The cold facts about the Paris Agreement, global warming, & the Constitution

Summary: Trump revoked the Paris Agreement. This sent the Left into hysterics. Are their fears justified? How will this affect the climate? Was the Agreement invalid because it lacked Senate ratification? Here are the answers (in brief, with links to more information). It’s not complex. It’s just a matter of what journalists conceal.  {First of two posts today.}

Climate Change Choices

A defining characteristic of our time, and one of our greatest dangers, is that both Left and Right have gone mad (i.e., destabilized, bonkers) — attacking the rest of us and America. Today’s it’s the Left’s turn at bat, as they have hysterics over Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate agreement. For those that wish to see their unscientific fantasies about the consequences, Anthony Watts has collected a choice sample.

More useful, but less entertaining, is this analysis in Nature Climate Change by Luke Kemp (lecturer in climate and environmental policy at Australian National University; bio here): “Better Out Than In“.

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“Continued US membership in the Paris Agreement on climate would be symbolic and have no effect on US emissions. Instead, it would reveal the weaknesses of the agreement, prevent new opportunities from emerging, and gift greater leverage to a recalcitrant administration.

“…The conventional wisdom is that a US withdrawal would be a worst-case scenario for international climate policy. However, a sober analysis of the political, legal, and financial impacts suggests otherwise. The modified matrix of risks posed by a recalcitrant US administration summarized in Table 1, and explored in detail below, highlights the paradox of US participation: a rogue US can cause more damage inside rather than outside of the agreement. …”

James Hansen
James Hansen. Flickr/CC BY 2.0.

Many climate scientists expressed similar views when it was signed. Such as James Hansen, whose 1988 testimony to Congress began the current era of public concern about global warming.

“It’s a fraud really, a fake. …It’s just bullshit for them to say: ‘We’ll have a 2C warming target and then try to do a little better every five years.’ It’s just worthless words. There is no action, just promises. As long as fossil fuels appear to be the cheapest fuels out there, they will be continued to be burned.”

See this apt summary of the Paris Agreement at The Conversation by Assoc Prof Henrik Selin and Dean Adil Najam of the School of Global Studies, Boston University.

“The flamboyant language of aspiration coming out of Paris cannot hide the fact that the agreement is essentially void of clearly actionable commitments. On both the two high-profile issues that matter the most – emission reductions and financial investments – there are no new explicit numerical targets for individual countries and no meaningful mechanism for ensuring accountability. …

“The result is a Paris agreement replete with the sound and fury of good intentions, but little else. It is heartwarming, for example, that Paris endorsed the new 1.5°C temperature target. But what is not in the agreement is any clue to how this might be achieved. What is in the agreement suggests that it will not. …”

The Paris Agreement illustrates two dangerous trends in American politics. First, it was symbolic rather than effective. It is another example of the policy theater that has replaced serious policy action in so many areas these days. It’s fog. Clearing it away allows serious debate about serious policies to deal with climate change.

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What was the Paris Agreement?

Obama’s implementation of the Paris Agreement illustrates the second dangerous trend: the decay of our respect for the Constitution (documented in many posts here, especially in Forecast: Death of the American Constitution).

Climate activists play a two-faced game with us.  The Agreement is not binding, and so not a treaty — which would require Senate approval). But it is powerful and necessary to save the planet! Journalists eagerly publish this propaganda (one reason American’s confidence in newspapers has crashed to 20%).

This has been frequently explained. See this analysis by Joshua Busby, an Associate Professor in the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin. He shows the legal thicket deliberately crafted to create this situation, binding President Trump without following the Constitutional provisions to do so legally.

Eugene Kontorovich

For a clearer analysis see Eugene Kontorovich’s “The U.S. can’t quit the Paris climate agreement, because it never actually joined” at the WaPo. He is a professor at Northwestern University School of Law.

“Two features cut heavily against it being treated as the kind of arrangement that can be entered into by a president on his own authority. First, it has a four-year waiting period for withdrawal, quite unlike traditional executive agreements. Second, it is a large multilateral deal, and the other parties apparently believe it requires domestic ratification. Whatever that means for U.S. constitutional purposes, it does suggest that other countries should hardly protest if Trump merely follows their example to seek domestic ratification.

“Some scholars have gone so far as to argue that the Paris agreement represents an exotic and previously unidentified species of international deal that does not have to be treated as a treaty. But even in this view, if Obama was within his rights to treat it as a non-treaty, Trump would be entirely within his executive rights to interpret it differently — as a treaty requiring Senate consent, which has not even been sought yet. …

“To be sure, a president can always quit a SOE {sole executive agreement} as a matter of domestic law, but if the SOE is valid ab initio, this would breach international commitments, making it harder for the subsequent president to use his executive authority. Indeed, this is precisely the argument made against Trump now. Such a deep commitment cannot be made without the involvement of the Senate. This quite unusual feature of Obama’s agreement strongly suggests it cannot be treated as a SOE, and thus has no force until the Senate ratifies it.

“…foreign countries are in no place to complain if the United States insists on treating the agreement as a treaty requiring submission to the legislature — because that is exactly how they have treated it themselves. Indeed, the real U.S. exceptionalism would be not in Trump’s action, but in Obama’s – in not seeking ratification.

“Countries seem invariably to have accepted the agreement as a treaty that requires going through their internal treaty-ratification processes, typically submission to the legislature. Countries from the United Kingdom to China to Jamaica have ratified it through their legislatures. So has Brazil, Japan, the Philippines and Australia. In the latter, the question of whether it was a binding international accord requiring submission to Parliament received some discussion, and a parliamentary analysis concluded it was a “major treaty” that needed to be submitted.

“I know of no country that has taken the U.S. approach. …SOEs for multilateral agreements are themselves almost unheard of, and certainly not for global ones. …

“In short, Trump is not quitting the Paris accord. The United States was never in it in the first place.”

Let’s not trade away the Constitution for a bag of beans. If we lose the Constitution, we lose everything.

Update: The best of the best analysis I’ve seen of Trump’s action

(1)  Analysis by climate scientists Judith Curry.

(2)  “The Sound and Fury of Trump’s Paris Pull Out” by Jamie Horgan at The American Interest. Much the same conclusions as here, with more detail. Especially note this…

“China is far and away the global leader in greenhouse gas emissions, and for all of the EU’s stern tone and finger wagging on climate change, the bloc’s latest data show that its emissions actually increased 0.5%in 2015. Contrast that with the United States, which saw emissions drop a whopping 3% last year as a result of the continuing (shale-enabled) transition from coal to natural gas. …

“America’s real climate impacts will be determined by how quickly we can transition to a more energy efficient information economy and, more importantly, by our ability to develop and adopt new technologies (the pairing of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal well drilling being the most important example of the past decade). Paris had nothing to do with any of that. …”

For More Information

Update: see how our peer nations handled ratification of the Paris Agreement (spoiler: nobody let one man decide): Other nations handled the Paris Agreement better than America. It’s embarrassing.

If you liked this post, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. For more information about this vital issue see the keys to understanding climate change and especially these posts…

  1. Important: climate scientists can restart the climate change debate – & win.
  2. How we broke the climate change debates. Lessons learned for the future.
  3. A story of the climate change debate. How it ran; why it failed.
  4. Put the stories about record 2016 warming in a useful context.
  5. A look at the future of global warming. Our political response depends on its trend.
  6. Two eminent climate scientists discuss the policy debate. Their clash tells us much.
 The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change
Available at Amazon.

To learn more about the state of climate change…

… see The Rightful Place of Science: Disasters and Climate Change by Roger Pielke Jr. (Prof of Environmental Studies at U of CO-Boulder, and Director of their Center for Science and Technology Policy Research). From the publisher…

“In recent years the media, politicians, and activists have popularized the notion that climate change has made disasters worse. But what does the science actually say? Roger Pielke, Jr. takes a close look at the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the underlying scientific research, and the data to give you the latest science on disasters and climate change. What he finds may surprise you and raise questions about the role of science in political debates.”


5 thoughts on “The cold facts about the Paris Agreement, global warming, & the Constitution”

  1. Another aspect of Paris is the money flow. The numbers range from $100 B to $4 T (recently demanded) per year. The money has to come some people and go to others. There are many organizations and individuals who have placed themselves in the position to intercept this flow of cash. The money doesn’t go to the planet (as in “save the planet!”) You can be certain that very little of it will find its way to the floodplains of Bangladesh or any other place that could be negatively impacted by a slightly warmer (on average) planet.

    1. Kita,

      Follow the money! Yes, that is one of the many important aspects of the Agreement! Thanks for mentioning it.

      This was already a long post, and it focused on the two issues of climate effects and legality. But there are many interesting and important issues in play.

  2. How about chatting about meaningful change instead. 3D printed new homes can create more energy during peak demand than they use, and these “Energy Positive” homes have no heat or electric bills, little water bill because of atomizers on faucets and showers, grow food in a solarium using Aquaponics, and charge an electric car for FREE parked in the garage.

    How about we decide to devote a sliver of funding to putting up these prototypes, and let the market drive the change for the better.

    5-minute video on the project {a home built with 3D printing}:

    1. Scott,

      “3D printed new homes can create more energy during peak demand than they use”

      3D printing is interesting, and has great potential in some applications. Such as rapid prototyping, producing simple parts (rather than relying on vast and expensive inventories), and producing complex shaped objects in small quantities. There is little evidence that claims about their larger applications have much validity.

      That they can produce a house doesn’t mean that it is an economical way to produce a house. Ditto for claims that they can replace many conventional manufacturing processes. it’s a powerful technology, but so far nothing like the revolutionary claims made for it a decade ago. Also note, it’s not new — with the core developments made in the 1980s and early 1990s.

      “and these “Energy Positive” homes”

      Color me skeptical. Again, just because something can be done doesn’t mean that it is economical to do so.

      “How about we decide to devote a sliver of funding to putting up these prototypes”

      There is little evidence of a shortage of funding for development of new technology. Venture capitalists mob most promising fields. For example, there are hundreds of companies around the world — large and small — in the 3d printing field. It might even have been overfunded — something quite common in early stage tech booms.

      If we want to accelerate the rate of tech advance, I recommend more funding for basic research. Although the utility of that is often questioned, I believe over the long-term that is a major driver of progress.

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