The Energy 202: The United States and Syria are now the only two countries out of the Paris climate accord

This week, Nicaragua, one of the few holdouts from the Paris climate accords, did an about-face and said it will sign the agreement.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega announced that the Central American nation of 6 million people ― about the size of Maryland ― would sign the landmark pact voluntarily committing nations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to El Nuevo Diario, one of the nation’s major newspapers.

After President Obama, who orchestrated the pact bringing together more than 190 nations, only two nations had yet to sign the agreement in April of this year.

One was Syria, which was and still is in the middle of a bloody civil war. The other was Nicaragua, which attended 2015 talks but refused to sign the accord.

President Trump announced his intent to make the United States the third nonparticipant in the pact because of, as he said in a speech in June, “the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

But Nicaragua declined to participate not because its leaders thought the agreement went against its national interests. Instead, they felt the agreement did not go far enough.

“We’re not going to submit because voluntary responsibility is a path to failure,” Paul Oquist, Nicaragua’s climate envoy, said during the Paris talks in 2015. Nicaragua argued that rich countries should pay more to mitigate global warming because they were largely responsible for it.

As a developing nation, Nicaragua produces only a fraction of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. But the country, economically dependent on agriculture and in the path of Atlantic hurricanes, is ranked the fourth-most vulnerable to climate change in the world, according to the 2017 Global Climate Risk Index.

When making his announcement, Ortega this week struck a note of solidarity with other poorer regions affected by a changing climate.

“We have to be in solidarity with this large number of countries that are the first victims, that are already the victims and are the ones that will continue to suffer the impact of these disasters and that are countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, of the Caribbean, which are in highly vulnerable areas,” Ortega said, according to the Nicaraguan newspaper.

As the United Nations General Assembly met this week, Trump administration officials reiterated the U.S. commitment to leaving the Paris deal unless, as the president said in June without defining what fairness meant, “we can make a deal that’s fair.”

“The president decided to pull out of the Paris accord because it's a bad deal for the American people and it's a bad deal for the environment,” National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said on Sunday before the U.N. gathering. Trump's top economic adviser, Gary Cohn, carried that message to foreign counterparts in New York later in the week.

Nicaragua’s decision is far from likely to change minds in the White House, which has withstood lobbying from the leaders of France and elsewhere to reconsider.

But according to Andrew Light, a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute who was a senior climate adviser at Obama’s State Department, Nicaragua’s decision after the U.N. meeting is “further demonstration that the administration is isolated on this issue.”

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-- Borrowed time: Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt’s round-the-clock security detail is consuming the time of special agents that would otherwise be spent investigating environmental crimes, reports The Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis.

Now the EPA is bringing in pinch-hitter agents from across the country two weeks at a time to help guard Pruitt. "The practice has rankled some employees and outside critics, who note that the EPA’s criminal enforcement efforts already are understaffed and that the Trump administration has proposed further cuts to the division,"Juliet and Brady write.

One the one hand, extra scrutiny is sensible for Cabinet members when they, like Pruitt, are engaged in bold, controversial projects — regardless of politics. For example, former President Obama's energy secretary, Ernest Moniz, switched to constant protection after helping broker the Iran nuclear deal in 2015.

On the other hand, the problem of pilfering the criminal enforcement unit for bodyguards is one of the EPA's own making given the agency's internal hiring freeze. The agency is looking into whether it can make an exception to the hiring freeze to add additional full-time protection for Pruitt, who Juliet and Brady note is receiving three times the protection of his predecessors.

-- Trump's other Rocket Man: Trump's pick to run NASA, Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.), wrote in a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee that he wants to urge the federal government to better understand climate change — but on Mars.

Bridenstine wrote: "Mars once had a magnetic field, rivers, lakes and an ocean on its north pole. At some point, Mars changed dramatically and we should strive to understand why. Studying other planets can inform our understanding of Earth."

Scott Waldman at E&E News decodes that sentiment: "The notion that Mars is experiencing climate change is a talking point among climate skeptics who say the planet has been changed by solar radiation. If Mars is experiencing climate change, the assertion goes, then warming on Earth can be blamed on the sun. The claim comes from research comparing two images of Mars, one from the 1970s and another from the 1990s. It concludes that darkening of the planet's surface meant Mars is warming."