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COMMENTARY: President accidentally moves Americans to action on climate change

A curious thing happened on President Trump’s way out of the Paris climate accord. American mayors, governors, corporate leaders and others immediately committed to meeting the agreement’s terms, anyway.

All politics is local, they say, and personal responsibility begins at home. Hasn’t this always been one of the operating principles of conservatism and anti-federalism? It is but a hop and a skip from opposing the concentration of federal power to the perceived concentration of power in other nations that many Americans view as NOCD — Not our class, dear.

That these localized pledges resulted from Trump’s blundering into anti-federalism on an international scale is a function of Gumpian invention. Andrew Jackson would be pleased as punch. Not only did Jackson have no interest in fashioning other countries in America’s image, as Peter Beinart has written, but he (and every other American) undoubtedly wasn’t much interested in the converse, either.

Trump’s Paris decision should have surprised no one — as a candidate, he promised as much — although his daughter did create suspense by arranging multiple discussions with tech and climate experts to try to convince him otherwise.

When will we ever learn that Donald Trump is always gonna be Donald Trump? To the glee of some who hired him, The Donald doesn’t evolve. Indeed, methinks at times, Eureka! Herewith, the missing link!

If nothing else, Trump has kept his promises to the approximately 37 percent of Americans who, seemingly no matter what, can find no fault in the man. If Trump told these loyalists that Russia had nothing to do with the 2016 election, by Godfrey, they’d believe it.

Many of these same good citizens also believe that climate change is a hoax — because The Donald said so. That the consensus of scientists worldwide confirms that climate change is real (and dangerous) — and despite mounting evidence (melting ice caps, rising seas, increasingly powerful and frequent storms, etc.), Trump’s persistent base is content to cry “fake news” and let loose its havoc on more palatable prey. The “fake media,” for instance.

Killing the messenger seems never to go out of style.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on climate change. This would be foolish and irresponsible. In a previous life as a science writer, I learned enough to question the integrity of a study according to accepted protocols and peer review. Given those qualifications, I nevertheless find it wiser to defer to the preponderance of evidence, assuming adherence to standards of scientific integrity, than to politicians and lobbyists.

Whether the accord was “fair” to the United States as opposed to, say, China or India, can be debated. But the need for a cooperative, global approach to reducing human contributions to climate change is irrefutable. And, contrary to Trump’s alleged strategy, the accord is not available for renegotiation.

It’s a done deal, a concept that may be difficult for Trump to embrace.

As of this writing, about 100 businesses, 80 university presidents, three governors and 30 mayors have announced their intention to stick with the Paris program. Although the group hasn’t named itself yet, defying the laws of hashtag and beingness, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is leading the charge.

Ever the optimist, Bloomberg predicts that this joint effort could still reduce America’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent from 2005 levels by 2025.

Keeping in mind that this would be a voluntary effort, as is the Paris agreement signed by more than 190 nations, Trump’s decision was more theatrical than immediately consequential. A full withdrawal reportedly will take years and the president could have achieved the same result by merely ignoring the pledge.

But pulling out to Rose Garden applause was both more cinematic and more likely to distract interest from that Russia mess. Meanwhile, however, Trump has signaled in the starkest terms yet that he’s not interested in continuing America’s historical leadership role in the world. As French President Emmanuel Macron called for making the planet great again — and Germany’s Angela Merkel hinted that Europe could no longer rely upon the United States — Trump and his minions proudly trumpet “America first.”

The appeal of Trump’s message is manifest and perhaps summons the same logic of an airline attendant’s instruction to secure one’s own oxygen mask first before helping others. The irony is that Trump, out of sheer political stubbornness, may have inadvertently reignited the spirit that made the nation great in the first place.

Which is not the same as saying he knew what he was doing — or that he’s right.

Contact Kathleen Parker at kathleenparker@washpost.com.

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