Friday, June 2, 2017

How The Withdrawal From Paris Climate Accord Will Affect the U.S. And The Planet

Related imageA new interactive Google Earth map showing the impacts of a 4°C world
"How many times do I gotta tell you? I don't care about this damned planet! Only how much money I can make off it!"

As most of us suspected, Trump yesterday confirmed that he will withdraw the US from the Paris climate agreement.  In effect, this move (likely inspired by Steve Bannon) ensures the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases will quit the international effort to address dangerous global warming.

Let me be clear here that in my opinion the Paris accord was more like a kind of posturing, given it wasn't written by actual climate scientists. This is the lot who are aware of the risks of a planet subject to a radiative heating effect equivalent to 2.5 x 10 7  TJ injected each year into the atmosphere or roughly 400,000 Hiroshima size A-bombs.  Had these scientists written the 25-page document it would have excluded fluffy, fuzzy words like: aim, encouraging, striving, facilitate, assisting and mobilizing.   Indeed, only two specific goals are stated:

1) To hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 C by 2100.

Which has already been rendered outdated by new data that shows at least a 4C rise.


2) To achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removal by sinks of greenhouse gases in the second half of the 21st century.

None of these was ideal, apart from the fact all the goals stated were voluntary, i.e. signed on to by 197 nations with the understanding that their agreement to the emissions cuts was entirely based on trust. But rather than simply change its stated goals, the U.S. under Trump entirely removed itself from the deal, joining Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries not party to the Paris agreement. Again, there will be no penalty for leaving, with the Paris deal based upon the premise of voluntary emissions reductions by participating countries.

Invoking the sort of cretinous codswallop for which he's famous, Trump said yesterday in the White House rose garden :

"In order to fulfil my solemn duty to the United States and its citizens, the US will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, but begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accords or a really entirely new transaction, on terms that are fair to the United States,”


We will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. If we can, that’s great. If we can’t, that’s fine.”

But really the only one the U.S. can possibly negotiate with is itself!  The very notion of "renegotiation" of the Treaty is ludicrous given that each nation has already voluntarily set its own goals.  In the case of the U.S.  that would mean re-doing the original target of reducing emissions between 26 and 28 percent (below 2005 levels) by 2025.  Rather than withdraw like a bloody idiot, Trump could just have said we will instead aim for 15% or 20% of  2005 emissions by 2025. He essentially has tossed the baby out with the bathwater and cost the U.S. hundreds of thousands of renewable energy jobs in the process. As a reference marker, there were 260,000 solar energy -related jobs created last year compared to 53,000 for coal. China plans a $361 b investment in renewable energy by 2020.  This is projected to create 13 million new jobs for the Chinese middle and working classes, most starting at an equivalent of U.S. $15/hr. WHO do you think will be the big winner by the U.S. backing out?

Thus, the bottom line is that it is the U.S. economy that will be most seriously hit, even before the inevitable climate consequences kick in. (Most experts predict about 3 billion tons of additional CO2 in the atmosphere per year, and 0.5C of increased mean global temperatures by 2050. If we're already on a track to hit 3.0 C, that would mean 3.5 C instead and likely more than enough to melt most of what's left of Antarctica as well as Greenland. The Arctic having been melted down long before.)

Even if the U.S. did what it promised under the Treaty it is clear that all the above would merely be postponed, but it would be better than doing nothing and as I noted, the economic consequences are huge as well.  Trump, hitting his best fake blather form, also told the crowd outside the White House:

The fact that the Paris deal hamstrings the United States while empowering some of the world’s top polluting countries should expel any doubt as to why foreign lobbyists should wish to keep our beautiful country tied up and bound down … That’s not going to happen while I’m president, I’m sorry.”

Which is a total misrepresentation. The Paris "deal" hamstrings no one, no nation,  because it is based on each nation's having accepted emissions goals it designated for itself.   This,  again, discloses Trump has no use for truth and his only response is to justify his outrageous actions through lies,  deceit and dog whistle bull pockey to energize his daft supporters.

Barack Obama, issued a rare statement saying the new administration had joined “a small handful of nations that reject the future”. But he said that U.S. states, cities and businesses “will step up and do even more to lead the way, and help protect for future generations the one planet we’ve got”. Former vice-president Al Gore called the move “reckless and indefensible”, while among the business leaders to express regret over the move was Jeff Immelt -  chair and CEO of General Electric  - who said “climate change is real” and “industry must now lead”.

Typical of his fondness for schmaltz and fake optics, Trump spoke after being introduced by a warm-up band playing the George Gershwin classic Summertime, and argued that the Paris agreement disadvantaged the U.S. to the benefit of other countries, leaving workers and taxpayers to absorb the costs and suffer job losses and factory closures.

Again, all lies. In fact, what it will cost the U.S. is an estimated two million green, renewable energy jobs. Most of those would have benefited Trump's own followers, voters in the industrial states.  According to Prof John Schellnhuber, a climate scientist and former adviser to the EU, Angela Merkel and the pope, the U.S. will be actually be the primary  loser from its withdrawal. He said:

  “It will not substantially hamper global climate progress but it will hurt the American economy and society alikeChina and Europe have become world leaders on the path towards green development already and will strengthen their position if the US slips back. The Washington people around Trump fail to recognize that the climate wars are over, while the race for sustainable prosperity is on.”

Trump’s decision also risks destabilizing the Paris deal, with remaining participants faced with the choice of trying to make up the shortfall in emissions cuts or following the U. S.  lead and abandoning the agreement entirely. The U.S. emissions reduction pledge was to account for a fifth of the global emissions by 2030. An analysis by not-for-profit group Climate Interactive showed that a regression to “business as usual” emissions by the U.S. could warm the world by an additional 0.3C by 2100.   This is almost certainly an underestimate. Indeed, to keep global temperatures from rising to only that modest increment and no more, man-made emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be reduced to zero by 2050. Ain't gonna happen, especially with only voluntary limits.

The most hilarious brain burp from Trump:

“I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

This elicited the following response from Bill Peduto, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, to its citizens:

"The false hope that you're being spoon fed by the president isn't going to rebuild our region. If our economy is going to advance in the twenty first century then we have to decide if we're going to be a part of it. Or if we're going to be left behind."

And he also advised the Donald not to speak for him or his city, as Pittsburgh plans to do all it can to make the emissions cuts as underscored by the agreement.

Undoubtedly, the withdrawal is a victory for the nationalist ideologues in Trump’s administration, such as his strategist Steve Bannon. These fools have argued the Paris deal undermines an “America first” approach, harms domestic coal production and hinders efforts to repeal Barack Obama-era regulations such as the Clean Power Plan.  But again, if you knew (and now you do - see above) that 263,000 solar energy jobs were created last year in the U.S. compared to 53,000 for coal, which way would you go?  Better, how in the hell does costing this nation millions of new jobs translate into "America First"?  Of the 2.6 million new jobs (e.g. wind turbine technician) in renewable energy that have been created in the past five years in the U.S.,,  half have been in the states that Trump won. How will he now explain the possible loss of those jobs?

Imagine then U.S. solar firms now going abroad to try to sell more solar systems and being greeted by skeptics - whether in Germany, Barbados or other places who say: "Well, you guys and your President just walked away from future deals. You're not committed to real green energy change!"

This is exactly why hundreds of large businesses, including Apple, Google and Walmart, also threw their weight behind the deal, with even fossil fuel firms such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell supporting the accord as the best way to transition to a low-carbon economy and stave off the perils of climate change.. Now, in one fell swoop, Trump has obliterated all of that.

Another ideological imp behind the withdrawal was Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency head who has called Paris a “bad deal” that should be discarded.  Clearly, here's an idiot that needs to be educated about this country's already extensive investments in alternative energy jobs from solar energy engineer to wind turbine technician.

In his speech, Trump sought to frame his decision as part of this nationalist agenda, saying:

The Paris agreement handicaps the United States economy in order to win praise from the very foreign capitals and global activists that have long sought to gain wealth at our country’s expense,”

Again, no external entity is doing anything at "America's expense". The national emissions cuts were agreed to by each country on its own, no external agency or committee forced it.

In a bid to calm the frayed nerves of countries most at risk from rising temperatures, the EU and China announced an alliance to stay the course earlier on Wednesday. Their joint declaration called climate change a “national security issue” and a “multiplying factor of social and political fragility.” The Paris pact is a “historic achievement” and “irreversible”, the document says.

Former CIA acting director Michael Morrell put it thusly:

"When I think of the world and the threats to the preservation of the nation there are only three. The first is nuclear war with Russia, the second is a natural catastrophe from a biological agent, and the third is climate change. If this goes through and the next president doesn't change it then it's going to have serious national security implications."

As for the U.S. and its future fortunes, John Kerry put it best:

"This step does not make America first, it makes America last."

See also:


Unknown said...

I thought no country really follows the deal, only the economics of it determining how fast it becomes adopted.

The increasing pressures of externalized costs of pollution, the reduction in renewable energy production costs with increasing efficiency in electricity output & storage of electricity as well as reduced capital costs from scales of economy due to the adoption rate determines the effective adoption rate of renewable (i.e. if it is profitable to take a 0% interest loan to put panels up in the desert or certain parts of the hemisphere where sun is shone upon--although not as much of an issue with multi-angle window-translucent-like solar panels anymore).

I also hear criticisms of the agreement involving building panels in third-world countries or having it approved in the name of "UN" or "extra-national" agencies to fund warlords and bribed politicians, of which are not a very efficient means of spending money anyways (with no efficiency gains at all due to no native renewable industry) and it being prohibitively expensive as the state of the economy has only begun to industrialize with chinese capital or international banks capital (making coal the much cheaper and necessary intermediary-term solution).

If it is a voluntary "target", then it does not matter at all. Many companies have switched over and begun using renewable anyways as a part of their "brand conscious" loyalty image and high IQ society concerns for the future group of individuals. No one wants to live next to burning coal mines, heavy industrial plants, sewage solvent sludge, wastelands or what have not (unlike the poorer rising middle-class East that will sacrifice whatever means to achieve economic supremacy at the expense of health).

Trump softening his words with "re-negotiation" doesn't really mean anything. Do you have any idea about politics at all? If you have a unitary group of solid backers, with some moderates, and the former being the dominant group, you just say whatever gives you political power and do your "own" thing when no one else is looking. If you made promise A, and you know B is good, but the public hates B, you can just promise A and secretly modify the plan to do some of A posturing and do mostly B. It's not like Trump will bring back deep mining in desolate areas and revive those projects. Even the Coal industry knows it is dying and investing into infrastructure for 'green' energy or improving the efficiency/reducing the pollution as much as possible.

Adoption rate is proportional to the marginal benefit over alternatives. Subsidies and excess refunds are unneeded. Something like the "liberal" Ontario government is doing by making excessive 'green' energy and costing taxpayer money is the equivalent of why government intervention is unneeded in the area of 'green energy'. If people see the ecosystem 'suffer' enough and 'food' becomes scarce, economics will dominate and seek to drive efficiency up again even if 'global' temperatures rising, causing 'droughts' and more 'severe' things occur. Besides, you can't really 'get' every nation on this planet on the same agenda-- you would have to wage war and tell certain countries to stop pursuing r-selection breeding with mass-industrialization for decadent Western-world standards of living.

Copernicus said...

As I acknowledged in my post, and you obviously reinforce, the Paris pact was not "perfect". The economics issues and aspects you raise here are germane to that theme. Nevertheless, signing on to the pact - however hollow we may believe it - shows other players on the renewable energy scene who (which nation) is serious about investment, say in wind turbines, or solar cells, and which aren't. The fact remains there is good reason to believe solar and other investment will now flow to the Chinese who are making the much larger investment ($363 b) over the next ten years, and hence one can say the 'opportunity costs' for investment in the U.S. must be competitive with those. I doubt they will be now that Trump has scuttled it.

The 'voluntary' aspect also, I'd argue, is not entirely "meaningless" nor does it not matter at all. It sends a message of interest in terms of potential action - or not- and again transmits that to other potential players world wide.

You may also find this article of interest:

Copernicus said...

A quote from the previously cited link:

"Yes, Paris would have only limited warming to somewhere between 3.5 and 4 degrees Celsius—either of which would have been devastating—but it offered a framework for further progress. By dropping out, the US—as the second largest emitter of GHG on an annual basis and the largest historically—has encouraged every reluctant nation to back off their pledges, and it has sabotaged the system that would have helped developing nations bypass a fossil fuel infrastructure by going directly to renewable energy systems.

By backing out of it, Trump is assuring that we are hurtling inevitably toward a different planet – one that is likely to be inhospitable to many of the species now living on it, including us."

The key word used above is "framework" - even if we agree the cuts were voluntary, in conjunction with the other issues you raiaed.

Copernicus said...

"I also hear criticisms of the agreement involving building panels in third-world countries or having it approved in the name of "UN" or "extra-national" agencies to fund warlords and bribed politicians, of which are not a very efficient means of spending money anyway"

WHERE do you "hear" such "criticisms"? From what sources? (Please cite). And just how reliable are they, or did they come from a Right wing blog like Breitbart?