Who’s going to lead on climate change?

(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star

It was not surprising that several Indiana elected officials’ quickly and unequivocally endorsed President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of an international agreement to curb global warming.

Congress members such as Reps. Larry Bucshon, Todd Rokita and Jim Banks, and Sen. Todd Young have routinely backed the president’s actions in his four chaotic months in office. So, when Trump announced he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Agreement, joining only Syria and Nicaragua, they roundly praised the move.

Young rightly noted Trump was following through on a campaign promise, even though that does not prove it is wise. Each congressman insisted the Paris pact would lead to job losses in America, give other nations unfair advantage and only reduce global warming by minimal amounts. Yet, the undercurrent of their objections to the deal also hinted at other reasons for their opposition.

First, this country’s inclusion in the accord with 194 of the planet’s 197 nations was driven by former President Obama, and erasing any actions by the 44th president remains an obsession of the 45th president and his party. Second, to support the Paris Climate Agreement those Indiana lawmakers would have to acknowledge climate change exists and poses a threat.

Rokita dismissively mentioned the topic, which is almost universally accepted in the scientific world. “Even if we could isolate global temperature changes as tied to human activity alone, nothing proposed in this agreement would have any meaningful impact on global temperatures,” Rokita asserted.

That attitude mirrors that of former Gov. Mike Pence, now the vice president, who predictably called Trump’s pullout “refreshing.”

Though the handful of Hoosier Democrats serving on Capitol Hill, particularly Sen. Joe Donnelly, criticized Trump’s choice, the blanket endorsement by the state’s Republican contingent is disappointing. Certainly, the future of Indiana jobs should be a high priority in an international agreement to encourage environmental responsibility.

Yet, the president’s removal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement does not guarantee a stable future job market in Indiana or other states with an economic legacy tied to coal energy. Instead, Trump’s move ignores market-driven changes in the states’ economies. Renewable energy employment has surged, with more than twice as many people working in that field than in coal mining last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

John Kasich, the Republican governor of neighboring Ohio, stated the realities concerning the pact that Indiana Republicans resisted. Kasich “wasn’t happy with the original agreement,” but emphasized, “Rather than withdrawing the United States from the climate agreement and relinquishing our historic role or world leadership, the Trump administration should have worked to improve the treaty within.”

Trump cited questionable statistics to support the pullout, saying the Paris plan would cost 2.7 million U.S. jobs by 2025. But the authors of the report he referenced, the American Council of Capital Formation and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, pointed out in its footnotes that the study was not a benefit-cost analysis of climate change and, thus, did not take into account possible economic and environmental benefits from avoiding harmful emissions, CBS News reported.

Indiana’s economy has diversified, and all of its fields of employment — from trade-transportation-utilities (the largest) to mining and logging (11th on the list) — should be taken into consideration by Hoosier public officials. Those same officeholders should remember the impact of cleaner air on Indiana residents.

And, those lawmakers should understand that when the United States backs out of an international agreement, America forfeits its opportunity to lead and guide changes in problematic situations, opening the door for other countries to do so.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to awoods@tribtown.com.