I don’t think it means what you think it means.
A lot of people are angry that President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement. They also seem surprised, despite the fact that withdrawing from the Paris Agreement was one of Trump’s campaign promises.
From Obama’s chief climate negotiator to the Church of England (yep), a wide swath of liberals and European institutions (but I repeat myself) have expressed anger and dismay over Trump’s decision. According to reports, German Chancellor Merkel “flew into a fit of rage” over Trump’s withdrawal, and a number of European nations told the United States the agreement is not renegotiable, despite the fact that Trump is not calling to renegotiate; we’re just walking away from the table.
And despite the fact that the Paris Agreement was never ratified as a treaty in the United States–making it non-binding on the President of the United States. (A fact I find deeply ironic, given that the executive power of the President under Trump to use his executive power to impose order on the Federal Government is under attack like never before from the Left. It’s almost as if President Trump’s power as executive is only permitted so long as it pleases the Left.)
We are also being reminded by a number of groups such as the National Resources Defense Council why we should stay in the Paris Agreement, and we’re being reminded that only two other nations are not part of the agreement: Syria (which is in the mist of a civil war), and Nicaragua (who refused to join because they felt the Paris Agreement was not strong enough).
This last part is important.
The problem is, most of the people who are complaining about the Paris Agreement don’t seem to know what is in the Paris Agreement.
It's a completely meaningless piece of paper that if left unsigned will leave the planet a fiery orb of lava https://t.co/FVLgGJzZr6
— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) June 2, 2017
The thing about an agreement that has near universal support is that, given the wide and varying cultures, attitudes, and governmental goals of the countries in the world, you can only get > 99% agreement if you give every country of the world something in return.
For example, the Paris Agreement has no requirement that countries meet any specific goals. Instead, the agreement only required that each country make up its own goals, report its own progress–and there is no enforcement mechanism for those countries which fail to meet its goals.
It’s just b******t for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises.
As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.
Back in 2016 the Right had a bit of a field day with this useless agreement: Another Obama Legacy: Americans Will Pay Billions for a Useless Climate Agreement
The agreement’s uselessness stems from its negotiating structure. Each country submitted a pledge of climate action, each pledge was accepted without question, and the sum of those pledges became the deal. Doe-eyed diplomats at the United Nations envisioned this process creating an “upward spiral of ambition,” as they phrased it during the 2014 Bonn Climate Conference. But the major developing countries, whose rapidly rising greenhouse-gas emissions are the driving force behind fears of climate change, care more about economic growth for their impoverished populations. So, as I wrote at National Review Online in December, they submitted pledges to continue with business as usual.
China pledged that its emissions would peak “around 2030,” precisely when the U.S. government’s national laboratory had already estimated the peak would occur. India’s pledge amounted to a slowdown from its current rate of progress. Pakistan said simply that it would “reduce its emissions after reaching peak levels to the extent possible,” which offers nothing beyond a definition of the word “peak.”
Unsurprisingly, the sum of many pledges to do nothing is: nothing. When the Massachusetts Institute of Technology compiled the pledges and compared them with its own preexisting projection, it found a temperature reduction by 2100 of only 0.2°C. When the analysts compared the pledges with the projection created by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change back in 2000, they found no improvement at all.
In fact, the only two things that remaining members in the Paris Agreement would have done–if President Obama’s legacy would have been continued–is increased government regulatory burdens and transferring a lot of cash to the developing world. It would also create additional exposure to the United States, as the largest developed nation in the world, to pay out money to various developing nations for “loss and damage.” (Yes, the Paris Agreement does not require payment, but under an Obama Administration such transfers would have taken place anyway.)
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce suggested that remaining in the Paris Agreement–which, as noted above, does nothing concrete for the environment–would have cost trillions of dollars and millions of jobs:
Meeting the commitments President Obama made as part of the Paris climate accord could cost the U.S. economy $3 trillion and 6.5 million industrial sector jobs by 2040, according to a comprehensive new study prepared by NERA Economic Consulting.
“This groundbreaking study is the first of its kind to showcase the economic pain and job loss that would result from imposing ever-tightening climate policy regulations on the U.S. industrial sector,” said Margo Thorning, senior economic policy advisor to the American Council for Capital Formation Center for Policy Research. “What’s more, the regulatory approach is unlikely to succeed in reducing global emissions as our industrial and manufacturing activity will seek a more-friendly regulatory environment, thereby undermining U.S. climate goals.”
In other words, this winds up being a gimme to various third-world countries (who signed the Paris Agreement in droves) because they would be the natural places for U.S. jobs to go as U.S. energy prices rise and as those nation’s energy prices decline.
Meanwhile, pollution stays the same: all we would be doing is exporting our pollution.
And there is a reason why a number of U.S. companies are expressing anger–and why so many of those companies read like a “Who’s Who” of the largest U.S. companies.
Because large companies benefit from increased regulations.
It’s the classic Bootleggers and Baptists problem applied to regulations. The classic formulation of the “Bootleggers and Baptists” revolves around a law prohibiting selling alcohol on Sunday: baptists support it because the regulation is “godly.” But bootleggers also support the regulation because it increases their business on Sunday.
Environmental regulation (as well as most government regulations) have long favored the wealthy and powerful who often help craft those regulations. That’s because it makes it more costly for small upstart companies to compete.
Suppose, for example, you have a regulation which requires companies to pay $1 million to an “environmental fund” regardless of size. To Apple (who has some $240 billion in cash), $1 million is noise. But to a small two-person startup starting a new company in a garage somewhere in the mid-west–$1 million means they simply don’t go into business.
And the problem is we never hear about that two-person startup, because they made the rational decision not to pay $1 million for the privilege of toiling in a small garage. Because we never hear about them, we never know what we lost.
So every time you hear about an Apple or a GE or an Elon Musk complaining about the Paris Agreement, remember they are angry in part because President Trump just took away a tool they were planning to use to keep the rich rich, and the poor poor.
I strongly suspect a lot of anger being directed at President Trump over withdrawing from the Paris Agreement–an agreement which, only a year ago, was being called “worthless” and “meaningless” by the very people who are now loudly complaining–is simple political opportunism.
It’s certainly not because the Paris Accord would do anything to actually help the planet.