The Politics of Poverty

Ideas and analysis from Oxfam America's policy experts

The Bachelor: International Climate Edition

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Group photo of G7 leaders at the 43rd G7 summit: Donald Tusk, Justin Trudeau, Angela Merkel, Donald Trump, Paolo Gentiloni, Emmanuel Macron, Shinzō Abe, Theresa May, Jean-Claude Juncker. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Who will get Trump’s final rose?

Courtney Hinkle is the Campaigns Advisor for Climate at Oxfam America.

Last week, the global climate community was awaiting with bated breath the final decision from the Trump administration about the fate of the United States and the Paris climate agreement. At the G7 meeting, a last ditch effort was staged by world leaders to persuade President Trump to agree to language in the final G7 Communique in support of the agreement.

President Trump, in a rebuke of those efforts, declined to endorse any language on climate change, and instead tweeted: “I will announce my decision about Paris next week!”

And just today, even as White House officials confirmed that he is likely to announce his withdrawal from the agreement, he tweeted:“I will be making my decision on Paris over the next few days!”

Once again, he keeps the world waiting – the ultimate suspense story. Will the US finally withdraw? Who from his inner circle will make it happen? Will it be the isolationist Steve Bannon, or the “globalist” Jared Kushner? We will all have to tune in to find out!

Trump’s approach to foreign policy seems more that of a reality TV star than reflective of serious policy deliberation. It’s like this Administration is producing an episode of the Bachelor, and we are all left to guess who will get the rose.

And this story has certainly had all the makings of a juicy episode. Anyone who has watched the show knows that the show’s producers know just how to weave a tantalizing storyline – striking the right balance of authentic and absurd. There are inner-house rivalries between factions of contestants. A dedicated following of loyal bloggers has been built up to push out pre-emptive and post-mortem analysis of each episode, spinning the latest drama.  Each week, it’s a power play to see who has moved up in the rankings toward receiving that elusive rose.

This should not come as a surprise to anyone that a former reality star would run his Administration like a ratings-focused enterprise.  Naturally, President Trump has played-up his openness to being persuaded on the Paris agreement as an invite for everyone interested to plead their case – and so leading CEOs, heads of state, and other interest groups have all showed up to the cocktail party and tried to put their best-selves forward so that they may be judged worthy of a rose.

And at this point in the Paris drama, we are all watching the classic episode on The Bachelor where the one absurd character – a favorite tactic of the producers to ensure maximum drama (like, could s/he really be so clueless to pick that person??) – is finally being exposed by the “good” faction of contestants. And yet, the Bachelor seems impervious to their warnings and remains blind to any flaws this person may have.

The parallels are striking. President Trump, despite every warning and every plea from rational actors, including heads of state, CEOs, military leaders, and even the Pope, is still unconvinced that he shouldn’t give the fossil fuel industry the final rose.

But of course, this isn’t about roses. And the withdrawal of the Paris agreement shouldn’t be a dramatic saga played out for maximum TV ratings.

Climate change is a global challenge of historic proportions, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Never before have the impacts of a changing climate felt so acute. Every year, NASA reports that it’s – yet again – the hottest year on record.  We’re seeing severe droughts around the world that were likely made more extreme by climate change, and epic floods closer to home, from Baton Rouge to Ellicott City, MD, have devastated entire communities, straining local resources, displacing thousands, and hitting the most vulnerable the hardest.

If we get it right, maybe we get to keep a habitable planet. If we don’t, billions of people will suffer unnecessarily.  Here’s hoping that President Trump does the right thing and hands the rose to future generations, not the fossil fuel industry.

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