Conservatives who found themselves weary of Trump’s victory in November have since found solace in some of his actions, the latest of which is the withdrawal from the Paris Accord. As for the alarmism surrounding the decision, the public would be wise to look past the hysteria and think realistically about Trump’s withdrawal.
As most of our readers have surely heard, President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement June 1st. The American left reacted accordingly. There were the expected apocalyptic tweets from verified journalists, a hysterical headline from the Daily News, heartfelt and virtuous statements from career politicians like former President Obama, and a bizarre claim from the ACLU that the withdrawal resulted from racism, ostensibly because global warming disproportionately affects people of color. However, upon looking past media hysteria onto the details of the agreement, one will find that Trump’s decision is not the catastrophic blunder it is so shamelessly advertised to be by the media.
The Paris Agreement, in actuality, contains no enforcement measures to effectively slow global warming. MIT studies cited by President Trump have shown that, even with full compliance from member countries, the surface-air temperature would decrease by between 0.6 and 1.1 degrees, Celsius by 2100. Despite the near-negligible reduction in global temperatures, one of the authors of the MIT study has said that the president misconstrued his study, and called the agreement “a step in the right direction.” MIT, in a well-intentioned statement, claims that the Paris accord will set in motion further steps. This, however, is not provable nor is it part of the agreement, and should be regarded as mere hopeful speculation. While countries and companies worldwide should actively look for ways to cut emissions as well as costs, this agreement is antithetical to that goal.
President of the Danish think tank Copenhagen Consensus Center, Bjorn Lomborg, speaking for PragerU, states that “the Paris Agreement is the wrong solution to a real problem.” He continues, “The right solution is likely to be found in green energy research and development.” Lomborg cites Microsoft founder Bill Gates as one of many catalysts for this idea, the latter having already committed funds and energy towards green energy solutions, such as those proposed by the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, formed by Gates and other billionaires. Lomborg goes on to call for the boosting of green energy innovation, as opposed to the inefficient alternative energy sources used today. Finally, he cites hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” as one safe and cost-effective solution that has reduced and continues to reduce the cost of natural gas, a much lower-emission alternative to coal. This has made the switch from high-emission coal to natural gas much cheaper and therefore more preferable in the free market.
Initiatives taken by the private sector have done far more to decrease emissions than any government action. Even former president Obama said, “The private sector already chose a low-carbon future.” If he’s right, then what is the point of strapping down our economy with regulations? History shows that it simply discourages innovation. Ironically, in fact, some regulations help rather than hurt the common scapegoats of big oil such as ExxonMobil because only they can afford to adhere to the sometimes strict regulations, according to a WSJ Moneybeat podcast on the Paris Agreement.
Daily Wire editor, infamous public speaker, and subject of the 2017 Summer Edition of The Arch Conservative in print, Ben Shapiro comments, “This agreement wasn’t about forwarding [efficient energy solutions], it was about creating public pressure for the U.S. government to intervene in its own economy without requiring anything of those with whom we compete.” Shapiro makes a worthwhile point about the U.S. once again carrying the world’s burden, as the U.S. is typically expected to do, but “public pressure” is really all the U.S. or any signee faces. This is where the principal defect of the agreement can be found: it is not actually binding.
The commitments to adhere by the accord are all voluntary and there are no penalties to those who fail to meet their stated commitments. In fact, a report by Transport Environment found that Sweden, Germany, and France are the only EU nations currently adhering to emissions limitations. The Philippines have rescinded their agreement, and China, India, and Pakistan have all decided not to cut emissions for decades. Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute writes, “All this behavior is socially acceptable amongst the climate crowd. Only Trump’s presumption that the agreement means something, and that countries should be forthright about their commitments is beyond the pale.” U.S. withdrawal is symbolically significant, as it would most certainly have been expected to be a major contributor to the economy-hobbling tenets of the agreement. So, in its most basic form, President Trump’s decision can be defended as a campaign promise kept to put America first.
The arguments for staying in the Paris Accord seem rather shallow, and have consisted mostly of shouting down opposing arguments as ignorant, anti-science, or even racist, if you ask ACLU. Ironic, really, considering that higher energy production costs burden the poor more than anyone (and the impoverished in America are disproportionately black), and the proposed ways of mitigating climate change affect people of color worldwide. Africa, India, and China feel these effects more so than the Western world because it stifles oil, natural gas, and coal use which affect heavily the quality of life for large swaths of populations there. Of course, this is ignored.
Upon taking a closer look at the real consequences and effects of the Paris Climate Accord, one will find thick layers of meaningless political virtue-signaling and counterproductive economic restrictions. Even the best case scenario isn’t worth imposing the accord’s regulations. The welfare of the environment, pollution, and emissions should be front and center in any policy discussion on climate change. For this debate, however, it was mostly self-righteousness. The overheated reaction to pulling out of the Paris Accord ignores the role of the private sector, which has done more to reduce emissions than any domestic regulation or international agreement, as well as the efficiency of nuclear energy and hydraulic fracturing. Any discussion of climate policy that does not include these breakthroughs should be promptly dismissed. In fact, it would not at all be surprising if the private sector innovates and meets the former goal of the Paris agreement in the coming decades. Until then, we must approach the situation of climate change with the classic and sober cost-benefit analysis.
— J. Thomas Perdue is a sophomore studying journalism. He is a regular contributor to The Arch Conservative.