There’s no reason to think we’ll always have Paris.
As Earth Day nears, there is a game of tug-of-war going on in the White House. One side is advising President Donald Trump to forgo his campaign promise to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement (PCA). They’d instead like to see Trump cut a better deal to remain in the agreement. The other side is encouraging the president to keep his commitment to pull America out of the PCA, leaving other countries to follow their own self-destructive path and America ascendant.
Each side is arguing its position is the best way to help “Make America Great Again,” but the “stay in Paris” side is 100 percent wrong. Here are four strong reasons why:
First, the Paris Climate Agreement is a bad deal for United States. In fact, the treaty is so bad President Barack Obama didn’t dare submit it to the Senate for ratification — as the Constitution requires — because he knew it had no chance of passing. Instead, he tried to do an end run around the Constitution, by implementing the agreement in bits and pieces through executive orders.
PCA requires the United States to cut its carbon-dioxide emissions 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, meaning America will have to reduce emissions by a massive amount. These cuts would force the closure of many of the least-expensive power plants nationwide, raising energy prices at a time of tepid economic growth and sky-high deficits. Low energy prices resulting from the use of abundant low-cost coal, oil, and natural gas was responsible for almost all the economic growth that occurred during the Obama years.
Fossil-fuel production sparked a job boom in oil and gas fields in numerous states, including North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia. The low-cost energy this boom produced brought manufacturing jobs, especially in the chemical industry, back home from overseas.
If Trump keeps Americans stuck in the Paris Climate Agreement, the era of cheap, reliable energy will end, and the economy will tank, as businesses, consumers, and homeowners will be forced to pay more for energy.
Because major economic or geopolitical competitors such as China, India, and Russia can continue to increase their emissions under the treaty — it does not require them to make any concrete emissions reductions from present levels — their economies would become more attractive under the PCA to investment and would chug along as the U.S. economy declines.
Russia is a particularly instructive case. While the Russian Federation agreed to cut its emissions 30 percent below 1990 levels by 2030, the economic collapse that occurred after the breakup of the Soviet Union means Russia is already 30 percent below its 1990 emissions levels. The Paris Climate Agreement allows Russia to count “the maximum possible account of absorbing capacity of forests,” meaning its industries can increase emissions by whatever amount of carbon-dioxide emissions Russia counts as being absorbed by its forests.
Not only do foreign countries become more attractive business locations under the Paris Climate Agreement, as energy prices rise, the businesses that stay in the United States will shed jobs, as higher energy costs crowd out employees’ salaries and benefits and slow or halt expansion.
Second, for all its economic costs, the Paris treaty delivers no environmental gain. According to a post-Paris analysis on the U.N. Environment Programme’s website, even if all the parties to the agreement meet their promised emissions targets, the Paris agreement will result in less than half the greenhouse-gas cuts required to halt temperatures at an upper limit of 2 degrees C. In other words, even if one believes human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions are driving dangerous climate change — and I think the best science shows they aren’t — Paris will not prevent one iota of rising temperatures, sea levels, or the likelihood of more extreme weather events.
Third, although I agree with Trump’s view the U.S. government should put America first, it is morally unconscionable for the government to pursue policies that actively suppress much-needed economic development in the most poverty-stricken countries in the world. Paris ensures the poorest of the poor — the 1.2 billion people who lack access to electricity, the nearly 1 billion who face starvation or malnourishment every day, and the hundreds of millions who live on less than $1 per day — remain impoverished. They’ll be stuck begging for foreign-aid scraps from the tables of developed countries indefinitely under this plan.
Access to affordable electricity and modern systems of transportation, agriculture, sanitation, and drinking water are necessary to deliver first-world living to developing nations, yet the Paris agreement denies them the use of fossil fuels that make these lifesaving advances possible. By contrast, if developing countries are allowed to use fossil fuels, their economies will grow and their people will become bigger consumers of U.S. exports. Thus, developing impoverished nations will also further Trump’s goal of making America great again.
The fourth reason Trump should withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement is that it’s politically important for him to do so. Trump promised to withdraw, when he ran for office. Trump did not promise to negotiate a better climate deal, as those who are advising him to stay in the agreement are suggesting he should do. In fact, Trump routinely said the PCA is a bad deal that’s based on hoax science.
There is no political upside to reversing course; environmentalists won’t suddenly love him, and “the swamp” establishment won’t choose to embrace him. But there is a substantial political downside to flip-flopping, as many who supported Trump based in whole or in part on this promise would become among his fiercest critics — and rightly so.
Trump still has a lot he hopes to achieve during his first term, and he needs allies to accomplish those goals. Trump is already beset by enemies on the left, so he should be sure to keep happy as many allies as he can on the right.
Photo credit: Secretary of State John Kerry before the signing (Wikimedia Commons)