PORT ANGELES — Olympic Climate Action members joined hands and observed a moment of silence.
The 29 citizens in the circle mourned President Donald Trump’s decision to fulfill a campaign promise and withdraw from the Paris climate accord, a move that won’t be formally in place until 2020.
Climate Action members held a Friday vigil at the Richard B. Anderson Federal Building in downtown Port Angeles.
“Extremely disappointing,” member Ed Bowlby said of the Trump administration’s decision to eschew the 2015 environmental agreement signed by 195 nations. “Very disappointing for us now, and more so for future generations.”
Searching for a silver lining, Bowlby said that cities, states and the general public were “stepping into the void left vacant by the Trump administration” in upholding the Paris accord.
Gov. Jay Inslee, for example, has joined with governors in California and New York in announcing a multi-state alliance that will work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“It won’t be as sufficient [as the Paris accord], but it’s at least showing the rest of the world that our country is still in the game, that we’re still trying to do as much as we can,” Bowlby said.
“Even some corporations are advising the administration, saying, ‘We don’t accept this.’ ”
Local 20/20, a Jefferson County organization focused on local sustainability and resiliency, was “appalled” by Trump’s decision to leave the Paris agreement, according to a prepared statement provided to the Peninsula Daily News.
“The impacts of climate change are becoming ever more obvious in the Pacific Northwest, with warmer temperatures, drier summers, reduced snowpack and a more acidic ocean,” Local 20/20 said, citing the North Olympic Peninsula Resource Conservation and Development council’s 2015 Climate Change Preparedness Plan for the North Olympic Peninsula.
“And right here on the Olympic Peninsula, glaciers are disappearing at an alarming rate, from 266 in Olympic National Park in 1982 to 184 in 2009.
“At a time when we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and prepare for impacts from climate change, Trump’s action moves us in the opposite direction,” the statement continued.
“By withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, Trump is making the U.S. a pariah and isolating us from the international community when global cooperation is needed most.”
Some applaud move
Some on the Peninsula praised Trump’s action.
“I think it [the Paris accord] is a bad deal,” said Jon Cooke, chairman of the Jefferson County Republican Party. “We need to make it better and not give up on our environmental progress. Yet we shouldn’t be suffering for China not to have to do anything or for India to get paid.”
In announcing his decision, Trump referred to China and India, saying China would not have to cut emissions for 13 years and that India expects money from developing countries.
In the accord, China has committed to a peak of carbon dioxide emission at about 2030, according to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. It also said that China agreed to lower carbon dioxide intensity — carbon dioxide emissions per unit of gross domestic product — increase non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to about 20 percent and increase forest stock volume by around 4.5 billion cubic meters from the 2005 level.
India set a goal of producing 40 percent of its electricity with non-fossil fuel sources by 2030. It also has agreed to cut carbon dioxide intensity by 33 percent to 35 percent from 2005 level over 15 years and increase forest cover.
In his comments, Trump referred to the Green Climate Fund, “which is costing the United States a vast fortune.”
The U.S. committed up to $3 billion for the fund to help poorer counties address climate change.
“As a taxpayer,” Cooke said, “our money is going to a bad deal.”
Cooke added that he thinks climate change is happening, “but I don’t think the human part is as much as it’s being said.”
His Clallam County counterpart also praised Trump’s decision.
“My initial response is I agree with his reasoning on pulling out,” said Matthew Rainwater, chairman of the Clallam County Republican Party. “From what I understand, the Paris accords were not in the best interests of the United States.”
Rainwater said the U.S. is doing more now to cut emissions than some other nations.
“We’re dealing with clean coal more than ever before, we’re using natural gas, we have cleaner cars. Other countries aren’t doing anywhere near as much as we are.”
China led in a 2015 estimate of carbon dioxide emissions released by the European Commission and Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency with 29.1 percent of the world’s emissions. The U.S. was second with 14.34 percent but was highest per capita, with 16.1 percent per person to China’s 7.7 percent. The European Union was third in total emissions at 9.62 percent, while India was fourth with 6.81 percent.
Rainwater doesn’t see that the U.S. will lose influence over climate change politics.
“We’re the most powerful country in the world, and we’re only going to get stronger under President Trump,” he said. “Inevitably we will have influence whether we’re in the accord or not.”
Rainwater summed it up: “It’s not the end of the world, as everybody wants to make it out to be.”
Other political leaders, as well as tribal leaders, expressed disappointment in the president’s decision.
“I think that abdicating our international leadership is a tragedy,” Clallam County Commission board Chairman Mark Ozias said. “I fear that we are giving up our opportunity to be leaders and innovators in the energy economy of the future.”
Ron Allen, chairman and CEO of the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe, described the administration’s move as “very short-sighted.”
“All of us in Indian Country are extremely disappointed about the decision,” Allen said Friday. “We feel that [Trump] really doesn’t understand what the Paris agreement is about, and what it means to the United States, including Indian Country.”
The Paris agreement is about being prepared for the impacts of climate change on a local level, Allen said.
Impacts of climate change will include rising sea levels and water tables in low-lying communities of the North Olympic Peninsula, according to the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s 2013 climate vulnerability assessment and adaptation plan.
“Like many throughout America, we’re going to live up to the principles and the intent of the Paris accord, which is really looking for a commitment to renewable energy resources,” Allen said.
“It’s also to encourage political leadership,” Allen added, “to make decisions related to those changes that we see coming over the next 20 to 50 years.”
The Quileute tribe, which is working to move its village to higher ground, said in a statement that its “perilous location at the edge of land and sea” in La Push “means our daily lives are regularly impacted by extreme weather and flooding due to climate change, as well as earthquake and tsunami threats.
“It is more imperative than ever that we continue our efforts to relocate our tribal school and other facilities to safety and out of harm’s way.
“Moreover, as Native people that rely on subsistence fishing and hunting, the Quileute Tribe and other coastal communities will be disproportionately harmed by the decision to leave the Paris climate accord.”
Susan Devine, project manager for the Quileute’s Move to Higher Ground project, said the effort will “not be slowed or changed due to U.S. federal administration policy decisions regarding the Paris climate accord.”
“We cannot afford to lose focus or time,” Devine said.
The Quinault Tribe on Saturday issued a joint statement with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska supporting the Paris climate accord.
“Regardless of President Trump’s ill-advised abandonment of the Paris Agreement, we will carry on,” said Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation. “We just have too much at stake.”
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at [email protected].
Executive Editor Leah Leach can be reached at 360-417-3530 or at [email protected].