Rumors spread over the weekend that President Donald Trump will remain in the Paris Climate Agreement, in contrast to previous claims made by Trump that the United States would withdraw from the agreement.
Uncertainty arose about the U.S. stance on the climate agreement after American officials attended a meeting with climate ministers on Saturday in Montreal, Canada.
A European diplomat told reporters that a Trump administration envoy appeared to signal a softening stance.
However, the Trump administration was quick to deny these statements.
"There has been no change in the United States' position on the Paris agreement," White House spokeswoman Lindsay Walters said. "As the president has made abundantly clear, the United States is withdrawing unless we can re-enter on terms that are more favorable to our country."
Trump announced in June that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris agreement, but may be open to “renegotiate” the accord on terms more favorable to the U.S.
The Paris agreement was among one of the many topics discussed at the United Nations General Assembly this week, as Trump made his address.
On the sidelines of the U.N. meetings on Monday, Gary Cohn, head of the National Economic Council, met with about a dozen climate ministers from large-economy nations to discuss the U.S. position on the Paris agreement.
"I made the president’s position unambiguous, to where the president stands and where the administration stands on Paris,” Cohn said to reporters following the meeting. “We reaffirmed the president’s statement that he made in the Rose Garden, and we continue to reinforce what the president is saying.”
The Paris Climate Accord is an agreement made in 2015 between nearly 200 nations pledging to voluntary mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to keep the global temperature from rising no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels over the course of the next century.
It takes a country four years to withdraw from the agreement. If the U.S. follows through on the pullout, it will be a part of the agreement until two days after Trump’s first term ends.
The decision for the U.S. to pullout of the agreement has been met with great criticism, from both U.S. citizens and U.S. allies. There are multiple impacts of the pullout on the U.S. and its relation in international affairs.
Nearly 70 percent of registered voters believe that the U.S. should participate in the Paris Climate Agreement, according to a study produced by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.
Governors Andrew Cuomo of New York, Jay Inslee of Washington, and Jerry Brown of California created the U.S. Climate Alliance in response to the U.S. federal government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement. This bi-partisan coalition of states, which now includes 13 states and Puerto Rico, is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions consistent with the goals of the Paris agreement.
The members of the alliance have spoken out about their stance and have signed a petition urging President Trump to keep the U.S. in the Paris agreement.
Many foreign leaders have spoken out on their disapproval of Trump's decision.
Most recently, the French President Emmanuel Macron used his inaugural speech at the United Nations General Assembly this week to rebuke many of the points that Trump made in his speech just two hours earlier, including his position on the climate agreement.
“Our challenges are global, and more than ever we need multilateralism,” Macron said during his address to the assembly. “Walls don’t protect us; what protects us is our joint willingness to change history. We are all linked.”
Macron also ruled out any renegotiation of the Paris agreement, and said the rest of the world will go ahead with or without the U.S.
Furthermore, the recent occurrence of back-to-back extreme hurricanes, Irma and Harvey, brought the impact of climate change into the United Nations General Assembly on Monday.
"This season fits a pattern: Changes to our climate are making extreme weather events more severe and frequent, pushing communities into a viscous cycle of shock and recovery," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said.
Extreme weather linked to climate change has an impact around the globe ranging from floods in southern Asia to landslides and droughts in Africa. The world must develop adaptation measures in response and must work together to reduce carbon emissions, according to Guterres.
Other nations chimed in to stress the need for developing strategies to combat the potential risks of climate change.
"For many, climate change is a matter that can be subject to scientific debate, but for others, like us, the Caribbeans, it's an atmospheric phenomenon of a ferocity and an intensity that we've never seen before," Danilo Medina, president of the Dominican Republic, said.
The recent extreme weather events have raised the question of whether Trump has changed his view on climate change. Trump has notoriously called climate change a “hoax” that was created by and for the Chinese in a tweet.
When pressed whether he had changed his views on climate change, Trump avoided the question and contradicted previous statements that he made about the storms.
"We've had bigger storms than this," Trump said to reporters on Sept. 14, after touring damage from Hurricane Irma on Florida's west coast.
"If you go back into the 1930s and the 1940s, and you take a look, we've had storms over the years that have been bigger than this," Trump said. "If you go back into the teens, you'll see storms that were as big or bigger. So we did have two horrific storms, epic storms, but if you go back into the '30s and '40s, and you go back into the teens, you'll see storms that were very similar and even bigger, OK?"
This statement is in contraction to earlier statements and tweets.
Hurricane Irma is of epic proportion, perhaps bigger than we have ever seen. Be safe and get out of its way,if possible. Federal G is ready!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2017
Hurricane looks like largest ever recorded in the Atlantic!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 6, 2017
The link between the recent hurricanes and climate change is not yet fully understood. Scientists have different approaches to understanding the linkage between hurricanes and climate change, according to a Scientific American article published by Michael Mann, Thomas Peterson and Susan Hassol.
There are two fundamentally different ways of addressing the role of climate change in extreme weather events. These different perspectives can contribute to public confusion.
The first approach is to account for the simple physical processes and what role they may be playing in hurricanes.
"There are certain indisputable linkages that we can talk about immediately because they have already been vetted in general rather than for any specific storm," the Scientific American article read.
These physical processes include higher sea surface temperatures (SST) contributing to the flooding power of a hurricane and sea level rise contributing to the coastal flooding associated with recent major hurricanes.
"The seemingly modest 1 foot of sea level rise off the New York City and New Jersey coast made a Sandy-like storm surge of 14 feet far more likely, and led to 25 additional square miles of flooding and several billion extra dollars of damage," the article read.
The other approach used involves a climatological “CSI,” running simulations of a climate model both with and without the impact of human-generated greenhouse gas increases. This is used to help detect a trend and attribute an event in part to those increases.
These approaches complement each other, as they add different perspectives and tools to determine the relationship between human activity and extreme weather events.
"There is much that we know based on physics, and we should state those things clearly and immediately, as they can provide insights that can help guide people as they begin to recover and plan for the future," the Scientific American article concluded.
A recent NOAA report found that it is "premature to conclude that human activities ... have already had a detectable impact on Atlantic hurricane or global tropical cyclone activity."
However, the report also found that human activity "may have already caused changes" and that global warming "will likely cause tropical cyclones globally to be more intense on average," "lead to an increase in the occurrence of very intense tropical cyclone(s)," and "will likely cause tropical cyclones to have substantially higher rainfall rates than present-day ones."