Posted by on June 3, 2017

The Paris Agreement on Climate Change took 20 years to negotiate. In spite of all the discord, fighting, war, famine, disease, and discontent around the globe, nearly every nation in the world came together to achieve one goal.

“The Paris Agreement’s central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees.” – United Nations

President Trump, consistent with his campaign pledge, has decided to pull the U.S. out of the the Paris Agreement. The President claims it’s bad for the U.S. economy, but numerous Fortune 500 companies have spoken out in support of staying in the Agreement.

Berkshire Hathaway
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Dow Chemical Co.
Gap, Inc.
General Electric Co.
Goldman Sachs
The Hartford
HP Enterprise
Intel Corporation
Johnson & Johnson
JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Levi Strauss & Co.
Morgan Stanley
PG&E Corporation
Tiffany & Co
Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk
Wells Fargo

Even Exxon Mobil, the world’s largest oil company, wants action on climate change. The company’s CEO wrote a personal letter to Trump urging him to stay in the Paris Agreement.

“ExxonMobil recognizes the risks posed by climate change and believes that everyone – including gas companies-should engage in meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” – statement give to HBO’s series Vice

Contrary to President Trump’s assertions, the CEO’s believe staying in the Agreement will, among other things, grow the economy by “expanding markets for innovative technology.” They also claim it will help minimize any “harm” to business operations and facilities.

“U.S. business interests are best served by a stable and practical framework facilitating an effective and balanced global response. We believe the Paris Agreement provides such a framework.” CNBC

The impact of climate change on businesses, energy, and the world economy is so far reaching Bloomberg Media devoted an entire website,,” to covering it. The site even has a story called “How Do You Save the Statue of Liberty From Drowning?” 


After Trump made the announcement to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, the backlash from business leaders was swift.

“Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Lloyd Blankfein took to Twitter for the first time ever to express disapproval. . . Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger and Tesla Motors Corp. founder Elon Musk both withdrew from a presidential jobs panel. And such blue-chip U.S. titans as General Electric Co., Ford Motor Co., Dow Chemical Co. and Microsoft Corp. were among companies weighing in with their dismay.” –  Bloomberg, “Blankfein Tweets, Iger Quits Trump Council in CEO Climate Fury” 

How can we reconcile Trump’s rationale for withdrawing from the Paris Agreement when so many business leaders want to stay in it? The Washington Post shed light on some of the errors of fact in Trump’s announcement speech on Thursday in its piece “Fact-checking President Trump’s claims on the Paris climate change deal.” 

“President Trump frequently relied on dubious facts and unbalanced claims to make his case that the agreement would hurt the U.S. economy. Notably, he only looked at one side of the scale-claiming the agreement left the United States at a competitive disadvantage, harming U.S. industries. But he often ignored the benefits that could come from tackling climate change, including potential green jobs.” 

Meg Whitman, CEO of Hewlett Packard Enterprise, told CNBC that withdrawing from the agreement puts the high-tech job market at risk.

“This is not in the best interest of Americans. We need to own the next generation of jobs, and whether that’s clean energy, 3-D printing or immunotherapy, this is an arena that America should lead and must lead.” CNBC

Most national security organizations around the world believe that the effects of climate change could cause destabilization and threaten world security. A group of 214 institutional investors with more $15 trillion of assets wrote a letter urging Trump to reduce the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions.

“As long-term institutional investors, we believe that the mitigation of climate change is essential for the safeguarding of our investments,” according to the letter. “We urge all nations to stand by their commitments to the [Paris] Agreement.”Reuters 

When extreme weather wreaks havoc, the world’s insurers foot the bill. According to Business Insurance, U.S. property/casualty insurers can handle a typical hurricane season, but a “major catastrophic hurricane could change that.”

“Over time, the adverse effects of climate change could threaten economic resilience and financial stability.” – The Guardian 

What would happen to the world economy if insurers stopped insuring property deemed too risky?

“As climate-related risks occur more often and more predictably, previously insurable assets are becoming uninsurable, or those already underinsured are further compromised.” –  University of Cambridge 

The headline sounds dramatic, but it’s not that far off. If the countries in the Paris Agreement met their goals, the sea levels will still rise by a minimum of two feet. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but in Miami, for example, it could mean constant flooding. Miami is at sea level, and the city is already experiencing sunny day flooding. If the sea rises, lower-lying areas of the city will be uninhabitable.

Miami is in the unique position of figuring out how to function as a healthy city in spite of the fact that sea water is literally flooding its streets. Miami’s city leaders are grappling with issues like who pays the costs associated with infrastructure repairs needed to protect the city from flooding. Will it be the taxpayers? For Miami’s mayor, Philip Levine, the financial impact of climate change is a daily challenge.

“Sea-level isn’t the subject of partisan debate when you can see it flooding your streets and threatening your livelihood. . . In the end, this is not about winning an argument, but about solving an urgent problem.” – Philip Levine, mayor, Miami Beach in a an-op piece for the Miami Herald 

Broadway Harewood, a real estate investor in Miami, told Scientific American:

“Oh, Miami Beach is going under, the sea level is coming up. So now the rich people have to find a place to live. My property is 15 feet above sea level, theirs is what? Three under? 

Jesse Keenan is a lawyer who teaches climate change adaptation at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.

“Everybody I know that is a small owner of real estate that isn’t within the billionaire class — average middle-class, upper-middle-class Miamians who have real estate on the beach — is in the process of selling their properties and moving to the mainland,”  Scientific American

Keenan believes people may start making real estate decisions based on climate change realities. He calls it “climate gentrification.”

“To be on the beach and to be on the water costs a lot more money, and the cheaper parts of town were furthest from the beach-but it just turns out that the cheapest parts of town farthest from the beach are the highest elevation, and now they’re worth a lot more than they used to be.” Scientific American 

Even Trump’s lavish Mar-a-Lago estate is at risk, due to its close proximity to rising tides. According to the Boston Globe,

“In South Florida, scientists are warning public officials to plan for nearly 7 feet or more of sea level rise by the end of the century, a nightmare prospect that would effectively drown most of Palm Beach and make Mar-a-Lago a kind of Atlantis.” 

It’s clear that if left unmanaged, the effects of climate change will have a tremendous impact on cities, businesses, insurers, real estate, as well as the U.S. and global economy. The United Nation’s secretary general, Antonio Guterres, made this plea at a press conference last week before President Trump made his announcement.

“[E]ven if (the) U.S. government decides to leave the Paris Agreement, it’s very important for the U.S. societies as a whole-for the cities, the states, the companies, the businesses- to remain engaged with the Paris Agreement.”

It seems they got the message.

“Industry must now lead and not depend on government.” – GE’s Jeffrey Immelt

Johnson & Johnson will “continue to work with global coalitions and governments around the world to prove low-carbon solutions and actions that mitigate environmental impact and advance public health” – Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky

California Governor Jerry Brown is leading by example. Brown is in China this week in an effort to build support for the state’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions.

“It’s important for the world to know that America is not Washington. . . Yes, we’re part of the union, but we’re also a sovereign state that can promote the necessary policies that are required for survival.” KCRA

The California state Senate recently passed a bill that sets a goal of 100 percent clean renewable energy statewide by 2045.

“It’s the most ambitious target in the world,” State Senate President Kevin DeLeon, D-Los Angeles, said. “We are showing the way forward and we are sending a clear message to the rest of the world.”

Syria and Nicaragua are the only two countries in the world to reject the Paris Agreement. Syria is engaged in a civil-war and Nicaragua has said that the Paris Agreement doesn’t go far enough to curb emissions. The United States is the world’s second largest carbon emitter behind China and is now one of only 3 nations in the world to withdraw its international commitment to reducing carbon emissions as part of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

University of Cambridge – “ClimateWise launches two reports that warn of growing protection gap due to rising impact of climate risks.”
National Association of Insurance Commissioners – “Climate Change and Risk Disclosure”
CNBC- “Why CEOs want Trump to keep the United States in the Paris Agreement”
CNBC – “UN secretary general stresses importance of Paris Agreement, highlights concerns over security”
Scientific American – “High Ground Is Becoming Hot Property as Sea Level Rises”
Media Matters – “Here are the oil and coal companies, Fortune 500 corporations, and Republicans who want to stay in the Paris Agreement” 

Feature image courtesy of gckwolfe on Flickr @Creative Commons

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  1. Concerned
    June 3, 2017

    This is embarrassing for this country. But sadly embarrassment will be the least of our worries with Mr. Trump.

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