As Trump moves America backward on climate change, Texas can still move forward

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Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

Last Friday, President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord, a historic agreement among nearly every nation on Earth to work in tandem for the preservation of the planet. Only time will tell just how far President Trump’s abdication of American leadership will set this country back, both as an economic superpower and as a major player in the existential battle against climate change. But the symbolic significance of the president’s actions was immediately clear: once again America has turned its back on the rest of the world.

Where our national leaders have failed, the burden of moving the country forward now falls to state and local leaders. Indeed, what’s particularly frustrating about Trump’s brand of isolationism is how he insists on not just geopolitical removal, but also historical removal. It’s not enough to build walls and reject trade deals and impose tariffs; Trumpism must also move the United States backward in time.

During the second Bush administration, America lost eight years in the fight against climate change as the president wallowed in inaction bordering on negligence. The Obama administration took some important steps to make up for lost ground, such as enacting the Clean Power Plan and ensuring America’s participation in the Paris agreement. But President Trump has now undone both of these achievements. The U.S. once again seems destined for a climate dark age: four more years with its head buried in the sand, during a crisis in which every year counts.

But all is not lost. After Trump announced the withdrawal, the governors of Washington, California, and New York announced the formation of the U.S. Climate Alliance — a coalition of states aiming to meet the goals set by the Paris agreement and the Clean Power Plan. Nine more states have since joined the alliance, representing roughly one third of the nation’s population and GDP.

By GDP and population, Texas is the second largest state in the country, and the largest state that isn’t already part of this alliance. Gov. Abbott should commit our state to this effort to keep America moving forward. He would not be the first Republican governor to join the alliance: Vermont’s Phil Scott and Massachusetts’ Charlie Baker have already done so. But as the governor of the nation’s foremost red state, with nearly impeccable conservative credentials, Abbott would underscore the bipartisan nature of this initiative.

Texas already has the infrastructure to meet the emissions standards of the agreement. We’re the largest producer of wind power in the country, and one of the leading states in the production of solar power. As for the fossil fuel industry, many oil companies support the Paris accords, including Exxon Mobil, which is headquartered in Irving.

Even if Abbott pulls a Trump and refuses to confront the reality of climate change or sees that reality as an opportunity, other Texas leaders are already taking action. The mayors of Dallas, Austin, and Houston were among dozens who committed their cities to upholding the Paris agreement after Trump withdrew. They represent the Texan spirit of independence at its best: as the federal government tries to drag America backward, the Lone Star State can vow to move forward — and embrace a better future.

Groves is a philosophy sophomore from Dallas. He is a Senior Columnist. Follow him on Twitter @samgroves.