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We’ll always have Paris…oh wait, never mind

President Donald Trump again sent the left wing aflutter when he fulfilled another campaign promise by announcing a U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement that laid out a framework for countries to adopt clean energy and phase out fossil fuels in a global effort to address climate change.

The Paris Agreement seeks to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

This, to be sure, is a noble goal, but in the world of climate science (and much more so in the world of climate politics) there are many ifs, buts, unknowns, and educated guesses that can render even the best of intentions ineffective. At its best, the Paris Agreement is something that makes people who are terrified of climate change feel good that we are collectively doing something to address the challenge. That good feeling, though, may ultimately have very little impact on the realities of the changing climate. You can tell a dripping glacier you drive a Prius, but it is still going to melt.

Each of the 195 countries that signed on to the agreement submitted a climate-action plan to achieve the goals of addressing climate change. The U.S. plan was submitted by the Obama Administration in 2015 and set the voluntary goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26% to 28% by 2025. The baseline level for this reduction is measured against 6,132 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that was emitted by the U.S. in 2005.

The problem, though, is that there is no guarantee that these costly measures will have any real impact on the changing climate. There is also no guarantee that any of the other participating countries will follow through with their plans (like say, for example, the U.S. withdrawing from the program). At least, though, we know to count on the fact that China — the other leading polluter involved in the Paris Agreement — has always been above-board and trustworthy.

But, for being immersed in the pretty-much-impossible-to-accurately-predict-the-future area of climate science, there are some certainties with the Paris Agreement. One certainty is that it will be costly.

In climate negotiations for several years leading up to the Paris conference, participants called for a Green Climate Fund that would collect $100 billion per year by 2020. The goal of this fund would be to fund green energy and climate adaptation and mitigation programs in the world’s poorer nations. The thought was that the rich nations (particularly the biggest polluting rich nations like the United States) would shoulder the largest part of that hefty bill. The Obama administration sent a billion U.S. taxpayer dollars to this fund already with another couple of billion promised. Some experts suggest that even $100 billion a year by 2020, though, would be on the low end of the necessary funds to accomplish the world’s ambitious climate changing goals.

There are also other costs, especially in energy intensive states like Ohio with large industrial and manufacturing sectors, according to Americans for Prosperity – Ohio. The conservative group cited a NERA Economic Consulting study looking at what the Ohio economy would look like in 2025 and estimated the Paris Agreement would reduce Ohio GDP by $9 billion, cost 110,000 jobs, and lower household income by $390.

“The Paris Agreement was a bad deal for Ohio and President Trump was right to get us out of it,” said Micah Derry, AFP-Ohio Director. “President Trump deserves tremendous credit for standing up to immense domestic and international pressure to keep his campaign promise and do what’s right for Ohio and America.”

Another certainty is that climate-change addressing measures will continue with or without the U.S. in the Paris Agreement. The U.S. has made tremendous environmental improvements in efficiency, renewable energy use and other measures based on federal policies, economic incentives and increasing environmental awareness. Agriculture too has made tremendous environmental strides in recent decades, long before anyone thought of climate change concerns. A withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has no impact on any of those trends whatsoever. This is emphasized by, of all people, Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan who said this in an interview: “The U.S. is one of the largest emitters of carbon, so Trump’s recent acts of rolling back national action on climate, coupled with a withdrawal from Paris, will make it harder to keep the climate under the critical threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

“That said, Trump’s decisions won’t determine much of what happens on climate internationally or even in the U.S. Close to 200 countries, accounting for 87% of global emissions, remain committed to the Paris Agreement. The same goes with a growing number of states, cities and major businesses who’ve made clear that they’re still in.”

Also certain is that the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement will not have a cataclysmic impact that so many of its supporters seem to be claiming — even referred to as “a suicide note to the world.” Now I am not saying that the Paris Agreement is without merit — there are certainly positive aspects of the plan — but the lack of U.S. participation in the deal is not going to suddenly lead to the inevitable demise of life on earth, as some folks would have you believe.

“The Earth’s climate has been changing since the planet was formed — on this there is no disagreement,” said Sonny Perdue, USDA Secretary. “At USDA, we rely on sound science and we remain firmly committed to digging ever deeper into research to develop better methods of agricultural production in that changing climate. Floods, droughts, and natural disasters are a fact of life for farmers, ranchers, and foresters. They have persevered in the past, and they will adapt in the future — with the assistance of the scientists and experts at USDA. To be effective, our research and programs need to be focused on finding solutions and providing state-of-the-art technologies to improve management decisions on farm and on forest lands.”

A final certainty: the Paris Agreement has tremendous support in the U.S. and around the world. People want to do the right thing and they want to feel good about doing something about it. But no matter how Al Gore, countless enraged-but-still-haven’t-moved-to-Canada celebrities, President Trump, Greenpeace, or anyone else feels about it, they do not have the final say on climate change. From what I’ve seen in my lifetime in and around agriculture, we still have plenty to learn on that subject and the last time I checked, Mother Nature had not yet signed on to the Paris Agreement.



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  1. Great piece Matt. Hmmmm, 87 percent remain committed to the agreement. Defined committed. I was reading in the MIT Technology Review last year (hardly a conservative publication) that Japan is slated to build 47 coal fired plants. They have no stomach for Nukes in the wake of Fuchishema and geography limits choice. Neither does Germany apparently as Merkle ordered the closing of existing Nukes by something like 2022. A goal we should benefit from as German manufacturers look to expand less expensive production environments abroad. Ohio, in theory, if we don’t mess things up, could become a manufacturing mecca again, in a rust belt revival if you will with cheap coal natural gas leading the way. The last thing we need is to commit to a one sided deal that is really just an excuse to redistribute wealth from the haves to the have nots.

  2. Absolutely a head in the sand piece. Because the Arctic is warming the temperature differential between the north and mid-latitudes is less than it was, causing the jet stream which is powered by this temperature difference to slow down. Like a spinning top that loses energy the jet stream wobbles as it slows down, consequently weather systems are not moving as quickly and are penetrating deeper into areas they didn’t reach before. so you get droughts and prolonged periods of rain depending on the weather that is stuck where you are. The U.S. is the 2nd largest CO2 polluter in the world and a so-called educated and rich nation. Your economic activities over the past 150 years is what has caused climate change. Own up and grow up!

  3. Science has many theories on the results of global warming. You sound like they are making stuff up! By breaking it down to money, you are missing the point completely! Many things are more important than money! Leaving the Paris Agreement is a mistake because making progress globally is priceless! Are my grandchildren going to have clean water to drink with all the coal dumping and oil spills. Try drinking your money!

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