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On December 12, 2015, 195 nations (all except Nicaragua and Syria) entered into an historic agreement designed to mitigate the worst effects of climate change by curbing global greenhouse gas emissions. Last week, U.S. President Donald Trump pulled the United States – the world’s second-largest emitter of CO2 – out of that historic agreement.

Here at Thunderbird, we talk a lot about how the world is global – defined more by the broad benefits of economic engagement and our common humanity than by borders. That concept of in-it-togetherness is nowhere truer than on the subject of climate change. When it comes to the climate we are all, literally, in this together.

CO2 emissions in Pune affect citizens in Pittsburgh

And that’s what makes President Trump’s decision so tragic. Because in the long term, the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere by factories, power plants, and cars in China, India, Europe, and everywhere else will affect Americans as much as anyone else. Just as American emissions affect citizens in America and around the world.

“CO2 emissions in Pune affect citizens in Pittsburgh.” Click here to tweet this

We’re still in

That truly global impact of climate change is likely the reason that the mayor of Pittsburgh (who actually was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris) was one of the 1,219 cities, states, and companies to sign the “We’re still in” letter. That’s an open letter to the international community and parties to the Paris Agreement from U.S. state, local, and business leaders, to make the point that much of America remains committed to the principles of the agreement.

The government signatories of the letter represent 120 million Americans. The businesses include 20 Fortune 500 companies and combined represent $1.4 trillion in annual revenue. The letter sends a powerful message that even if the White House doesn’t recognize it, America’s leaders understand that Paris Agreement or no, as citizens of Planet Earth, we are all in this together.

“When it comes to the climate we are all, literally, in this together.” Click here to tweet this

The economy is already in

The “We’re still in” letter is also a good example (and not the only one) of the fact that the clean energy train has already left the station, with most corporations and governments on board. And companies, workers, and citizens are already benefiting.

In his announcement, President Trump talked about putting Americans first, about what’s fair for American businesses and workers: “The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers – who I love – and taxpayers to absorb the cost in terms of lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production.”

But clean energy has actually boosted jobs, raised wages, opened new factories, and increased economic production. Clean energy industries currently employ 2.5 million Americans. According to the Department of Energy, there are about 373,000 Americans working in solar energy alone – more than double that of the coal industry. Even in Pennsylvania, where about 65,000 people work in the renewable energy industry – more than mining, oil, and gas combined.

The clean energy economy is growing much faster than the overall economy, too. Solar, for example, is adding jobs nearly 12 times faster than the overall economy, accounting for one out of every 83 jobs created in the U.S. And they’re good jobs, at wages competitive with similar industries and above the national median wage.

Of course it’s not just the U.S. China, for example, has announced that it will invest 2.5 trillion yuan ($361 billion) into renewable power generation by 2020, creating over 13 million jobs in that sector. A recent report by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission showed that if companies continue to pursue sustainability initiatives, there is $12 trillion in economic value and 380 million jobs to be gained over the next 12 years.

“Clean energy has actually boosted economic production and created millions of new jobs.” Click here to tweet this

In addition to the many companies already thriving in clean energy, it is an area of tremendous innovation. Take, for example, the team at Arizona State University that is researching ways to take carbon out of the air – and make money doing it.

Bottom line

Official collaborations like the Paris Agreement are still essential in this complex global world. And more needs to be done to slow global warming. But it’s clear that governments, corporations, citizens, and workers have already embraced the reality of climate change and invested in a new, green, economy. We’re all in this together.

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