Resources for understanding the Paris Climate Accord

'A Matter of Facts' from the University of Minnesota Libraries

Alicia Kubas on Paris Climate Accord
Alicia Kubas

By Alicia Kubas
Government Publications and Regional Depository Librarian
University of Minnesota Libraries

President Trump revealed his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord, or Paris Agreement, on June 1, 2017. The agreement strives to reduce climate change among nations and was put into place by President Obama in 2015 as an executive act.

If you have questions about what this decision means in practice or where you can go for additional information, this post is meant to help you by providing additional information and links to resources.

President Trump’s decision to leave the Paris Agreement was met with outcry and debate about the merits of staying in the accord or leaving it. Many news outlets ran stories on the U.S. withdrawal, including the New York Times, BBC News, NPR, and The Economist. Since the decision to leave the accord, more articles have been published to discuss how this might impact the U.S. economy as well as how this could influence the global initiative to address climate change.           

President Trump’s desire to withdraw from the Paris Agreement will not be fulfilled immediately, however. According to Article 28 of the agreement, notice of withdrawal cannot be given until three years after it has been enforced. The agreement was put into force on November 4, 2016 so notice could not be given until November 4, 2019. Furthermore, the withdrawal would not take effect until a year later on November 4, 2020.

Many international and U.S. government publications are beneficial for further exploration of the topic of the Paris Agreement and the controversy around U.S. withdrawal. While some federal and international government databases and websites are freely available, the University Libraries also provides subscription access to resources that supplement government information through easier searching and indexing.

Free online resources about the Paris Climate Accord

The text of the Paris Agreement in various languages can be found through the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) website.

To see how the agreement was debated in Congress, consult the Congressional Record via congress.gov, which provides a parliamentary transcript of the proceedings on the floor of the House and Senate.

Another type of freely available government publication is hearings. Hearings are generally used by Congress to gather information about a topic or conduct an investigation. Related to the Paris Agreement and President Trump’s ability to revoke the U.S. involvement is the fact that President Obama entered the U.S. into the accord via executive agreement and not under a treaty which would need Senate ratification. Thus, the Executive Overreach Task Force of the House Committee on the Judiciary conducted a hearing on May 12, 2016 where it investigated concerns about President Obama overreaching his executive powers in cases of foreign affairs, including the Paris Agreement. Three expert witnesses with law and policy backgrounds were brought in to testify on this topic.

The UNFCC website as well as the European Commission’s website contain helpful background on the events and documentation leading up to the Paris Agreement as well as the elements of the accord itself.

Freely available online resources on the Paris Climate Accord

  • European Commission website
  • United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change website
  • gov (Whitehouse/Executive branch website)
  • Senate or House Committee websites
  • gov (U.S. federal legislative website)

Subscription access resources on the Paris Climate Accord

Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports provide deeper analysis around the Paris Accord debate. CRS reports are nonpartisan and provide legal and policy analysis for Congressional members and committees. The majority of these reports are not freely available as there is no law requiring they be made available to the public. However, ProQuest Congressional, a subscription database available through the Libraries, contains CRS reports that have been released via other congressional publications, by the CRS itself, or through members of Congress. There are a number of reports dealing with the Paris Agreement including:

Voxgov is another resource available through the University of Minnesota Libraries that provides a larger picture of the political climate around larger issues such as the Paris Agreement. For example, voxgov synthesizes tweets from agencies, legislators, and other politicians, so a researcher can see who is tweeting about the Paris Agreement and their stance on the matter. Press releases, Facebook posts, and Youtube videos are also included in results, and these can be narrowed by political party to see certain group perspectives or clashes. Access to nontraditional sources like these is vital in understanding diverse perspectives on this topic.

Additional U of M resources on the Paris Climate Accord

As the Regional Depository and Government Publications Librarian at the University of Minnesota, I regularly assist researchers in digging up documents to provide context for larger political developments. As a federal depository, the University of Minnesota Libraries supports access to government information and therefore has a large comprehensive and historical collection of international, federal, and state publications available physically in the library and online. Feel free to contact me if you would like assistance around government information or see if your local library is a federal depository by checking the directory.

In addition, this topic revolves around climate change, and Shannon Farrell, the U of M’s Natural Resources Librarian, is the subject librarian expert to contact for those topical questions. The University Libraries provides access to resources and research around practically any subject area, but there are also U of M faculty members doing extensive research around climate change in the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate. Dylan Millet, Peter Snyder, and Tracy Twine are all faculty members working on answering questions around climate change and its effects on ecosystems, agricultural productivity, and the atmosphere.

Whereas government information is authoritative and reputable as a record of the happenings of government, it is often biased by partisan viewpoints. Research by faculty at educational institutions like the University of Minnesota takes a nonpartisan approach to tackling these issues through rigorous scientific inquiry and objective observation and information gathering. It is important to consider both information types when making your own conclusions around topics like the Paris Agreement and the U.S. involvement in climate change initiatives.

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