The decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change is regrettable - a diplomatic own-goal that needlessly undercuts perceptions of U.S. good faith with many friends and allies. The decision was ultimately Trump's alone, but he was moved by deeper forces. The U.S. has struggled with the tension between nationalism and globalism for at least a century, with the world often wanting America to lead and Americans frequently wanting to be left alone. Critics are right that managing climate change today requires U.S. leadership. But some of the international hysteria around the U.S. abdication of responsibility on climate change is overwrought.
First, in a world in which power is increasingly fragmented, among states and within them, climate leadership will not come from national governments and their bureaucracies but from cities and states that are at the pioneering edge of championing green technologies and industries. Already, a number of mayors and governors in America have pledged to continue their programs to reduce carbon emissions in the spirit of the Paris accords. Most of America's carbon emissions come from the heavily populated east and west coasts where these leaders predominate - not the empty and pristine rural hinterlands that are home to the majority of Trump voters.