Column: Trump’s Paris climate choice puts America first
In a much-anticipated decision, President Donald Trump kept his campaign promise by announcing recently that the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement negotiated by 195 countries in December 2015. Under the agreement, the United States is required to cut its carbon-dioxide emissions 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025, and to provide billions of dollars in funding to the Green Climate Fund, which is administered by the United Nations.
The emission cuts required by the Paris agreement would have forced the closure of many of the least-expensive power plants nationwide over the next decade, raising energy prices at a time of tepid economic growth and sky-high deficits. The low energy prices created by America’s low-cost, abundant coal, oil and natural gas and the growth of those and related industries was responsible for almost all the economic growth that occurred during the Obama years.
A study by NERA Economic Consulting cited by Trump in his announcement of the Paris pull-out estimated if the United States were to meet its carbon-dioxide emissions reduction obligations under the Paris climate agreement, it would cost the economy nearly $3 trillion, with the United States losing 6.5 million industrial jobs by 2040, including 3.1 million in the manufacturing sector.
Trump’s withdrawal is good news for the auto industry and the communities dependent on it, as they would have likely been hit the hardest by the Paris agreement’s mandates. Withdrawing from the Paris accord allows Trump to revise the motor-fuel efficiency standards imposed by the Obama administration that ratcheted up fuel-economy standards to levels that soon would make most U.S. automobiles — and most cars from around the world — either unaffordable or would force Americans to drive only the smallest of subcompact cars.
The powerful sedans, sports cars and SUVs produced in Detroit would be unable to meet the 54-mile-per-gallon standard imposed by Obama and would eventually become extinct, leaving consumers with less freedom to choose the vehicle that best fits their needs. Obama’s costly federal fuel-economy standards shoehorn everyone into underpowered, small, less-safe vehicles.
When he pulled the United States out of the Paris agreement, Trump rightly noted the agreement was unfair to Americans, allowing major economic and/or geopolitical competitors such as China, India and Russia — all of which are among the world’s largest greenhouse-gas emitters — to continue growing their emissions while the United States makes cuts, making their economies comparatively more attractive to investment.
The United States — which has through technological innovation reduced its greenhouse-gas emissions 12 percent since 2006, more than any other country — would under the Paris agreement have to continue cutting emissions. You heard that right: Under the Paris agreement, many of the countries that emit the largest amounts of greenhouse gasses get to keep growing their fossil-fuel use and spewing emissions while the United States, the country that has done the most to reduce emissions, is forced to restrict its energy use more and pay billions to the Green Climate Fund.
And what gain would we get for all this pain? Virtually nothing, as the Paris climate agreement would do little to prevent future warming. A 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology study shows if all member nations meet their Paris obligations, it would only reduce global temperature rise by less than 0.2 degrees Celsius by 2100. The U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP) also found the treaty would have a negligible impact on climate change. A 2016 UNEP report showed 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 global temperature at an upper limit of 2 degrees C.
Leadership requires doing what’s right even when the majority disagrees. Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris accord displayed true leadership. Trump chose not to follow climate lemmings off the cliff to long-term economic decline, standing alone among the world’s leaders as the one person brave enough to call the accord what it truly is: harmful and ineffective.
The Paris climate agreement has never been about protecting the environment; it is an economic treaty aimed at transferring wealth from the poor and working class in developed countries to well-off international bureaucrats and corrupt leaders in developing countries.
Trump is a breath of fresh air in the White House, a president whose primary mission is to promote Americans’ interests and aspirations for a better life. Au revoir, Paris, and good riddance to a bad treaty.
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute.