It had to hap­pen. When you have an ig­no­rant, cli­mate change de­nier in the White House the de­ci­sion to with­draw from the Paris Accord should not come as a sur­prise. The truth is the US has been strug­gling to forge any kind of lead­er­ship in the fight against cli­mate change and this has a lot to do with the pow­er of the fos­sil fu­el lob­by and their spread of mis­in­for­ma­tion and fake sci­ence.

Eizabeth Kolbert, au­thor of the Pulitzer Prize win­ning book “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,” summed up the piti­ful lack of any lead­er­ship by the US in a re­cent ar­ti­cle in the New Yorker:

Many com­men­ta­tors have sug­gest­ed that the U.S., in with­draw­ing from Paris, is ced­ing its lead­er­ship role in the world. But the sad fact is that the U.S. has nev­er been a leader in ad­dress­ing cli­mate change; this is one of the main rea­sons that the Paris ac­cord is so weak. The U.S. has on­ly been a leader in pro­duc­ing cli­mate change. (On an an­nu­al ba­sis, America is now the world’s second-greatest car­bon emit­ter, be­hind China, but on an ag­gre­gate ba­sis it’s re­spon­si­ble for more of the ex­cess CO2 in the at­mos­phere than any oth­er coun­try.) When Barack Obama helped forge the Paris ac­cord, he was try­ing to make up for decades of American in­ac­tion. Trump has now nul­li­fied that ef­fort. The just re­sult would be that it is the U.S. econ­o­my that ends up suf­fer­ing.

Scientific stud­ies show that if the world’s car­bon emis­sions con­tin­ue unchecked, at­mos­pher­ic tem­per­a­tures will con­tin­ue to rise. The plan­et won’t just be hot­ter, but it will al­so suf­fer from ris­ing sea lev­els, more pow­er­ful storms, droughts that lead to food short­ages and oth­er ex­treme con­di­tions. The idea of the Paris cli­mate ac­cord was that every coun­try, rich and poor, would set goals to curb car­bon emis­sions in an ef­fort to avert the worst ef­fects of cli­mate change.

While Americans make up just over 4 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, they are re­spon­si­ble for al­most a third of the ex­cess car­bon diox­ide in the at­mos­phere. China emits more car­bon in­to the at­mos­phere to­day, but the United States has been burn­ing coal, oil and nat­ur­al gas for much longer. When the US leaves, oth­er coun­tries — es­pe­cial­ly the poor­er ones — could con­sid­er do­ing the same. That could re­verse years of hard-won progress on cli­mate change.

The red line traces the rise in glob­al CO2 emis­sions with­out the Paris ac­cord.