What to make of the Executive Branch’s recent decision to pull out of the Paris Accord? It was an historic day, during which the US President expressed to the world that he and his ilk (and many Americans) rejected an agreement, one signed by virtually every nation state on the planet (ex. Nicaragua & Syria), to address the largest global problem our civilization will and may ever face. A problem, as Paul Krugman (see link below for a critical, and in my view, correct take on the decision) writes, is “asymmetric” in its outcome: we “do too much, we’ve wasted some money; do too little, and we’ve doomed civilization.”
I strongly disagree with extreme rhetoric that tends to paint problems and solutions as black and white. In fact, this is a major culprit of much of the partisanship faced in politics today; however, scientific consensus and data argue that THIS problem (whether 100% natural and/or exacerbated by human activity) is and should be viewed in that hue. If the world was responsible then this should be presented as a fait accompli..wait…it is virtually everywhere outside of the USA? (deep sigh)
Below I have posted the link to the Krugman op-ed piece from today’s NYTimes. I encourage you all to read it. Meanwhile, I want to point out one of the most egregious lies that the current administration continues to use to justify its ostensibly (despite what Scott Pruitt say) ant-environmental policy: “the war on coal”.
The war on coal is not real, at least it is not a political one. Coal jobs (according to FRED data) in the US began to fall long before the Paris Accord and even well before climate change was a global topic. Between 1948 and 1970 (the year the EPA was founded) roughly 2/3 of all coal jobs in the US disappeared, primarily reflecting a more efficient extracting mechanism. It is also true that recent environmental regulations passed under the Obama Administration helped reduce coal production but the reality is that progress in alternative energy has and will continue to be the deciding factor in coal’s fate. Put simply, there is not a huge need for “dirty energy” when natural gas, wind and solar are all abundant and when put against fossil fuels, appear highly economical and favorable (i.e. health and its cost on society will more than likely benefit from this shift).
Moreover, if the President really did believe there was a war on coal, why wouldn’t he promote additional health benefits or even help coal labor transition to a new energy economy? The fact is, he doesn’t really care, at least not on a human level nor do I believe he wants to see the future in a clear light. This was a political decision to double down on his base. What I am trying to say is that coal jobs will be lost and over time will not come back; just like Amazon is changing the economics of retail, alternative energy is changing the economics of coal. Elected officials need to wake up to this and support policy that helps those who will be left behind rather than focus on slowing it down!
So, the arguments by the current administration that progressive energy policy will hamper US growth, hurt jobs, and make the US less relevant and less in charge of its own destiny on the global stage are completely unfounded (studies quoted by the President are misrepresented). Rather, the decision to leave the Paris Accord, in my view, is twofold: 1) it demonstrates that we have a President who refuses to look beyond his ego and worldview; and 2) political. Remember the movie Armageddon? Or Independence Day? In both films, the world faced catastrophic risk. There was no debate about what to do. It was universally decided that if nothing was done then the world as we knew would be over. Thank god for Bruce Willis and Will Smith! Politics were superseded and the end of mankind was averted. Unfortunately, we may be heading towards a future where the sequels of these films include a slightly adjusted plot: the US is no longer leading the world, Bruce Willis and Will Smith are nowhere to be found, and the production credits are in Cantonese!
I want to return to my words above, following the important reaction taken by states indignant at the Federal Government’s poor response to climate. Led by Jerry Brown, Governor of California, state leaders are meeting with global leaders to discuss what can be done and how the US can continue to lead. The leaders from Germany and Canada both expressed interest in working with states to further a global climate accord, despite the Trump Administration’s ignorance. This is encouraging and if anything the best outcome yet. So, I want to thank the White House for being so predictable and allowing the US, once again, to lead from the bottom up.