How will Trump’s exit from the climate agreement impact job prospects?

Will President Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement mean sunnier or darker days ahead for U.S. job seekers?

On one hand, if you're a marine biologist studying the rapid decline of the Great Barrier Reef, you could experience solid job stability with high demand if Trump's decision helps keep the planet on pace to warm three degrees Celsius. On the other hand, if you're a solar energy system installer, your job prospects could be slimmer if the decision results in the continued use of fossil fuels. Or so it might seem.

Trump: Compliance Would Lead to Job Losses

In announcing his decision to leave the international effort to curb carbon emissions, Trump said that complying with the Paris Accord could cost America as many as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025, citing research from the National Economic Research Associates (NERA). Several media reports, including The Washington Post's Fact Checker analysis, have since challenged that estimate of job losses, saying that Trump failed to disclose that the study "does not take into account potential benefits from avoided emissions. ... The model does not take into consideration yet-to-be developed technologies that might influence the long-term cost." The fact-checkers say Trump failed to balance the report's estimate of job losses with the potential job creation gains.

Trump and critics of the global treaty say exiting the agreement will actually spur jobs. But many experts say it will not, reported CBS News' Moneywatch. In reality, the renewable energy sector today is creating more jobs than fossil fuels – last year, more than twice as many people were employed in the solar sector than in coal mining, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. So, economists argue, sticking with fossil fuels has less potential for job growth, whereas shifting to a clean-energy economy has greater potential to boost employment.

Trump Critics: Exit Will Cost U.S. Jobs

Opponents of Trump's decision say withdrawing from the accord will lead to job losses.

California Gov. Jerry Brown told PBS that Trump's move is "going to cost jobs, not the reverse." He used his own state as an example of how environmentally based decisions can benefit the job market overall. While California has lost jobs, the net effect has been job gains of 2.4 million in last eight years, since the recession, and it was "driven by the clean tech investments and the climate action strategies," Brown said.

Shifting to Local Governments and Private Companies?

While the debate rages over whether the exit will cut or create jobs, there are some early indications that private companies and state and local governments are stepping up to fight climate change as the federal government steps out of the international effort. It remains unclear, however, how that would translate into job creation or job cuts, or if jobs could shift from the federal government to state and local governments or the private sector.

Just a day after Trump's decision, mayors from across the country pledged to work locally and to advocate nationally for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. As part of the Mayors National Climate Action Agenda, they say that they cannot afford to sit back and do nothing while global warming threatens their cities by creating coastal erosion, rising sea levels, flooding, deadly heat waves and droughts and other problems.

A recent Mother Jones article chronicled how Trump's stance on climate change resulted in a job shift from a federal government position to a nonprofit one for one woman. Jane Zelikova was working as a scientist at the U.S. Department of Energy researching how big fossil-fuel industries can reduce greenhouse gas emissions when Trump was elected. After his budget slashed funding for science and research, she quit her Energy Department job and in July will start a job at a small nonprofit called the Center for Carbon Removal, based in Berkeley, California.

'We Can Be Ready to Go'

She predicts a shift from federal leadership to more state-based action, citing the same positive job growth that Gov. Brown noted. "Western states are perfectly poised to lead on climate action," she said. "In terms of federal action, there's going to be very little, so we need to work with states, so that when the political climate changes and there can be federal action, we can be ready to go."

Regardless of what the federal government does in the agreement, the media report that the private sector is shifting toward cleaner energy. Cheap natural gas and renewables will continue to drive the retirement of coal plants.

Twenty-five companies, including Apple, Google and Facebook had united to urge the president to stay in the accord, and many leaders of these companies took to Twitter following the decision to express their disappointment. Time will tell if they step up where the government no longer will lead.

"Disappointed with today's decision on the Paris Agreement," Jeff Immelt, chairman of General Electric Corp. tweeted. "Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government."

Tell Us What You Think

Will the United States' withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement create jobs, result in lost jobs or simply shift them to state and local governments and the private sector? We want to hear from you. Tell us your experience in the comments or on Twitter.

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