Mr. President- Don’t Use Youngstown as an Excuse to Shred the Paris Agreement

Jul 18, 2017

Originally published on Medium:

Yesterday, I watched with dismay as President Trump addressed the American people and — with his withdrawal from the Paris Agreement — undermined decades of American leadership abroad. As bad as his decision was, I was further outraged to hear him use Youngstown, Ohio to prop up his warped and destructive logic.
When 195 nations — every nation except Syria and Nicaragua — came together and signed this landmark agreement to combat climate change and global pollution, it was a historic moment that showed the global community united in confronting one of our world’s biggest challenges. President Trump destroyed that vision and hope yesterday, and then claimed he was helping Youngstown in the process. That is a dangerous lie.

I’ve lived in the Youngstown-area my whole life, and there is no doubt that places like my congressional district have struggled over the years economically. I have seen the destruction first hand. Jobs have been replaced by machines; industries have moved offshore; unemployment skyrocketed; shops, restaurants and adjacent businesses folded from lack of demand. Municipal budgets cratered.

We have seen our fair share of politicians and public officials coming and going, all claiming to be able to bring back the glory days. The go-around we’ve been told is all you need to do to improve the local economy is gut the EPA and pretend climate change is a hoax. This sort of demagoguery treats the American worker as a fool.Contrary to what President Trump is selling, staying in the Paris Climate Agreement would not only have helped my community economically, but also help provide a safer, healthier environment for the children of Youngstown.

Clean energy jobs are booming, and they are not going anywhere. The typical wind turbine has over 8,000 component parts: ball bearings, steel tubing, and electrical components — all things that can be manufactured and assembled in places like Detroit, Pittsburgh and Youngstown. And these are jobs that aren’t likely to be outsourced. Once they are built with American workers, they are installed and be maintained by American companies. According to the Financial Times, the solar industry alone employs three times as many people as the coal industry — a complete reversal from just a short time ago. Promoting a green energy economy is not mutually exclusive with helping coal workers in Appalachia. Indeed, an energy sector built substantially on renewables could provide an economic lifeline for thousands of displaced coal workers.
President Trump claimed he can re-open closed coal mines and re-open the shuttered steel mills by turning back the clock on the environment. But his hollow — and thus far unfulfilled — promises are keeping our nation from working to build an economy of the future, one that creates new jobs for displaced workers, preserves and protects our environment for our kids and grandkids, and cements the next century as one of American innovation and leadership.

Though the Trump Administration would rather ignore this reality to score cheap political points, the adults in the room need to resist that temptation and continue to push for a 21st Century economy that recognizes the need for good paying jobs and embraces the challenge of global climate change. These choices are not mutually exclusive. Americans should run in the opposite direction from any politician who tries to tell them otherwise.