The threat of planetary annhilation makes strange bedfellows. As luminaries like Elon Musk and Disney CEO Bob Iger resign from Trump’s transition team, Democrats have seemed nearly apoplectic about the Trump’s decision to remove America from the Paris Agreement. And while they’re not exactly defecting en masse, some on the right are questioning Trump’s decision. (Of course, defecting is, at the time of writing, purely symbolic.)
In 2017, it seems strange that global warming is a partisan issue. But it is, often owing to the fact that amending emissions practices is perceived to hurt industry and raise taxes. Still, more moderate Republicans have broken the lockstep of the current administration to voice their protest. As Republican Senator Susan Collins said yesterday in a tweet,, “Climate change requires a global approach.”
In the House, there is a bipartisan effort with the Climate Solutions Caucus, which is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. (Notably, out of the list of 20 Republicans, only eight have vocally taken a stand against Trump’s decision.) Former Presidential candidate John Kasich, colloquially referred to as a “Never Trumper,” also had harsh words for the abandonment of the accord. His camp has referred us to his Facebook page, where he says this:
“Let’s be clear. I wasn’t happy with the original agreement, especially in light of the Obama administration’s failure to work with Republicans in Congress on terms acceptable to both parties. But, I know that climate change is real. It is a global issue and will need a global agreement to address. And we could have negotiated that agreement in ways that would not needlessly destroy jobs.”
The party line of Republicans who reject Trump’s decision is pretty clear: The Agreement wasn’t perfect, but by not signing it we lose our seat at the table.
Republican politicians have had an easier time criticizing Trump’s dismissal on the state level. Mayors, governors and state senators have more freedom to act—this is the party of state’s rights, after all. Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer of San Diego has affirmed his committment to the accord, along with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker. These are just gestures. Despite more or less constant whinging, no Republican has made a meaningful stand against a man that bragged about sexually assaulting women, insults members of his party routinely, and seems determined to remove the United States from its place as the leader of the free world.
The decision for these elephants to break stride isn’t just moral—a literal, if shrinking, iceberg is heading this way—but it is also good for optics. The Paris Agreement, positioned by pundits as highly symbolic, enjoys relative popularity across the spectrum. Supporting it won’t just put Republicans on the right side of history, but also on the right side of voters when they are up for re-election. They’ll also be on the right side of the United States economic future, which clearly lies with renewable energy and not coal.
Meanwhile, the president is playing a deliberate game: He managed to appease his anti-globalist, populist base, but he didn’t specifically echo his old claim that global warming is a Chinese hoax. This puts his fellow Republicans in a tight spot: either agree with his short-sighted and unpopular decision to reject the global initiative, or go against their own party. Either way, there isn’t much winning to be done—unless they can actually pin their leader down on his beliefs and plans to affect change.