President Donald Trump's announcement on Thursday that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement drew strong reactions from the local community.
The Paris Agreement is a pact by 195 nations to limit increasing global temperatures, reduce climate change emissions and finance pathways towards climate-resilient development. It was adopted by consensus in December 2015. Part of the agreement requires developed countries to provide developing countries with funds for adapting to greener sources of energy.
During a press conference Thursday at the White House, Trump said that the agreement is "costing the U.S. a vast fortune." He is open to renegotiating a "deal that's fair," he said.
More than 30 people gathered for a rally Thursday evening on the corner of El Camino Real and Embarcadero Road. Holding signs that read "Shame," "Protect the Planet" and "The seas are rising and so are we," they stood at the intersection for about an hour and a half. Cars passing through the streets honked in support of the rally, and poster paper and markers were available for participants to make their own signs. Four women who call themselves the Raging Grannies sang a song to the tune of "Home on the Range," having rewritten the lyrics to include lines such as "Home home on the earth / Your beauty's beginning to fade / We have to act fast" and "Today Mr. Trump / put us down in the dumps." At one point, a driver stopped at the intersection to relay enthusiasm for their cause. A participant responded, "The future is yours — let's save it now."
The rally was organized by the Peninsula Peace and Justice Center (PPJC), a grassroots activist organization. Paul George, director of the PPJC, said he drafted an email calling for a rally early Thursday morning and shared through the group's email list in addition to sharing through throughout social media and by word of mouth.
"The president needs to see such an outpouring of support for addressing climate change that he will realize he's made a mistake and reverse his decision," George said. "It's just utterly insane to ignore all the scientific evidence when the entire world has agreed to this accord and he's taking us out of it."
According to Noah Diffenbaugh, Stanford professor at the School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences, the United States' withdrawal could increase the risk of climate impact in the country, including heat waves, heavy downpours and intense droughts such as the recent California drought.
Not only will the probability of extreme events increase, but a lack of commitment to climate solutions will also damage the U.S. economy, George said. The future of jobs in America is clean energy, he said, and Trump will not bring back coal jobs "no matter what he does."
According to a 2015 report by the Environmental Defense Fund, job creation in the renewable energy sector has outstripped that in the fossil fuel industry, with solar-energy jobs growing at a rate 12 times faster than the rest of the U.S. economy.
"The president is foreclosing the future by pulling out of this global climate agreement," George added.
PPJC board of directors President Stephanie Reader, who attended the rally, also said that the country has solutions for the impacts of climate change that would be "good for the economy and the future," such as clean technology, electric cars and solar energy.
"People (in the Silicon Valley) want to work on those things," she said. "So the economy of the United States would be far better off focusing on developing and innovating the kind of technologies that will make people's lives better and protect the planet from carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases."
Chris Field, Stanford University professor and director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, didn't attend the rally but said that his reaction to Trump's announcement "is truly one of profound sadness."
Each citizen, however, can make lifestyle choices that nevertheless make a difference in climate change solutions, he said.
"Support for clean energy at the city levels is incredibly important," Field said. "That's sort of the main leverage we have, really demanding that we be allowed to participate in climate solutions, and a lot of those are consumption decisions about where the electricity comes from, what kind of vehicle you drive, what kind of efficiency measures are in your home."
Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff announced in a statement Thursday that he has joined at least 60 other mayors across the country as a member of the Mayor's National Climate Action Agenda, which will continue to "support, lead and uphold the commitments to the goals of the Paris Agreement."
"Palo Alto has ... taken actions that have led to a carbon neutral electricity supply at a lower cost than competitors, and adopted a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a rate 20 years ahead of the state," he wrote. "Those are the actions of a city that views climate change as a defining issue for the future, and critical to our quality of life and economic vitality."
Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, also released a statement on Thursday condemning Trump's decision, calling it a "deeply irresponsible and dangerous" motion that prioritizes politics over country.
"With this action, the President has surrendered that leadership and put our planet at greater risk of catastrophic sea level rise, severe weather and other impacts which threaten our health, environment and national security," she said.
The world only gets one planet, George said, and Palo Alto is on that planet.
"Anyone who lives on this planet should care," he added. "This is a global crisis."