When the United States pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2017, the battle to lower greenhouse gas emissions seemed lost.
A new documentary, though, makes a powerful argument that the fight against climate change in the U.S. is as strong as ever thanks to hundreds of cities, states, universities and businesses who picked up the baton and continued the goals of the Paris agreement, despite the Trump administration’s position.
Called Paris to Pittsburgh, the documentary premiers on the National Geographic channel Dec. 12.
It criticizes the administration but also argues that the issue should have bipartisan appeal. That’s partially because the fight against climate change includes projects promoting renewable energy, which -- we are told in the film - create jobs, grow the economy and lower emissions.
Among the supporters of clean energy is Republican Sen. Charles Grassley (Iowa), who has expressed skepticism about the climate science but has watched his state be a leader in wind energy. Thirty-seven percent of Iowa’s electricity comes from wind turbines. Thousands of jobs have been created.
“There's just no way that I would have predicted all of these things about wind energy would turn out to be so good for jobs in rural America,” Grassley says. “It's projected in a few years we could have 17,000 jobs connected with energy in Iowa.”
Other Republicans interviewed include U.S. Reps. Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, both of Florida. On the other side of the aisle, the film includes interviews with Democratic mayors Eric Garcetti (Los Angeles) and Bill Peduto (Pittsburgh), each of whom took steps to continue the goals of the Paris agreement.
The film gets its name from President Trump’s comment when he pulled the U.S. from the agreement: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” Peduto responded that day with a Tweet: “It's now up to cities to lead.”
Paris to Pittsburgh warns us, educates us and gives us hope.
We learn that rising oceans around Florida are threatening the Everglades’ freshwater, which is a source of drinking water for residents. Pumps that once pulled up freshwater now are pulling up brine water (a mixture of freshwater and saltwater). In Miami, the rising oceans regularly flood the streets and threaten homes.
Yet cities in Florida and elsewhere are fighting back. Orlando is one of more than 75 cities nationwide that have committed to run on 100 percent clean energy by 2050. The city is experimenting with floating solar panels on ponds. Its buses are being switched to zero emission vehicles.
Hope-filled stories exist elsewhere, too. In Los Angeles, ex-prisoners who have been rehabilitated are finding jobs by installing solar panels on homes. In Iowa, farmers from both ends of the political spectrum are installing solar and discovering it saves them money on electricity.
“Most people are green — that kind of green,” a man says, referencing cash.
The documentary even interviews officials in Puerto Rico, where a community that runs off solar power became an “energy oasis” after Hurricane Maria. When everyone else was without electricity, this community continued thriving.
Paris to Pittsburgh may upset partisan viewers, but its central argument nevertheless is enticing. That argument is: The nation’s climate change debate can be solved by something -- renewable energy -- that creates jobs, grows the economy and has practical money-saving benefits, too. It even can provide electricity when traditional power grids fail. What’s not to like about that?
Written by Michael Foust
Directors: Sidney Beaumont, Michael Bonfiglio