WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence returned to Washington on Thursday from a three-day trip to Australia to survey the damage from Cyclone Gita — an act of nature that Pence asserted could have been avoided if American emissions were less polluting.
But in a speech to the Economic Club of Washington, Mr. Pence also pressed the administration’s economic case for the pending withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
“Everyone here in this room knows what the President meant when he made that pronouncement of intent to withdraw from the Paris agreement,” Mr. Pence said. “What was it? What did he mean?”
He was referring to the announcement last May that President Trump planned to exit the accord on global climate change.
“He put his ‘skin in the game,’ as they say,” Mr. Pence added.
Mr. Pence didn’t elaborate on his description of the president’s move. But it seemed to be a nod to the president’s desire to help business, rather than to save the world.
The climate accord is an agreement signed by nearly 200 countries to protect the climate from the consequences of greenhouse gas emissions. More than 170 nations have ratified the accord and will implement the rules agreed upon during the meeting in Paris in 2015.
In 2017, the United States emitted 7.2 percent of greenhouse gases, down from more than 19 percent in 2005, according to the Energy Information Administration. The United States is the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases.
At the same time, the administration argues that the United States has a responsibility to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
The argument comes as the U.S. fights for votes in Congress to gut the Affordable Care Act and as President Trump recently threatened to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.