1. Opinion

Editorial: Under Trump, U.S. retreats on climate change, environment

As last week’s G-20 summit in Germany showed, President Donald Trump is increasingly isolated on the international stage. Instead of a leader, America under Trump is increasingly on the sidelines watching.
Published Jul. 12, 2017

President Donald Trump was scheduled to leave Wednesday night on his second European trip within a week. This is essentially a private visit at the personal invitation of French President Emmanuel Macron to enjoy Bastille Day. But as last week's G-20 summit in Hamburg showed, Trump is increasingly isolated on the international stage. Instead of a leader, America under Trump is increasingly on the sidelines watching.

In their final communique Saturday, leaders of 19 of the world's 20 biggest economies reaffirmed their commitments to address global warming, amplifying how fast and significantly the Trump administration has made the United States an outlier for its decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord. This was another setback for U.S. leadership and it compounds the damage Trump is causing with his backward environmental policy at home.

The statement by the Group of 20 and the adoption of an action plan for the 19 nations to meet their greenhouse gas emission targets was a victory itself, for it showed that the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris agreement would not scuttle the landmark accord. The leaders said they regarded the pact as "irretrievable," and while leaving a door open for Washington to return to the fold, they clearly framed the Trump administration as the sole major holdout in addressing man-made climate change.

With Trump resisting calls at home and abroad to be tougher on Russia, and to join Europe in expanding multilateral trade, the summit exposed sharp divisions between the United States and its postwar allies, and it showed a Europe more resilient and resigned to go it alone. Beyond the diplomatic niceties, Germany and France have signaled their intentions to depart publicly from Washington on a range of security and economic issues, from climate and trade to regional security. The meeting's host, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, opened the session by hailing the spirit of compromise but acknowledged: "We can also say we differ." Trump's complaint that the United States is taken advantage of in global trade deals and his seeming indifference to a strong, consistent embrace of NATO has made him a lone ranger within the alliance — and to America's detriment.

Nowhere is that more evident than on the issue of climate change. The leaders of France and Germany have used Trump's withdrawal as a rallying cry for energizing Europe. China, one of the world's heaviest polluters, responded to Trump's decision by positioning itself to become a world leader in clean-energy manufacturing and investment. For China, that will mean more jobs, expanded trade and newfound influence in the world. "Whatever leadership is," one French diplomat told the New York Times, "it is not being outvoted 19 to 1."

Trump's withdrawal from the global accord comes as his administration is seeking to reverse former President Barack Obama's environmental legacy on a broader front. In the four months that Scott Pruitt has headed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, he has moved to block, cancel or delay more than 30 environmental rules, a New York Times investigation found, a regulatory rollback that experts say is unprecedented in the agency's 47-year history. The agency is also moving to kill or weaken Obama's Clean Power Plan.

Trump is ceding America's clout on the international stage as other nations are filling the void, and he is shrinking from the environmental challenge at home just as cleaner energy promises to boost jobs, improve public health and reduce costs for consumers and businesses alike. The global community and major American corporations are right to recognize the Paris deal as a big step forward. The good news is other major players on the international front are not abandoning a key accord. But as the G-20 meeting showed, this is coming at a price to America's influence, among its allies and adversaries alike.


  1. Ayana Lage, 26, and Vagner Lage, 27, pose with a sonogram of their unborn child. Ayana writes openly about going through a miscarriage due to the baby having a rare genetic defect. She wonders why more women don't discuss their miscarriages. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    Sunday’s letters to the editor
  2. Kreshae Humphrey, 26, applies ointments to the skin of her 3-year-old daughter, Nevaeh Soto De Jesus, after bathing her in bottled water. The parents bathe all three of their girls with bottled water because they believe the children were sickened by the tap water at the Southern Comfort mobile home park off U.S. 19 in Clearwater. The family is suing the park's owner over the issue, but the owner and the state say there are no problems with the drinking water there. MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    The story of a Clearwater mobile home park and its water issues reflects a systemic breakdown.
  3. A long stretch of US 98 remains closed for repairs in Mexico Beach on Friday, September 27, 2019, almost one year after Hurricane Michael made landfall in the small coastal town. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Time is running out, so let’s get practical, says Craig Fugate
  4. Earlier today• Opinion
    FROM PRINT: Adam Goodman, national Republican media consultant
    Sure, fix capitalism’s flaws, but a wealth tax is not the way. | Adam Goodman
 CLAY BENNETT  |  Chattanooga Times Free Press
  6. A view of the downtown St. Petersburg skyline and waterfront from over Tampa Bay.
    The news that the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation wants to change its name to include “Tampa Bay” has been met with resistance.
  7. Catherine Rampell, Washington Post columnist.
    Allegations of political cowardice can seem rich coming from candidates unwilling to acknowledge the obvious truths about things such as higher taxes. | Catherine Rampell
  8. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., left, former Vice President Joe Biden, center, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., raise their hands to speak during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at Otterbein University, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
  9. Yesterday• Opinion
    Letters to the Editor Graphic TARA MCCARTY  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Saturday’s letters to the editor
  10. Boats docked at Central Marine in Stuart are surrounded by blue green algae in June 2016. [The Palm Beach Post]
    The Legislature should step up and stop pollution at its source, write Howard Simon and John Cassani.