The U.S. now stands alone, as the only country opposed to the Paris Climate Agreement.
At the U.N. climate talks in Bonn, Germany, on Tuesday, a delegate from Syria reportedly announced that the country intends to join the Paris Agreement. If the country follows through on that promise, it would leave the U.S. isolated as the only nation that has rejected the pact and intends to withdraw from the treaty.
The agreement went into effect in November 2016, and seeks to limit the severity of global warming.
On June 1, President Donald Trump announced that he intends to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement, unless his administration could somehow negotiate a deal that was "more fair" to the country. Other parties to the agreement have rejected the notion of further negotiations on the agreement's core provisions, especially since its emissions targets are voluntary.
However, under the terms of the treaty, the earliest the U.S. can formally withdraw is the day after the 2020 presidential election, given a provision in the agreement requiring a three-year waiting period for withdrawal from when the treaty enters into force, as well as a one-year withdrawal process.
Nicaragua and Syria had both been treaty holdouts, though for different reasons. Nicaragua objected to the agreement on the grounds that it is not ambitious enough, while Syria has been mired in the grips of a bloody civil war. However, Nicaragua joined the pact last month, and with Syria's newly expected participation, that means that for a time, every country will be a party to the agreement.
Then, assuming Trump follows through on his decision, the U.S. will become the world's turd in the proverbial climate diplomacy punch bowl, starting in 2020.
“As if it wasn’t already crystal clear, every single other country in the world is moving forward together to tackle the climate crisis, while Donald Trump has isolated the United States on the world stage in an embarrassing and dangerous position," Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, said in a statement.
Under former president Barack Obama, the U.S. was a key player in ensuring the success of the negotiations that led to the Paris Agreement in 2015, and a cheerleader for it to enter into force in November 2016. However, the Trump administration has brought climate denial into the highest levels of government, from Scott Pruitt's Environmental Protection Agency to Rick Perry's Energy Department, with officials denying the fundamental science tying greenhouse gas emissions to global warming.
An exhaustive federal climate science report released on Nov. 3 found that human activities are responsible for at least 93 percent of the observed global warming from 1951 to 2010.
Image: National Climate Assessment 2017.
As the second-largest emitter in the world and a leader in clean technology research and development, what the U.S. does on climate change will have huge ramifications worldwide.
Research published last week shows that the world is currently on course to experience between 2.9 to 3.4 degrees Celsius, or 5.2 to 6.1 degrees Fahrenheit, of warming by 2100, which is well above the Paris target of limiting global warming to "well below" 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above preindustrial levels.
Diplomats currently meeting in Bonn, including a U.S. delegation representing the Trump administration, are wrestling with how to ratchet up the level of ambition when it comes to the emissions cuts each country has pledged.
That is an even more difficult task to accomplish without the U.S., but some observers think the country's newfound isolation could at least encourage U.S. diplomats to be more constructive than expected at the outset of the negotiations.
“With Syria on board, now the entire world is resolutely committed to advancing climate action – all save one country," Paula Caballero, who directs the climate program at the nonpartisan World Resources Institute, said in a statement.
"This should make the Trump administration pause and reflect on their ill-advised announcement about withdrawing from the Paris Agreement."