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HILLSBOROUGH: Leaving climate agreement is a blow to the nation and the world

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To the editor:
Our 45th president announced last week that the United States will be withdrawing from the Paris Agreement. In typical Trumpian fashion, he complained that the deal “punishes the United States” and is too lenient on India and China, the “world’s leading polluters” (also, of course, two countries whose combined populations make up 36 percent of all humans on Earth).
The refusal of the current administration and of the Republican Party in general to take any meaningful action on climate change is no doubt a blow to the future of the nation. But this particular refusal may end up accelerating the country in a greener direction and allow us to finally see some real results.
When the US was an official part of the climate agreement, the people and the states could rest assured that somewhere, something was being done to mitigate the crisis. But assurance breeds complacency. The thought of a protective umbrella like the Paris accords allows state legislators and governors to relax and shifts the burden off their shoulders.
But the moment the president made his announcement in the Rose Garden, the illusion of action dissolved — and hopefully, so has the unresponsiveness that has permeated American politics for the past two decades. The beauty of our federal system is that the central government’s action, or inaction, is not the end-all-be-all. Not only have several states (following the lead of New York, California, and Washington) pledged their commitment to the Paris goals, but so have tech giants like Amazon, Apple, and Google. Elon Musk and Disney chairman Bob Iger resigned from their positions on White House advisory councils. With what was meant to be a triumphant “make America great again” move, President Trump may have given the heretofore lackluster environmental lobby the spark it needs to begin making some real change.
What has New Jersey been doing amid this chorus of promises? While California governor Jerry Brown has been signing deals with Chinese president Xi Jinping to emphasize green technologies, Governor Christie has made no mention of the US Climate Alliance organized by New York, California, and Washington, and he has offered support, albeit tepid, for the President’s decision. This is not surprising, seeing as our governor has already twice vetoed rejoining a regional initiative to reduce pollution from power plants, and is expected to veto a third time in the coming days.
Is it possible for Christie to find in himself the same political savvy that led him to cooperate with President Obama in the wake of Superstorm Sandy nearly five years ago? At that time, he recognized the severity of the problem and responded appropriately — his approval rating jumped to over 70 percent. Why is he so reluctant to act now? Maybe someone should tell him that climate change can erode New Jersey’s shoreline and cause billions in damage, and that storms like Sandy will only become more common from now on.
Today we head into the gubernatorial primaries, but there is still a long way to go until it is time for Chris Christie to officially step down. If Christie rides out the rest of his governorship the way he has been doing since his failed presidential bid, it will not be until January 16 of next year that we join the rest of the nation in fighting the ravages of climate change.
Joyce Lu
Hillsborough

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