Skip Navigation

Trump Says Good-Bye to Paris

November 8, 2019

Climate Change Weekly #341

The Trump administration formally notified the United Nations the United States will withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, on November 4, the first day the nation was allowed to start the process under the terms of the agreement.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Twitter the United States had filed formal paperwork to withdraw from the agreement, citing the “unfair economic burden” on U.S. workers, businesses, and taxpayers. The exit will become official on November 4, 2020. The Trump administration’s action came a little over two years after the president held a June 2, 2017 Rose Garden event at which Trump, keeping a campaign commitment, announced he would take the United States out of the agreement at the earliest possible date.

In his presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly called the Paris agreement a bad deal for America, saying it would cost jobs and put the nation at a competitive disadvantage with countries the agreement did not require to make similar emission reductions.

“It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit, Michigan; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with many, many other locations within our great country, before Paris, France,” Trump said at the 2017 Rose Garden event.

Former President Barack Obama had signed the Paris climate agreement in 2015, committing the United States to reducing emissions 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. Because he recognized he could never get the Senate to ratify the Paris agreement, Obama claimed it was not a treaty but an executive agreement not needing Senate approval. Obama’s administration then undertook a series of regulatory changes intended to cut U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to meet its Paris commitments. These regulations included the Clean Power Plan (CPP) forcing states to impose restrictions on existing and new coal-fueled electric power plants—essentially forcing states to close such power plants and replace them primarily with wind and solar electric power facilities—and dramatically increased the fuel economy mandate automakers must meet for their vehicle fleet, benefiting electric vehicle manufacturers and forcing the public to buy smaller, less safe vehicles.

In keeping with his 2017 withdrawal announcement and in the run up to his administration’s filing the formal notice to withdraw, Trump has rolled back Obama’s signature climate regulations, replacing the CPP with the less-onerous Affordable Clean Energy rule and dramatically moderating the mandatory increase in fuel economy. Trump has argued the United States can reduce emissions without taxing carbon dioxide emissions or restricting fossil fuel development and use. The evidence indicates he is correct. Unlike in most countries, U.S. emissions have declined substantially over the past decade and a half, including during the first few years of the Trump administration.

In his tweets announcing the United States had started the formal process of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, Pompeo made clear the action was in the nation’s best interests and it would not stop us from helping other countries adapt to climate conditions.

“The U.S. approach incorporates the reality of the global energy mix and uses all energy sources and technologies cleanly and efficiently, including fossil fuels, nuclear energy, and renewable energy,” Pompeo tweeted. “We will continue to work with our global partners to enhance resilience to the impacts of climate change and prepare for and respond to natural disasters.”

Arguably, for America’s sovereignty and continued economic success, Trump’s withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement is among the most consequential actions he has taken since being elected President. Climate experts at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), among others, were ebullient at Trump’s action.

“Secretary of State Pompeo has today started the formal process to withdraw the United States from the disastrous U.N. Paris climate treaty and reclaim its sovereign right to set its own energy policy,” said Myron Ebell, director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, who also led Trump’s environmental transition team in setting the stage for the regulatory reforms the Environmental Protection Agency has undertaken under Trump. “This is a great day for America, particularly for the future economic success and security of countless Americans. CEI congratulates President Trump for keeping his most important deregulatory campaign promise and looking out for the country’s best interests.”

Ultimately, America’s participation in the Paris agreement will be determined by the outcome of the 2020 election, because under the terms of the agreement, the U.S. withdrawal will not be final until the day after it is held. Should Trump win reelection, the withdrawal will almost certainly stick.

With each of the candidates for the Democrat presidential nomination having castigated Trump for leaving the Paris climate agreement, and having vowed to have the United States rejoin it, a Democrat presidential victory almost certainly means the United States will cede its sovereignty once again to international bureaucrats at the U.N. As if that prospect were not already alarming enough, the United States would almost certainly have to commit to steeper greenhouse gas emissions reductions than the Obama administration agreed to in 2015, in order to rejoin.

The Paris climate agreement was awful for the United States. Paris 2.0 would undoubtedly be much more damaging.

—    H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: New York Times; Fox News; CNN; The Heartland Institute; Competitive Enterprise Institute


IN THIS ISSUE …

Wind turbine mania endangers speciesAsia drives coal-use growth


WIND TURBINE MANIA ENDANGERS SPECIES

In a recent Forbes article, writer Michael Shellenberger, a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” writes scientists and activists such as Greta Thunberg and the new environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion who are pushing to replace fossil fuels with wind power, in part to prevent what they argue is an ongoing mass extinction event due to global warming, are pushing policies that will cause or exacerbate the loss of biodiversity they claim to be fighting to prevent.

Extinction Rebellion says on banners, “climate emergency = mass murder,” with the group saying on its website, “We are in the midst of a mass extinction of our own making. … The climate and biodiversity crisis requires urgent and drastic action to decarbonize.”

Yet, as Shellenberger asks, “[I]f Greta Thunberg and Extinction Rebellion are so concerned about preventing the extinction of endangered species, why are they advocating the accelerated deployment of renewables? After all, wind energy has emerged as one of the greatest threats to endangered bird and bat species, as well as insect populations, around the world.”

Indeed, data show wind turbines pose the single greatest threat to bats after habitat loss and white-nose syndrome and are the undisputed single biggest threat to migratory bats. For instance, Shellenberger notes, in 2017 a team of scientists writing in Science Direct warned the migratory hoary bat could go extinct if the expansion of wind farms continues, with Paul Cryan, a research biologist with the US Geological Survey, stating, “Wind energy facilities kill a significant number of bats far exceeding any documented natural or human-caused sources of mortality in the affected species.”

Bat deaths are just the tip of the iceberg. Shellenberger writes wind turbines have emerged, after habitat loss, as the greatest threat to many bird species, especially migratory birds, including raptors protected by federal law, such as golden eagles, bald eagles, burrowing owls, red-tailed hawks, Swainson’s hawks, American kestrels, white-tailed kites, peregrine falcons, and prairie falcons. Research indicates the continued expansion of wind turbines may result in the extinction of the golden eagle in the western United States.

Wind turbines are killing birds and bats indirectly, as well as directly, by killing trillions of the flying insects they eat each year. Although Extinction Rebellion worries about the decline in insects, writing, “There is strong evidence that many insect populations are under serious threat and are declining in many places across the globe, … [with] [a] 27-year long population monitoring study in Germany reveal[ing] a dramatic 76 percent decline in flying insect biomass,” they ignore research strongly indicating the expansion of wind farms is playing a major role in insect decline.

As Shellenberger writes,

Germany’s leading technology assessment research institute published a study last October concluding that the rapid expansion of wind farms threatens insect populations.

Dr. Franz Trieb of the Institute of Engineering Thermodynamics concludes that a “rough but conservative estimate of the impact of wind farms on flying insects in Germany” is a “loss of about 1.2 trillion [emphasis mine] insects of different species per year” which “could be relevant for population stability.”

Since wind advocates are pushing the very technologies that most threaten the species they purport to care about, Shellenberger concludes their real concern is not preventing extinction but is instead about controlling peoples’ lives and lifestyles.

SOURCE: Forbes


ASIA DRIVES COAL-USE GROWTH

With China leading the way, coal use is growing and is not expected to peak, much less decline, until after 2050. The Times (UK) reports China has committed to developing 17 new coal mines in 2019, adding to the seven new mines that opened in the 2017/2018 fiscal year. China’s total number of coal mines now tops 3,000.

Further showing the extent of the country’s growing demand for coal, even with its domestic expansion of coal production, Reuters reports China, the world’s largest importer of coal, is on a pace to import 10 percent more coal by rail and sea in 2019 than it did in 2018. Based on the rate of coal imports so far (9.5 percent above the pace of 2018), coal traders expect China to import between 300 million and 320 million tons of coal in 2019.

Discussing the country’s commitment to coal in a speech to China’s National Energy Commission, Li Keqiang, China’s premier, said coal use continues to be vital to the country’s economic development.

“Given our country’s bounty of coal resources, . . . [we should] promote the safe, green extraction of coal and development of clean and efficient coal,” the Times quotes Keqiang saying.

The 2019 “International Energy Outlook” report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects coal use to grow across Asia because of rising industrial use and an increasing use of coal for electric power across the region.

“In most regions, coal production and consumption are projected to remain near current levels with long-term growth expected in India and non-OECD [Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development] Asia,” EIA’s report states. EIA estimates the global coal trade will grow at an average annual rate of 1.4 percent through 2050.

EIA projects India will surpass China as the world’s largest coal importer by 2050, increasing its annual coal production by approximately 2.7 percent per year, from 850 million tons in 2018 to two billion tons annually in 2050, to satisfy growing domestic demand, which EIA estimates will grow at an average of 3.1 percent per year through 2050.

SOURCES: The Times (behind paywall); Reuters; S&P Global

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org