Monday, June 12, 2017

"The Paris Accord - Much Ado About Nothing"

Sydney M. Williams

Thought of the Day
“The Paris Accord – Much Ado About Nothing”
June 12, 20117

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever, –
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.”
                                                                                                     William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
                                                                                                     “Much Ado About Nothing”
                                                                                                     Act II, Scene 3

The importance of the Paris Accord has been greatly exaggerated. It is vital to the narrative of leftists, but it makes no requirements with respect to climate. It was “largely symbolic,” a good friend (a man who resides deep in left field) e-mailed me. He later added, “these days, symbolism is everything.”

It is actions, not symbols or words, that are meaningful, at any time and in every situation. The behavior of elites does not match their rhetoric. As Victor Davis Hanson recently noted, private jets – a favored mode of transportation for wealthy progressives – emit “more carbon emissions in a year than do entire small towns in Ohio.” The U.S. pulled out of the Kyoto Protocol in March 2001, but that did not affect our emissions’ reductions. According to the NYC Data Science Academy, European countries failed to meet their Kyoto target levels of per capita CO2 emissions, while the United States did. The reason we succeeded was because of innovation, not supranational mandates – energy companies, using hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling, substituted natural gas for coal on an unprecedented basis.

The Paris Accord has been signed by 190 countries. Much has been made that only Syria, Nicaragua and the U.S. have not signed the Accord – and Nicaragua said it wasn’t tough enough. But, besides symbolism, what was the point? Wealthy countries contractually committed to nothing, but are expected to send monies to emerging nations. India and China, the world’s largest per-capita polluters, were exempted from taking any actions until 2030. And emerging countries stand to take in money – to help them meet developed countries’ standards. What’s to lose? Why wouldn’t they sign the Accord?

When Mr. Trump announced that the U.S. would be withdrawing from the Accord, Hollywood and main-stream media went ballistic. Bette Midler called the President a “megalomaniac” who was voted in by “numbskulls,” (including yours truly). Al Gore said the decision was “reckless and indefensible.” The Washington Post accused Mr. Trump of “turning his back on the world.” David Brooks’ column was headlined: “Donald Trump Poisons the World.” But to me, he looks like the small boy from the Hans Christian Anderson’s tale who proclaimed the emperor naked – the one person willing to speak truth. The New York Times acknowledged in an editorial that the Accord “does not require any country to do anything.” Yet, that same editorial referred to Mr. Trump as a man who “knows nothing” and does “dumb things.” So, why is the Accord so important? Because progressives have determined that the science of climate change is forever settled. It is part of their mantra, and that of their commercial dependencies. As Holman Jenkins, Jr. recently wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “…the whole point of being in office is to redirect resources to interest groups best able to reward [one’s self and one’s Party].” That the Accord does.

In announcing America’s withdrawal from the agreement, the President was respectful. He said he “…would begin negotiations to re-enter either the Paris accord, or an entire new transaction on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.” That doesn’t sound “reckless,” “dumb,” or like a “megalomaniac.” The left has been reacting to this issue with heat and hypocrisy. A front-page article in the June 4th edition of The New York Times, read: “How G.O.P. leaders Came to Reject Climate Science.” In the article, Coral Davenport and Eric Lipton claim Republicans do not believe in man-caused climate change. That is wrong, or “fake news” if you prefer. Excepting some kooks, no one on the right rejects science; no one rejects the fact of climate change, and no one claims man has not played a role. The mules, in this debate, are all on the left. It is they who insist that causes can be precisely determined. Science is the pursuit of answers. It is delving into the unknown. To claim that the science of climate change is “settled” shows a disregard for scientific discovery. Science is rarely, if ever, settled, and certainly not in matters as complex as climate. 

Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center and former head of the Danish government’s Environmental Assessment Institute in Copenhagen, noted that adherence to the Paris accords non-binding recommendations would cost a trillion dollars a year, all to reduce global temperatures by 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. Lomborg’s alternative: encourage investment in non-carbon power…which is what we are doing and which we will continue to do. While regulation is necessary, it should carry a light touch. It is the individual’s aspiration, creativity, ability and a willingness to take risk that leads to innovation.

Besides its cost, its reliance on peer pressure and its ineffectiveness, there are other reasons to quit the Paris Climate Accord: The Accord subjects a large segment of the economy to oversight by a supranational body – not a positive thing, if economic growth is an objective. The Accord allows the world’s two largest emitters of carbon dioxide, China and India, to ignore any recommendations for a dozen years. The Accord asks developed nations (read: US) to pay $100-$200 billion a year to developing nations. If history is guide, a significant portion of those funds would end up in the Swiss bank accounts of a few dictatorial leaders. (It is not as though we have money to spare.) President Obama signed the Accord, but only as his term neared its end – in September 2016, nine months after the Paris meeting. And he did not submit what is essentially a treaty to the Senate, because he knew it would not garner a two-thirds majority.

Global leaders must balance economic growth with protecting the Earth. We must recognize that people everywhere want to live better lives. We must acknowledge that the world is more prosperous and more equitable because of democratic, free-market capitalism. As democracies and capitalism flourished over the past two centuries, poverty declined and equality improved. As globalization increased, so did wealth, health and longevity for millions, but so have greenhouse gasses. We should continue to minimize the effect we have on the Earth and the skies. But we must recognize that the ability to correct environmental damage is a function of wealth, which is why economics are essential to any solution.

The Paris Accord is a “feel-good, do-nothing” program. Apart from the vitriol it has generated from the left, it is much ado about nothing. The world could use a climate agreement, but one that is fair, sustainable, and which recognizes that economic growth is crucial to progress.

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