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We Fact Checked Everything Trump Has Said About the Paris Agreement Since 2021

No, it’s not a “ripoff.”

Donald Trump and climate delegates.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

If Donald Trump retakes the White House in November, he will direct the U.S. to leave the Paris Agreement — again. This time, though, the ex-president and his allies also plan to make it more difficult for any future Democratic president to rejoin the international deal to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius.

Trump’s most frequently proclaimed gripe with the climate treaty (beyond not believing in climate change) is that it rips off the U.S.

“The Paris Accord was going to cost us $1 trillion and China, nothing, Russia, nothing, India, nothing. It was a ripoff of the United States.” [June 27, 2024]

Fact check: This is inaccurate even by Donald Trump standards. In Trump’s 2017 Rose Garden address announcing the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement — the 2015 treaty that united most countries around the world in the quest to limit global warming to “well below” 2 degrees Celsius — Trump claimed that by 2040, compliance would entail a cost to the economy that would approach “$3 trillion in lost GDP and 6.5 million industrial jobs.” As proof, he cited a study conducted by NERA Economic Consulting, which later issued a news release stating that “the Trump administration selectively used results” from its study and that “NERA’s study was not a cost-benefit analysis of the Paris Agreement, nor does it purport to be one.”

The claim that China, Russia, and India would pay “nothing,” meanwhile, appears to be an allusion to the obligation for wealthier nations like the U.S. to direct hundreds of billions of dollars to poorer nations to adapt to the impacts of climate change. As my colleague Katie Brigham said, it’s true there’s controversy around whether China or India, which have giant (but still developing) economies, should either provide this funding or receive this funding. Russia, which joined the agreement in 2019, hasn’t really been a part of this conversation, though.

“I will also immediately stop crooked Joe Biden’s latest ripoff of the American people, his plan to give — listen to this — global climate reparations to foreign nations. He’s going to give billions of dollars, because he’s saying that we have a dirty climate.” [Dec. 16, 2023]

Fact check: The U.S. will not “under any circumstances” pay climate reparations to developing nations, climate envoy John Kerry vowed in front of Congress last year. The situation is, however — and unsurprisingly — more complicated than that.

At COP28 last year, the U.S. pledged $17.5 million to the UN’s “loss and damage” fund, which is intended to help developing countries recover from future climate disasters. While some outlets — including this publication — have characterized this fund as “reparations,” the fund has more in common with other international pledges directed at helping developing countries than calls for climate reparations that hold historic polluters morally and financially responsible.

“We have China that doesn’t partake; we have India that doesn’t partake; and we have Russia that doesn’t partake. None of them partake in cleaning the climate. They laugh at us, how stupid we are. We clean the climate and then their air flows to us from Asia.” [March 3, 2022]

Fact check: China, India, and Russia are all Paris Agreement signatories. But even if they truly didn’t “partake” at all in international climate mitigation efforts, that hardly means the U.S. shouldn’t try to be cleaner.

But let’s take Trump at face value here. When asked to assess if the Paris Agreement gives an unfair advantage to nations like China and India, law professor Daniel Bodansky at the Arizona State University College of Law pointed out to USA Today that “the United States is the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world and has higher per capita emissions than either China or India. It is misleading to point the finger at China and India and label them as the real polluters.”

What about the bad air flowing to us “from Asia,” then? This isn’t total nonsense. For one thing, we do all share the same atmosphere; that’s kind of the whole point of the global movement to stop climate change. But more concretely, yes, researchers have found that pollutants from China can make their way to the Western U.S.

Here’s where it gets awkward: “An estimated 36% of manmade sulfur dioxide, 27% of nitrogen oxide, 22% of carbon monoxide, and 17% of black carbon over China are the result of manufacturing goods for export. About a fifth of each of these was associated with products exported to the U.S. in particular,” Scientific American writes. In other words, a lot of that “bad air” flowing to us from Asia that Trump is complaining about is from manufacturing products for Americans.

Jeva Lange profile image

Jeva Lange

Jeva is a founding staff writer at Heatmap. Her writing has also appeared in The Week, where she formerly served as executive editor and culture critic, as well as in The New York Daily News, Vice, and Gothamist, among others. Jeva lives in New York City.


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