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President Donald Trump looks poised to withdraw from the Paris climate accord this week, which would likely infuriate supporters of the treaty while pleasing many Republican members of Congress and other hard-line conservatives.

“Withdrawing from the Paris agreement is an important and necessary step toward reversing the harmful energy policies and unlawful overreach of the Obama era,” said Patrick Morrisey, attorney general of West Virginia. “The Paris agreement is a symbol of the Obama administration’s ‘Washington knows best’ approach to governing.”


News of the looming departure quickly drew the ire of international and domestic political leaders who fear the potentially devastating impacts of global warming.

The United States is the second-largest emitter of climate pollution behind China and ahead of Russia and India. Backers of the Paris standards for greenhouse-gas emissions believe that if Trump pulls his support for the promised reductions, it will unravel other countries’ commitments to the groundbreaking pact.

“This disastrous decision would cede American leadership at the very time when we should be in the driver’s seat leading the clean energy revolution to reduce air and water pollution,” Rep. Scott Peters, D-San Diego, said in a statement Wednesday. “President Trump is sending a clear signal to the rest of the world that they should look to China and others for energy innovation, not the United States.”

Climate scientists have said the targets set in the Paris accord would likely need to be strengthened over time to avert serious consequence from global warming, such as increased flooding, drought and famine.

“The Paris agreement provided a great opportunity for the U.S. and the world to wean out of the fossil fuel economy and step into the future with a renewable economy,” said Veerabhadran Ramanathan, a climate scientists with UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, an internationally renowned hub of global warming research. “U.S. pulling out of the Paris accord would be a major setback for the world.”

In the past week, a number of global leaders, including Pope Francis, have urged Trump not to walk away from the accord.

On Wednesday, news media reported that senior White House officials said Trump is preparing to abandon the deal. The president has yet to make an official decision, but confirmed on his Twitter account that an announcement would be made within days.

Members of Trump’s inner circle seem split on whether to support the 2015 document, which calls for limiting climate change to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius as compared to pre-industrial levels. Average surface temperatures have increased by about 1 degree Celsius since 1880.

Each of the 197 parties to the Paris accord have agreed to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions by varying degrees. The U.S. has pledged to slash greenhouse gases by up to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of ExxonMobil, has advocated for sticking with the agreement. The president’s daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, have also recommended not pulling out of the deal.

However, senior adviser Steve Bannon — who has consistently helped invigorate the president’s staunchest supporters — has long opposed the treaty. He and members of Congress who question the scientific consensus on climate change have blasted the deal as bad for the country’s economy.

Their reasoning seems to have played well with the president’s base and influential policy groups such as the Heritage Foundation and the Heartland Institute.

“President Trump would make exactly the right call by deciding to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate treaty,” said Joseph Blast, president of the Heartland Institute. “Staying in would result in U.S. taxpayers and consumers paying hundreds of billions of dollars in higher taxes and higher energy costs solely for the benefit of crony capitalists in the ‘renewable’ energy industry and Third World dictators. Staying in would not benefit the global environment one whit, but instead, by impoverishing millions of people, would have exactly the opposite effect.”

This wouldn’t be the first time a Republican-controlled White House reversed course on a previous president’s international climate deal. In 2001, George W. Bush backed out of the Kyoto Protocol — which also set emissions targets — following the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Bush criticized the deal because it exempted developing countries, such as China. Several years later, Canada also pulled out of the protocol while Japan and Russia announced they wouldn’t accept new commitments under the agreement.

This time around, canceling U.S. involvement with the Paris accord would “be a very big deal all over the world,” said Todd Stern, lead U.S. climate negotiator during the Obama administration. “There (would) be consequential blowback with respect to our diplomatic position across the board.”

At the same time, some who support the Paris accord have downplayed the significance of Trump leaving the negotiating table. They argue that even if the president continued with the treaty, he would undermine it with domestic policies that conflict with the treaty.

The Trump administration has already started dismantling Obama-era programs aimed at cutting greenhouse-gas emissions, such as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules aimed at reducing emissions from power plants and escalating fuel-efficiency standards for automakers.

Some legal scholars have said Trump’s real opportunity to hamper collective action on climate change isn’t the Paris accord, but withdrawal from the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Unlike the Paris agreement, the U.N. convention was ratified by a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate. So if Trump withdrew the U.S. from the U.N. convention, rejoining under a future presidential administration could prove complicated.

“It would hamstring future presidents in participating in global climate diplomacy,” said Ann Carlson, a professor of environmental law at the UCLA School of Law. “It really is repudiation of everything the international community has attempted on climate change, from conversations to collecting of data.”

It’s a legal gray area whether a president needs Senate approval to abandon this larger deal, but organizations like The Heritage Foundation have enthusiastically supported the idea. Baring significant legal complications, withdrawing from the convention would also automatically remove the U.S. from the Paris accord.