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editorial

The announcement subtracting the United States from the Paris climate deal, made without irony in the White House Rose Garden during a celebration featuring a live jazz combo, is a shame for all, and a surprise for nobody.

President Donald Trump and his merry band of climate denialists have long promised to spare no effort to scupper their country's environmental policy.

Mr. Trump railed that the Paris climate agreement is a bad deal, is "draconian" and will cause business to grind to a halt. Oh, and it's also flawed because it's non-binding and ineffective.

His rationale is, not to put too fine a point on this, idiotic.

Commitments under the Paris arrangement are entirely voluntary, and it is supported by a vast diaspora of interests, from environmental groups to the world's largest oil company, ExxonMobil, which urged Mr. Trump to reconsider.

Only three countries oppose it: Nicaragua – which feels it's too timid – Syria, and now the U.S. While the decision provides red meat for Mr. Trump's ravenous Republican base, it is largely nativist political theatre, because no signatory can withdraw until after the next presidential election, in November, 2020.

The Paris pact is not without flaws, but taking the ostrich approach on climate change is destructively short-sighted.

The moves it foreshadows, namely a gutting of U.S. environmental regulations, will have actual, dangerous consequences. At the same time, the international effort to address the mounting threat posed by man-made climate change is not contingent on Americans holding the reins.

While it would be desirable for the world's largest economy to be at the forefront of international climate initiatives, at least now the fight can go on without constant U.S. foot-dragging.

China, in particular, seems perfectly content to pick up the mantle of leadership, at least rhetorically. In the long run, it may even feel pressured to back up its words.

Mr. Trump's announcement is essentially symbolic. That said, the symbolism is terrible. It feels like one more signpost pointing to the end of the American Century.

Listen to Donald Trump's speech about the U.S. withdrawing and potentially renegotiating its place in the Paris climate change accord condensed into 90 seconds.