Democrats on Capital Hill responded to President Donald Trump's announcement that the U.S. will leave the Paris climate agreement with dire warnings about the future of the globe.
In a statement, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said the decision "could go down as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our nation’s history." Rep. Bill Foster, an Illinois Democrat and former physicist, told Mic it will be devastating for the country and the environment.
"If you're a scientist and you stand up and say something you know is not true, it is a career-ending move," Foster said. "I lost count of the number of objectively false statements the president made ... the fact-checkers will have a field day."
A former physicist who studied exploding stars, Foster spent 23 years studying forms of high-powered energy. He said his role on the House Science, Space and Technology committee is focused on preventing Republican climate change deniers from defunding science and dismissing facts.
While Trump may have been right that the Paris agreement did not do enough to lower CO2 emissions, Foster added, that was no reason to end the U.S. role in the deal. "More is going to have to be done; that is not an argument for not starting now," Foster said.
Going forward, he stressed that people interested in the issue pay attention to congressional budget debates. "That's the most important way you keep score of the advance or decline of science in our country," Foster said.
Other Democrats said Trump was ignoring the wishes of the renewable and fossil fuel industries to please the "Koch brothers" and "Breitbart."
"This decision may be a win for Steve Bannon and Scott Pruitt and those who share their extremist views, but it’s a loss for everyone else," Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said in a statement.
Concern that the U.S. would lose its role as a world leader was also a clear message from Democrats. Though Trump insisted "we don't want world leaders laughing at us anymore," the top Democrat on the Senate's environment committee, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), said he believed the U.S. was ceding its role as a global energy leader.
"The European Union and China already have plans to fill the gaping hole left by the United States, including the potential to create millions of clean energy jobs this president has tossed aside," Carper said in a statement. The U.S. renewable energy sector employs nearly 800,000 people, and the solar industry grew 12 times faster than the rest of the economy in 2016.
Trump's decision will remove the U.S. from the 2015 agreement that joined together 195 nations in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and curbing global warming. Nicaragua and Syria were the only countries in a United Nations climate group that declined to join the accord.
The move "is a rejection of settled science ... and abdicating America’s leadership role in the world is a historic mistake," Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the top Democrat investigating alleged Trump-Russia ties in the Senate, said.