen, is that there will, in 2030 to 2040, be a massive usable energy shortage and a realization that the t-rump, his advisors and the people who paid them were criminally irresponsible fools lacking ethics, logic and common sense, pursuing an ideological goal to the detriment of future generations.  

    If they are remembered, it will be as criminals.  If they are still alive they will be prosecuted, bankrupted and imprisoned... and the only reason that might not happen would be if the destruction being done to the USA as a result of this is more abrupt and complete than I personally expect.   

    What has been done is effectively treason, and the t-rump, his advisors and his allies in the Senate and House are guilty. 

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  22. Ouch... sorry guys... that link should have been done using the tool here...  

    Georgia Peaches?

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  23. Joe,

    You said, "For example this forbes article points out that solar employs more people than oil gas and coal combined. How efficient is renewable when it employs more people to produce less than 3% of the electricity and power of gas, coal and oil. GNP goes down, not up, when costs of production go up."

    Flawed economics. That's the economics of the plutocrasy. IE The richest man sitting on the pile of excrement. He's happy because even though the rest of the society is going to hell in a hand basket, at least his pile of bull shit is tallest.

    The rest of the country is happy as hell to have a good paying job in solar and/or wind. And economically it's far more beneficial to society to have a workforce employed in meaningful jobs like this. Just in reductions of external hidden costs it far exceeds the fat cat sitting on his pile of wealth making sure almost no actual working families gain any benefit at all. 

    The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats
    By NICK HANAUER July/August 2014

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  24. Joe @19, I wasn't off topic. The article is rather general about what Trump has just done and why, and I simply added to that. I admit you didn't raise that issue in your post, but I added ot on any way as its relevent to the article and might have been of general interest.

    Economic growth is just an increase in economic output, ie the production of goods and services. A big push towards renewable energy certainly has the potential to increase the rate of economic output,  just like a big push to build more roads etc. It will also create jobs, and become stimulatory for the economy as a whole.

    Your efficiency argument is something completely different. As has been pointed out by others, you have to evaluate that aspect, by considering costs and efficiencies of renewable energy against the full costs of doing nothing, etc. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [DB] The user to which you are responding to has recused themselves from further participation here.

  25. While I disagree rather strongly with Trump's current stance on AGW, to state that not persuing the Paris agreement (which would have been dead in the Senate anyways) equals being the worst President in history would be funny, were it not sad.   Has the author forgotton World War I, and Wilson's delusional League of Nation which was surely, really for sure this time outlaw war? Or the little dust-up a mere 150 years ago? 

    This is temporary, mostly symbolic annoyance. The rest of the world will go on with its plans to slow AGW as before, and in a bit, after some theatre, the US will join it. But the Paris treaty/agreement/whatever is not some holy writ, even if implemented in full it would only slow ACC and not halt, much less reverse it. 

    None of the current or proposed plans are likely to halt climate change; if the US and the rest of the world really wanted to do that, the time to start was around 1970.   The Greenhouse Effect has been known for over 200 years and CO2's approximate role for over 100. Neither were secrets known only to the USA. 

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  26. Mukesh Prasad - it appears I inadvertantly deleted your comment instead of moderating it. Try again but this time try stating your objection, on topic, backed with data and/or references to peer-reviewed science, and leave the sloganeering and attitude behind. Debate about science is very welcome but only if you are prepared to abide by comments policy of this site.

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  27. DrivingBy@25: Woodrow Wilson didn't start WWI, although he arguably ended it.  And the dust-up of 150 years ago was no fault of Lincoln's, but Slavery's.  Trump is not presiding over the worst hardship in our government (largely thanks, economically, to the 'African' who preceded him).  It's his remarkable ability to make a sow's ear out of a silk purse, that will render him the worst in history.  The Paris agreement mostly justified China spending half a trillion dollars on renewable energy in the six year we're centered in, and India making smaller but similar commitments to wean itself from coal.  It justified the over 90% of new electric power turned on last year in Europe that came from renewable sources.  All while 'requiring' remarkably little from America, other than fracturing more of its 'Heartland' for natural gas, and hiding the fugitive emissions from the Fed's (and the locals who will have to inhale them).  That's the definition of a 'win-win', and who couldn't put up with that?  The worst president in American history, that's who.

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  28. Moderator, there is something a bit odd. The article says 49 comments on your main home page, but only 26 are displaying above. I don't think its my computer, as it also happens on the smartphone. Just letting you know in case its a software problem. Or maybe some comments were deleted.

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    Moderator Response:


    Thanks. There seems to be a problem with the counts for a few recent posts. Have passed this on to be looked at.

  29. While it's true that T-man's latest action is just a symbolic gesture with no consequneces nor real difference to the level of mitigation in US, this gesture has a very strong stmbolic meaning that may influence the attitude of others. People are even affraid that the precedence of such unconditional exit of the biggest emitter from Paris accord may incline other nations to follow, including the dissolution of the entire agreement. But I hope other nation leaders are not as silly as not to see through the moronic principles ans behaviour of this Clown-In-Chief.

    Note that T-man, as he appears in the video, he really seems to believe that this decision is "the most important in the world". In his egotic self-glorification, he seriously thinks he's on a mission to "make America great", while people are, behind his back sometime even openly, laughing at his silly and empty proclamations. So, in this context, this latest action of T-man is just another such silly proclamation. No doubt as pationate move as his earlier moves, its destructive power though, lurks in his followers' minds. Like them or not, call them confused or "deplorables", he has many millions of followers who voted him in. Unfortunately his passion is very contagious and his followers believe what he says because they do not apply any scrutiny to his words like we do here. That process, which can be called deception on a massve scale (intentionally or not performed by T-man) is a dangerous process and it needs to be stopped or at least contained. And the strong symbolism of Paris feeds into that process. That's why I think Dana's article, including it's title is important as a rebutal of T-man's deceptive actions, even though eccesiasticaly the article and the title does make little sense.

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  30. Chriskoz, I interpreted the title of this article to mean Trump was considered the worst president ever on the basis of a combination of his climate policies and all his other policies. This is a reasonable assessment of him. The use of cementing his legacy implied to me the climate policies were the final brick in  the wall.

    I might have missinterpreted this, and its a wide position for the website to make. It would however be my own personal conclusion.

    But I think you are right about the rest of your comments such as "His passion is contageous and his followers uncritically follow." Trump is almost like those tele- evangilist ministers in his style of twisted rhetoric.

    Trumps supporters clearly all connect with Trump at some visceral level and speak the same langauge (mumbo jumbo more like it).

    Trump has pulled off a clever and devious if reprehensible move, he has united educated white business people who oppose business regulation and social security etc, and blue collar workers left behind, etc even though Trumps business agenda hurts blue collar workers in many ways. Trump has done all this by creating a common enemy "the estblishment elite" whoever they are, which he keeps deliberately unclear to keep the whole charade going. If he is too specific then his ruse falls apart.

    Trumps followers lack the ability to see they are being cleverly manipulated by a master of group psychology. The end result of the process is a good deal of general confusion, which will add to global moves towards increased nationalism and anti global cooperation.

    Trumps moves could weaken the Paris accord as well. Or will it? Trump is so monumentally crass and loud and generally offensive, he may drive the rest of the world further towards globalisation and The Paris Agreement!

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