The big news this week is the testimony of fired FBI Director James Comey before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The big news last week was President Trumpâ€™s decision to pull the US out of the Paris climate accord.
The Comey testimony is consuming our national attention, especially in our nationâ€™s capital ï¿½" there are stories of Washington bars opening early to hold Comey hearing Watch parties ï¿½" but in the process, weâ€™re in danger of never really understanding the significance of the Presidentâ€™s decision to exit the Paris climate deal. It has been the subject of such emotionally intense but intellectually shallow demagoguery that the average citizen will do no more than continue to identify with whichever side he or she tends to support.
Letâ€™s see if we can dig a little deeper.
Those who fully support the Paris accords most often do so because they believe three things deeply:
1. That the continued emission of large amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere because of humans burning carbon-containing fuels poses an existential danger to the world. If the trend is not reversed soon, they believe, it may be impossible to reverse later. Rising seas and other forms of climate instability will be the near-certain result, as coastal cities and island nations are literally wiped out and civilization will become unsustainable for the rest of the world.
2. That implementing the measures recommended in the Paris climate accords, even though voluntary, represent the worldâ€™s last best chance to take responsible action before itâ€™s too late. Anyone not seeing this truth must be ignorant, corrupt or both.
3. The Paris accords were signed by every nation on earth except Syria and Nicaragua. The United States will be seen as a pariah ï¿½" selfish and ignorant — if we pull out.
Those who agree with the President that remaining in the Paris agreement is not in the national interest of the United States believe three very different things deeply:
1. The assumptions behind the global warming alarmistsâ€™ apocalypse are fundamentally flawed and even the pro-Paris scientists agree that implementing the accordâ€™s recommendations would only reduce rising temperatures by less than one degree Celsius by the end of this century.
2. While the environmental value of implementing the Paris accord steps are either questionable or minimal at best, the economic impact of the Paris accords is easily calculated, and disproportionately hurts the US economy.
3. In addition to the economic damage to our economy, the Paris accords require direct payments of trillions of dollars of transfers from industrialized nations like the US to less-developed, poorer nations. It is therefore more about the redistribution of wealth than it is about the environment, and of course those many nations who would benefit financially are supportive of it. They want money from the developed world, principally the United States.
Of these six assumptions, the one that seems to me to be on the flimsiest ground is the direct association that the environmental advocates make between the recommended actions of Paris and their effect on global temperatures. It sounds a lot like, â€œwe must do something, so letâ€™s do this.â€ The direct, quantifiable connection between reducing emissions by x amount to reduce warming by y degrees and to do so by z year simply doesnâ€™t exist.
Of the six assumptions, the one that seems strongest to me is the one that says that a major reason for support by poorer nations is that they would receive cash from richer nations. And unlike predicting cause and effect of temperature variations, cash is inherently quantifiable and under the agreement is scheduled to rise over time. A sweet deal for those on the receiving end.
There are also some moral questions that weaken the pro-Paris advocates. Whatâ€™s the moral case for allowing undeveloped countries to belch out unlimited emissions from coal-fired plants without even using any clean coal technologies, while disallowing much smaller emissions from coal-fired plants in developed countries? If itâ€™s a global problem, the proposed solution should be similarly global.
Likewise, the argument that so many on that side made last week that Trump should have stayed in the pact because it was all voluntary anyway, so he could have simply ignored or violated parts of it, is an argument utterly devoid of morality or principles. They were really saying that we should proceed in bad faith. Where was the self-righteous Left calling that out for the dishonest argument it was?
On balance, the weaker side is the Paris accords side. And you do not need to be a climate-change denier or modern-day Luddite to come to that conclusion. A global agreement that treats the emissions of all nations equally, and doesnâ€™t try to use an environmental agreement to penalize prosperous nations and reward poor ones, would be worth our joining. Until then, we should stay out of the agreement and watch our leverage to renegotiate the agreement increase.
Colin Hanna is President of Let Freedom Ring, USA.