On intense and greater numbers of hurricanes, tornadoes

On June 1st, 2017, President Donald Trump
announced the decision that the U.S. would no longer be party to the Paris
Climate Accord. In addition, he made clear that the U.S. would “immediately
cease implementing the agreement the National Determined Contribution (NDCs)
and financial contributions” (Zhang et al., 2017-1: 220). The decision not only
“left many scientists frustrated and dismayed” (Nature.com, 2018-2), the
international community reacted with a combination of disappointment and
turmoil (Rhodes, 2017). On December 12, 2015, representatives of 195 countries
came together in Paris in order to tackle climate change and the outcome became
the Paris Agreement, the “first truly global treaty to address climate change”
(Han, 2017: 338). According to the United Nations Framework Convention on
Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) website (Change, 2018), the aim of the Paris
Agreement is “to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change
by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius
above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature
increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius”. Furthermore, the Agreement
emphasizes its aim to enhance the ability of countries to deal with the impacts
of climate change. If not dealt with comprehensively and immediately, climate
change will have detrimental impacts on not only the earth but also mankind.

According to Balaam and Dillman (2017: 534), these impacts include “rising sea
levels, ocean temperature and variability and extremes that lead to more
intense and greater numbers of hurricanes, tornadoes and typhoons. In addition,
melting ice sheets and glaciers, the threatened extinction of animal species
and also an assortment of environmental problems in developing nations”.   According to Kemp (2016: 87),
“the USA has struggled to ratify international treaties, particularly
environmental ones due to institutional and political barriers”. This is
evident taken into account how the tenure of President Bush between 2001-2008
was a challenging time in climate cooperation (Urpelainen and Van de Graaf,
2017) because the Bush Administration decided to withdraw from the Kyoto
Protocol, adopted in 1997, arguing that the Protocol “would have potential
negative effects on the American economy” (Han, 2017: 340). However, in his
comprehensive study, Haas (1992) demonstrates how the epistemic community,
constituting a network of experts and scientists, in coordination with the UN
Environmental Programme and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),
contributed to the enactment of the Montreal Protocol of 1987 to ban
chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), i.e. hydrocarbons that inevitably leads to ozone depletion.

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Put simply, what Haas illustrates is that by acting collectively and taking
proactive measures, the fight against climate change is indeed feasible which
is why it remains a paradox that the Trump Administration is so reluctant to
cooperate on the issue considering the fact that “the U.S. is the
second-highest amount of Green House Gas (GHG) emitter, China being number one”
(Zhang et al., 2017-2: 215). Existing literature has not yet fully addressed
the principal reasons for the U.S. exit from the worldwide supported Paris
Agreement, which is why, by applying qualitative research methods, the ultimate
objective of the case study is to explore the motives for the withdrawal.    Theoretical
Framework  In addition to guide empirical
research, theory is indispensable in order to interpret our findings. Or as Peters (2011: 40)
makes clear, “without theory, there would be no analytical perspective
attempting to answering important questions”. In other words, while this
section may not test the theories, it will show how the two eminent IPE
theories, neomercantilism and constructivism, can be extended to account for
the Trump Administration’s withdrawal of the Paris Agreement (Odell, 2001).  One of the basic assumptions of
constructivism is that “ideas, values, norms and identities of individuals,
groups and states are socially constructed” (Balaam and Dillman, 2017: 131).

For example, the notion that climate change is real and mainly caused by
anthropogenic activities seems to be a consensus shared by most people because
it appears to be a natural and obvious explanation. However, President Trump
simply rejects this notion which can be confirmed by one of his many tweets;
January 28th, 2014, he tweeted (Twitter.com, 2018) “Give me clean,
beautiful and healthy air – not the same old climate change (global warming)
bullshit! I am tired of hearing this nonsense”. Also, one of the ideas within
the constructivist theory is the concept of framing. Framing is “the ability to
define what the essence of a global problem is. All actors try to frame through
language, reports, propaganda and storytelling and frames makes us see a
problem in a certain way as opposed to another” (Balaam and Dillman, 2017: 131).

Trump’s framing of climate change can again be exemplified by one of his
tweets; February 17th, 2014, he tweeted (Twitter.com, 2018) “Do you
believe this one – Secretary of State John Kerry just stated that the most
dangerous weapon of all today is climate change. Laughable”. In other words,
Trump rejecting the notion that climate change is taking place has become the
result of his administration’s approach on how to tackle the problem; by being
non-cooperative. One of the many flaws of the constructivist theory is how it
claims that ideas and values are as important as military and economic factors,
however this is arguably not fully applicable to the U.S. considering how the
nation, throughout history, has dominated the world economy, in addition to
perceiving itself as such. Neomercantilism is closely related to realism because
it also emphasizes state efforts to achieve security and power (Balaam and
Dillman, 2017). However, as Ravenhill (2014: PAGE) points out, “how do states conceptualize power, how can it be
detected and what is so important about it?” According to Balaam and Dillman
(2017: 76), “neomercantilism today accounts for a more complex world marked by
intensive interdependence where states use a wider variety of instruments –
especially economic ones – to protect their societies”. With his America First
policies, i.e. “turning government and U.S. policy upside down, ostensibly to
benefit American citizens, American workers and American businesses” (Anderson
et al., 2017: 221), along with his inauguration speech in January 2017, where
he asserted that “protection will lead to great prosperity and strength”, (Chu,
2017) it is evident that Trump is applying neomercantilist policies. Moreover, Gilpin
(1971: 403) points out that “hegemonic powers has organized economic space in
terms of its own interests and purpose” so the fact that Trump, as President of
the United States, is pursuing a nationalistic and isolationist America First
policy approach, is merely an extension of this.        Hypothesis and
Operationalization  The prime hypothesis of the case study is the
following: Opposition to international cooperation on climate change is more
likely, if the administration’s personal preferences and beliefs along with embracing
nationalistic policies play a prevailing role. First, it pivotal to clarify any
ambiguous terms. In this sense, opposition to cooperate internationally on
climate change means the withdrawal from an international legal instrument
determined to combat climate change. The fact that Trump has “pledged to stop
funding United Nations’ global warming efforts” (PolitiFact, 2018) in addition
to taking no notice of the Common But Differentiated Responsibility principle
(CBDR) i.e. that “developed countries should take the lead in combating climate
change and the adverse effects thereof” (Unfccc.int, 2018) constitute as
stringent behavior. The term “administration” refers to the president’s
executive branch, while nationalistic policies signifies the completion of offensive
mercantilism, i.e. seeking a dominant economic position in the world system,
and defensive mercantilism, i.e. attempting to ensure sovereignty. Empirical
evidence of Trump rejecting the notion of climate change has already been
provided, however, in order to confirm the hypothesis, it is pivotal to
investigate whether evidence proving that the members of his Administration
also reject the notion can be found. If so, it is expected that this had a considerable
impact on his decision. Furthermore, evidence verifying that the current
Administration is indeed embracing a nationalistic stand on the domestic and
international economic scene, would also confirm the hypothesis.    Reflection of Research
Design A characteristic of qualitative research methods is
that the sample size can be as small as one, which it is in this case.

Consequently, this limits the generalizability because while it may provide an in-depth
analysis of  the problem, i.e. the
withdrawal decision, the scope to which the findings can be extended to
potential quantitative research is limited. Yet, however, the findings may be
applicable if the issue of the U.S. withdrawing from a future climate change
agreement where to take place. The data collected for the empirical analysis is
based on interviews, speeches, newspaper articles, peer-reviewed journals,
internet newsletters along with Trump’s twitter account. Parts of the data
collected pose validity problems because there will always be elements of
subjectivity when interpreting data, in addition to selecting only those
elements that support the argumentation. Moreover, it must be noted that
ideally, the research question should be investigated from more than two
theoretical perspectives in order to avoid underestimating evidence incompatible
with the theories, thereby making the case study more disciplined (Odell, 2001).     Empirical analysis  Even though President Trump has never publicly
acknowledged that climate change is occurring and is mainly caused by human
beings, a consensus shared by most American scientists (Zhang et al., 2017-1),
he signaled in the aftermath of his campaign trail that he might back off his
promise, telling a NY Times reporter in late November 2016, “I’m looking at it
very closely. I have an open mind to it” (Michael D. Shear, 2018). Clearly,
Trump was on the fence for a while contemplating whether to fulfill his
campaign promise or not, knowing very well “that the decision to exit would
draw strong criticism both at home and abroad” (Zhang et al., 2017-1: 220).

However, due to a combination of pressure from within his own Administration
and other representatives from the Republican party and the promise of his
America First policies, combined with his personal acrimony against Obama,
evidently produced the withdrawal outcome.   Bearing in mind how partisan and polarized the
American Political System is (Urpelainen and Van de Graaf, 2017), the endeavor
of fulfilling Putnam’s (1988) two-level game, namely the “double set of
negotiations that must be carried out both at the domestic level and at the
international level” (Starkey et al., 2016: 101) most certainly becomes a tug
of war when it comes to the U.S. trying to take on a leadership role and
implement international climate goals. For example, Obama’s initiative in
November 2014 to significantly reduce carbon emissions for both China and the
U.S. was met with “wide criticism by many Republican members of Congress” (Starkey
et al., 2016: 101). In addition to Trump’s own disbelief in climate change,
pressure from within the Republican Party and his own administration had a
significant impact on the decision, but in order to fully comprehend the reason
for this, it is pivotal to pay greater attention to who the Administration
consist of. The U.S. EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, who also led the legal
fight against Obama’s Clean Power Plan, has “repeatedly denied anthropogenic
causes of global warming and insisted withdrawing from the Paris Agreement” (Zhang
et al., 2017-1: 221). Furthermore, in the courts, Pruitt has demanded
postponements in “vital rules limiting mercury pollution and industrial methane
pollution from the oil and gas industry” (Anon, 2018). According to the World
Health Organization (World Health Organization, 2018) “exposure to mercury –
even in small amounts – may cause serious health problems and is a threat to
the development of the child in utero and
early life”.   Moreover, Rick Perry, Trump’s pick for Department of
Energy, said, during a previous presidential campaign that he intended to
abrogate the department in addition to having a “track record of questioning
climate science” (Foran, 2018). For example, Perry termed global warming “one
contrived, phony mess” (Evening Standard, 2018).  As his choice for Secretary of State, Trump
selected the ultimate oil man, namely, Rex Tillerson, the former chair and
chief executive of Exxon Mobile. Exxon Mobile is a multinational oil and gas
corporation and “ranked near the top of the world’s most profitable firms”
(Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018). Not to mention Stephen Bannon, the President’s
ex-chief strategist, who, in addition to his unyielding focus on delivering “an
economic nationalist agenda” (Chu, 2018), was extensively seen as the lashing
force behind the withdrawal and according to Zhang et al., (2017-1) the
secession was a victory for Mr. Bannon. Furthermore, not only did Trump receive
a letter signed by 20 Members of the European Parliament urging him to repeal
the U.S. commitment to the Paris Agreement, he was also exhorted “by 22 U.S.

Republican senators to pull out of the Paris Agreement” (Rhodes, 2017: 412).   The question that needs to be raised is why did the
aforementioned members of the Trump Administration have such a strong desire to
exit the U.S. from the Paris Agreement? It is because they all share one common
denominator, namely; affiliation to the fossil fuel industries. As Zhang et al.,
(2017-2: 214) make clear “Republicans support the development of fossil fuel
energy above all other aspect of energy policy” For example, it has been
reported that not only members of the Administration, but also Trump himself is
“personally associated with the petrochemical mogul Koch Industries and once
the U.S. withdraws, the Trump Administration will seek to repeal climate regulations
to benefit energy companies such as Koch, a multinational corporation” as Zhang
et al. (2017-1: 221) make clear. In turn, as Gilpin (1971: 418) points out
“under certain circumstances there can be little doubt that multinational
corporation has, and can exercise, considerable influence over domestic and
international relations”. In other words, the fossil fuel industries hold
dominant political sway over the Trump Administration and the Republican Party.  This is evident, taking into account how more than
“1500 corporations and individuals gave a total $107 million to the
presidential inauguration committee. Among the big donors were Chevron, which
gave $525,000, Exxon Mobile, British Petroleum and Citgo Petroleum, which each
donated $500,000” (InsideClimate News, 2018). Also, “coal company owners,
Joseph Craft and Christopher Cline each gave an additional $1 million, as did
chemical and mining company head Clifford Forrest” (HuffPost UK, 2018). In
other words, the reason why these multi-billion corporations donated such
extravagant amounts to Trump’s inauguration was because they were “making a
business investment and expect a financial return on their investment in the
form of access or when they are pushing for specific legislative and regulatory
priorities” as Tyson Slocum, director of Public Citizen’s Energy Program, makes
clear (InsideClimate News, 2018). All in all, (even) though leading business
officials along with his daughter, Ivanka Trump, urged him to remain in the
agreement (PolitiFact, 2018), the President seized the opportunity and withdrew
seeing that his constituency was not going to respond adversely to his
decision.  In order for Trump to implement his America First
policies by turning the government and U.S. policies upside down, he would have
to roll back former President Obama’s policies which is possible because “the
two-party politics in the U.S. allows the succeeding government to destroy and
remove the influence of the previous government” (Zhang et al., 2017-2: 214).

Timothy Naftali, a historian at New York University, points out that in the
past there has been instances where the current President and the former
President do not get along, however “what’s different this time is that the two
are showing it. The animosity is so clear” (Liptak and Jones, 2017). The fact
that Trump is determined to repeal Obama’s Clean Air Act because the current
Administration argues that the EPA “overstepped its legal authority when it
finalized the rule” (Nature.com, 2018-1), in addition to reverse the Clean
Power Plan (which was inaugurated by Obama) and other environmental
regulations” (Rhodes, 2017: 412), illustrates how Trump is enjoying
obliterating Obama’s political legacy in order to implement his own nationalist
and isolationist policies.   November 6th, 2012, Mr. Trump tweeted (Twitter.com,
2018) “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in
order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive”. In his withdrawal speech
(the Guardian, 2017), Trump heavily emphasized how the Agreement puts unfair
limitations on American businesses and he has earlier mentioned how “global
warming is a hoax concocted by China to weaken the competitive industrial power
of the U.S.” (Zhang et al., 2017-2: 213). Therefore, according to Anderson et
al., (2017: 222) “The President and Congress have promised to remove what they
see as regulatory impediments that stand in the way of U.S. production and
export of fossil fuels and other domestic energy sources”, which is perfectly
in line with his nationalistic America First worldview (Zhang et al., 2017-1)
and also a clear example of offensive mercantilism because, terrified that
China will rise to become a hegemon and the world’s leading economy, Trump is
desperately seeking a dominant economic position in the world by subsidizing
exports among other policy reforms. Moreover, by terminating “the donations to
the Green Climate Fund which will reduce America’s share from 40% down to 6.4%”
(Zhang et al., 2017-1: 222), Trump is attempting to protect the economy against
unacceptable economic forces, a rather clear benign mercantilist move.  

Also, Trump believes the Paris Agreement weakens the
U.S. sovereignty. According to Oxford dictionaries (Oxford Dictionaries, 2018)
national sovereignty is “the authority of a state to govern itself or another
state”. Taken into account how the “Paris Agreement and the UNFCCC have had a
large impact on U.S. domestic laws like the Clean Air Act, the Energy Policy
Act and the Energy Independence and Security Act” as Han (2017: 338) points
out, no wonder Trump is franticly attempting to buttress U.S. sovereignty, i.e.

defensive mercantilism, because he will not let an international organization
such as the UN make him implement certain laws which is evident in a tweet (Twitter.com,
2018) posted November 19th, 2012, “The World Bank is tying poverty
to climate change. And we wonder why international organizations are
ineffective”. Compared to Obama who “believes the Agreement strengthens the
U.S. leadership in international affairs” (Zhang et al., 2017-1: 221).

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