“Will Sonoma have the nerve?”
That was the subject header of the email sent to me Friday by one of our writers who’d forwarded a link to website curbed.com, which featured a story about 83 U.S. mayors and city councils which had vowed to adopt the Paris climate accord after President Trump on June 1 announced the United States would pull out of the agreement, effective 2020.
It had only been a day since the President had explained that the U.S. would join Syria in opposing international climate action – uh huh, us and Syria – because he was “elected by voters of Pittsburgh, not Paris” and that the climate accord was, he says, killing raw-material energy sector jobs. And already the Mayor of Pittsburgh was vowing that “steel city” would adhere to the guidelines of the Paris agreement for the betterment of “our people, our economy and future.” So even a city that was dependent economically for more than a century on Appalachian coal mining doesn’t want to reverse course away from 21st century technologies toward a dirty energy economy that’s been waning for decades.
The email questioning Sonoma’s “nerve,” of course, was a private musing on the Sonoma City Council and, within that, a slight jab at city officials’ tepid response to the promised federal immigration crackdown on regions such as ours which claim to welcome migrants, documented or not.
But it’s a valid question nonetheless: Should states, counties or towns recognize – even unofficially – agreements or treaties with other sovereign states?
Clearly, if Sonoma did – it would be wholly symbolic. We’d join a list of cities that want to smite Trump’s decision, and that would basically be that. Our ability to meet the agreement’s goals at the local level – lower our greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 – is laughable and largely out of our control. Heck, the accords aren’t even binding for signee nations, most of whom are almost certain to fall short of the goals themselves.
But the Paris accords are an acknowledgment that something must be done about climate change – that some responsibility must be taken by the international community to mitigate humankind’s warming of the earth. Currently, 195 countries have signed on; with now three absconders. Only abstainee Nicaragua believes the accords don’t go far enough. Syria, meanwhile, is embroiled in a brutal civil war and an international pariah – its officials weren’t likely to make the Paris conference. Which leaves the U.S. as the only nation to back out of an international acknowledgment of likely future humanitarian crises on the basis of “it’s bad for business.”
And that’s why Sonoma should consider joining the 83 cities to adopt the accord – or, at least fashion some sort of resolution in support of it. Because President Trump’s mockery of the accords is in itself largely symbolic – and all that it symbolizes in ignorance and egocentrism is every bit as abhorrent as its potential imprudence. The administration could just as easily stayed in the Paris agreement and simply ignored its mandates. That action would have made few headlines, and gained or lost just as many energy sector jobs as would backing out of the agreement. Instead, by reneging on Paris last week with such pomp and fanfare the administration was not only using the concept of American inegalitarianism to score political points with its xenophobic base, but – and this is far worse – made climate-science denial official national policy.