Trump Got Climate Change Pretty Wrong in His Paris Speech (HBO)


— Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country. — And with that, Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the most comprehensive climate deal in the history of the planet— and the best hope of limiting continued global warming. Trump spent most of his 28-minute Rose Garden speech talking about economics: — The Paris Climate Accord is simply the latest example of Washington entering into an agreement that disadvantages the United States to the exclusive benefit of other countries, leaving American workers, who I love, and taxpayers to absorb the cost. — But when he did talk about the Paris Agreement, he was almost entirely wrong: — Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a two-tenths of one degree— think of that. This much.

— Actually, the Paris Climate Agreement wasn’t going to reduce global temperatures at all. The goal was always to cap the rise in global warming at 2°C— and even that goal meant coming to terms with a future in which tidal areas disappear, climate refugees are a daily part of life, and food and water scarcity could lead to greater violence between people and countries. Paris was hardly optimistic. — India will be able to double its coal production by 2020. Think of it—India can double their coal production, we’re supposed to get rid of ours… — Actually, India has canceled plans to build nearly 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations. Claims of China getting a “better deal” are just as baseless, but that’s not even the point. Part of the reason 194 other parties signed on to the Paris Agreement is that it doesn’t actually require any of them to do anything specific. They each got to pick their own path to reaching their commitments.

So if the United States wanted to, for example, double coal output and quadruple solar, it could do that. It would break the pledge, but there are no consequences for breaking it. The entire agreement is a giant global pinky promise in which everybody tries to do the right thing for the planet. — As the Wall Street Journal wrote this morning, the reality is that withdrawing is in America’s economic interest and won’t matter much to the climate. — The numbers are pretty simple. If the U.S. doesn’t drastically reduce its current carbon output, it’ll be responsible for an additional 0.3°C of global warming by 2100. And it’s not like other countries could simply pull more weight. According to a study in Nature Climate Change, any delay from the United States makes the overall target of limiting warming to 2° unreachable. You can say it was a jobs speech.

You can say it was a brilliant tactical speech that will allow Trump to re-negotiate for terms that benefit Americans— and some Trump supporters will say that. What you can’t say is that Trump’s speech was fluent in the facts of the very agreement he’s pulling out of..