Scientists comment on the US withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement

For researchers working to tackle climate change, the decision is both a blow and a source of motivation.

Ted Scambos is Lead Scientist for the US National Snow and Ice Data Center's Science Team.

“The decision is one of the worst foreign policy mistakes in memory for the United States. It essentially tells the world that we are abdicating any leadership role in the community of nations. Rather than cooperating with all nations to recognize our common dependence on a stable and sustainable Earth, our President has said that our competitive edge and unfettered capitalism is more important to us.

“And yet on the bright side, the reaction within the country was heartening. City after city, state after state, and industry after industry came out with strong statements against the decision—with impressive, bold rhetoric behind them—saying that, independent of the President’s decision, they will continue to pursue a sustainable future. It was particularly pleasing to hear the mayor of Pittsburgh point out that Mr. Trump was in no way representing Pittsburgh's interests. As researchers continue to show over and over again that there have been real consequences to blind use of fossil fuels, the people of the US have in fact listened. As I’ve noted before, entrepreneurship and the simple ethics of doing the right thing will ultimately beat the forces of the status quo.”


"As researchers continue to show over and over again that there have been real consequences to blind use of fossil fuels, the people of the US have in fact listened." - T. Scambos

Lawrence Krauss
is a physicist at Arizona State University and a public science advocate. He is a co-founder of ScienceDebate, a campaign for a presidential debate on science, tech, health, and environmental issues.

“I am not sure of the actual ecological consequences of the decision to withdraw from the Paris Accord, which had no real teeth. Especially if local and state authorities to do what common sense dictates and continue to promote new technologies to move toward renewable energy sources. What concerns me more is seeing this as part of a concerted effort on the part of the Trump administration to move the US out of a leadership role in technological and economic terms. By arguing that the government will not promote what will be a huge economic engine in this century, namely new energy technologies, he is essentially accelerating what seemed an inevitable trend: for China and Europe to become the world economic and technological leaders, with the US moving to the back of the pack. My major concern is that leaves the US with one major export: arms. How the country responds to becoming an also-ran nation given this reality is of some concern.

“Regarding my own research in particle physics and cosmology, the US has been a leader in this area in part because the best students from around the world come to study here.  If technological leadership in general moves abroad, it will hurt our ability here to attract the best students, and that will have a negative impact.”


Sander van der Linden is a social psychologist at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Cambridge Social Decision-Making Lab. 

“Institutions such as the United States government have the opportunity to signal to the public what’s important. Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement displays a complete and utter disregard for the future of our planet and the health and security of Americans and citizens worldwide. Research from my colleagues at Yale University earlier this month shows that a majority of US registered voters across all states, and about half of Trump supporters specifically, support participation in the Paris Agreement. It is therefore clear that with this decision, Trump has directly acted against the American people and against the interests of his nation and the international community.”


"Whilst this decision has absolutely no direct impact on the science of my research, it does increase my motivation." - D. Renyolds


Mary Albert is a professor of engineering at Dartmouth College and is Executive Director of the National Science Foundation's US Ice Drilling Program Office. 

"It is very disappointing that the President of the United States has chosen to turn his back on global, non-binding efforts to limit the impact of climate change on us, our children, and our grandchildren. With the current huge potential for innovation in renewable energy technology, an ever-growing demand for energy, and economic prosperity as the result, it is irresponsible of him to discourage our global efforts."


Frank Biermann is Chair of the Earth System Governance Project, a global research project at Utrecht University.

“The bottom line of global warming is clear: No country is an island. Walls don’t help. Ignorance is no solution. If the United States withdraws from global climate collaboration, all other nations need to collectively protect our common future.”


David Reynolds is a postdoctoral researcher at Cardiff University’s School of Earth and Ocean Science.

"First and foremost, it is extremely disappointing that Donald Trump has decided to pull out of the Paris Agreement. Given his persistent anti-science rhetoric this decision is sadly not surprising. However, coming from the second largest producer of CO2 emissions, it clearly is a significant blow to a unified global response to constraining the impacts of climate change. That said, it is positive to see politicians from around the world coming out in unilateral support of the Paris accord and limiting the warming to below 2°C. The onus in America now falls onto state level politicians, individuals and businesses to make up for the failings of the current White House administration and step up to climate change. Whilst this decision has absolutely no direct impact on the science of my research, it does increase my motivation to continue improving our understanding of how the climate system works, and what the likely response will be to continuing anthropocentric influence over the coming decades to centuries."

Featured image courtesy of Karsten Würth.