By Thomas Sheffield

Last week, the Trump administration made the decision to pull the US out of the Paris Climate Agreement.  Do you know what it is or why it is important?  Do you know what it means?  If you are like the majority of Americans, including the President, then the answer is no.  I will try to put it into context for you so we can work together to make this a more sustainable planet.  

Millions of years ago, our planet was covered with plants that converted carbon into oxygen.  These plants along with animals died and over millions of years they were buried and crushed and formed what we use today, fossil fuels.  Fast forward right after the American Civil war.  The steam engine was invented and many of these engines used coal as fuel to make the steam engines go.  Thomas Edison built the first centralized coal power plant in 1882. Followed by the discovery of oil in Ohio where the Standard Oil company made kerosene for lamps and gasoline for gas engines.  These uses sparked the growth of the standard of living in the US and western European countries. This is great! However, all the carbon rich fuel that was buried beneath the earth has now been released into the atmosphere which allows the sunlight in but the heat does not go back out.  This causes, global warming.

Although the energy produced allows us to do wonderful things and to improve the quality of life, it is damaging the atmosphere we depend on for food, water and shelter.  270 countries came together in 2015 in Paris France to acknowledge a problem and find ways to solve them together.  The goal is to keep the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius each year.  The biggest problem is that no one country can solve this problem by itself. It takes commitment from each country to do their part.  Everyone must agree that something has to be done. The poorest countries, who emit no greenhouse gasses, are the ones who suffer the most.  

The Paris Climate agreement allowed every country to have a goal.  Every country agreed to have a goal and how to meet that goal.  There was no way to enforce the goal and if a country did not meet the goal, there was no penalty levied.  The United States has 4 percent of the population and emits 18 percent of the worlds greenhouse gasses and should lead in reaching the goals.  We are better off incentivizing these goals now than waiting.  600 million people’s lives are threatened by sea level rise.  Climate refugees and infrastructure destruction will actually cause a greater threat to everyone.  

If our government lacks the backbone to lead, we must force our business community to lead.  The first people to suffer the effects of climate change are people of color and the poor.  There is no need for the US to retreat from leadership of the issue of climate change.  Our leadership will lead to greater innovative opportunities in the future. 

If you feel the need to learn more, feel free to contact me directly at or follow me on Twitter @tcsheff.