Last Week Tonight Covers What Leaving the Paris Agreement Means for the Climate Change Movement

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On yesterday’s Last Week Tonight, the main story was Donald Trump’s decision to take the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change, the misinformation that accompanies that choice, and the consequences of doing so.

John Oliver first goes through the premise of the Paris Agreement and it general purpose: that in order to avoid the global devastation of exceeding a carbon budget, countries would come together to set goals. “It was not perfect, some critics at the time felt that it did not go far enough,” says the host, “but the key achievement was for the very first time getting virtually the entire world, including China and India, to commit to taking action.” Some have argued that the Paris Agreement is mostly useless, to which I direct them to this Pajiba article about how Trump’s decision is just one big unhelpful middle finger to the planet.

Oliver continues the segment by trying to making sense of Trump’s word-association stream-of-consciousness rantings and tears apart the misinformation that he and similar politicians like Pennsylvania Republican Scott Wagner (his theory for climate change would be hilarious if it wasn’t terrifyingly wrong) spread without apparent consequence.

The one possible silver lining? Oliver says:

“Trump may have inadvertently done us a tiny favor this week, because the problem with climate change is that it’s always felt so abstract and impersonal and far off in the future. The usual symbols that we use don’t do much to fix or help that. It’s either a graph that’s difficult to understand or a sad polar bear on a small piece of ice. And it’s hard to get emotionally fired up over that.”

“But this week, the climate change movement may have gotten a symbol to rally around, because apparently it was never quite enough to motivate ourselves out of love for this large gassy orb. But maybe just maybe we can now motivate ourselves to do something out of our loathing of this one.”

(Image: screencap)

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