US President Donald Trump looks on during a meeting with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam in the Oval Office of the White House, on May 31, 2017 in Washington, DC.
Photo by Olivier Douliery/Abaca—Getty Images
By Justin Worland
June 1, 2017

A WEAKENED TREATY

The U.S. is the world’s largest economy and its second greatest polluter. Experts worry that if the U.S. abandons its public commitment to combat climate change–a move that could negatively impact the global effort to lower carbon emissions–it may trigger other countries to follow suit, weakening the accord.

LOST ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY

In 2016, there was a nearly $300 billion global investment in clean energy–a figure that was expected to grow with the accord, since fighting climate change means embracing renewable energy. A U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement could signal to investors that the U.S. has little interest in capturing that market.

GLOBAL ALIENATION

A U.S. withdrawal will likely be seen as an affront to U.S. allies in Europe, weakening key relationships. It will put the U.S. in the position of being a lone dissenter in climate-change discussions, and could result in the U.S. being excluded from high-level diplomatic gatherings altogether.

This appears in the June 12, 2017 issue of TIME.

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