SALT LAKE CITY — While Utah's senators applaud news that President Donald Trump is expected to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, a state climatologist calls the move short-sighted.
Jonathan Meyer, a Utah State University professor and Utah Climate Center climatologist, called Trump's apparent decision to make good on a campaign promise to pull out from the global pact to fight climate change "depressing."
"It’s a sad state when the country that we live in is choosing to go this route," he said.
Meyer said he's "nervous" that the Trump administration is approaching the issue the wrong way. He said Americans can maintain their lifestyles and economic growth and still be responsible for the environment.
"I would like our administration to take that approach. We have some good business minds, and if anyone’s going to lead the charge in finding a solution that mitigates climate change while preserving our global economy, I think the United States needs to be at the head of that table, not just at that table," he said on KSL Newsradio's "The Doug Wright Show."
Trump said in a tweet Wednesday: "I will be announcing my decision on the Paris Accord over the next few days. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!"
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said withdrawing from the climate accord is "absolutely" the right decision for the American economy. He said it would protect the economic and energy sovereignty of the U.S.
"The American people did not vote for President Trump so that American taxpayers could send billions of dollars overseas to establish a global crony capitalist slush fund," Lee said in a prepared statement.
The senator said the Obama administration negotiated the agreement to circumvent the Senate's advise and consent power on international treaties because it knew it was too unpopular and damaging to U.S. interests to ratify.
"The decision to withdraw will afford Americans greater economic opportunity and cheaper, more flexible energy choices in the future," Lee said.
Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said he continues to be encouraged by Trump's efforts to reduce unnecessary and ineffective regulations.
"Withdrawing from this unenforceable agreement — which lacked the support of the American people and never came before the Senate for approval — is a step in the right direction," he said in a statement. "President Obama’s climate agenda did little to improve the environment while doing much to hurt the economy."
Hatch and Lee joined 20 other Republican senators in a letter last week urging Trump to exit the Paris Agreement.
"Because of existing provisions within the Clean Air Act and others embedded in the Paris Agreement, remaining in it would subject the United States to significant litigation risk that could upend your administration's ability to fulfill its goal of rescinding the Clean Power Plan. Accordingly, we strongly encourage you to make a clean break from the Paris Agreement," the senator wrote.
The December 2015 agreement dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation has, as of May, been signed by all 197 countries in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, except Syria and Nicaragua. Of the 195 that have signed, 147 have ratified the accord.