The US and Paris
Wobbles by US President Donald Trump on his
campaign promise to withdraw from the Paris climate treaty should comfort detractors worried that
he wouldn’t learn while in office. Remaining in the
agreement, a position supported by some oil and
gas industry leaders, would be acceptable. But it
would be acceptable only under certain conditions.
Here’s a list:
• Disengage climate mitigation from ulterior motives.
Prime among these is the push to leave oil and gas
in the ground. Even under aggressive programs for
limiting emissions of greenhouse gases, fluid hy-
drocarbons will dominate energy use for decades.
Why make them more expensive than they need to
be and foreclose gains from resource development?
The answer to that question comes from other
agendas driving climate politics. Activist and writer
Naomi Klein, who counseled the Pope, dislikes
capitalism. Activist and writer Bill McKibben,
founder of 350.org, dislikes consumerism. Rajendra
Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel
on Climate Change during 2002-15, dislikes meat.
Taken together, what these leaders of the climate
change movement, present and past, really want
is for people to share everything, have nothing to
share, and eat only plants.
• Recognize that climate politics tends to be antidemocratic. The climate agenda is driven by activism because centrally planned vegetarianism wins
no votes. People who want to own things and eat
meat should not be prohibited from doing so in response to fears about climatological catastrophes
they don’t share.
• Reassert priorities against which reasonable mitigation of climate change would seek balance. Economic
health matters to human welfare. Affordable energy
matters to economic health.
• Rescue science from politics. Climate campaigners use the word “science” as moral judgment. Their
tiresome claims of “consensus” misconstrue scientific processes. Worse yet, many scientists defensive
about their hypotheses, if not their research funding, participate in the distortion. Scientists should
welcome competition among viewpoints. With climate, too many of them do not.
• Restore truthful disclosure to political arguments.
Achieving emission cuts considered necessary to
meet temperature targets of the Paris agreement
demands sacrifice people don’t want to make. En-
ergy will become too expensive. Diets will have to
change. And the effort might have little or no effect
on global average temperature.
• Acknowledge that no one really knows how much
global average temperature responds to lowered emissions of greenhouse gases. Assumptions about the
relationship are theoretical. Temperatures aren’t
validating the theory, which predicts much more
warming than has been observed.
• Chasten the diplomats. Foreign-affairs professionals love international deal-making. It’s what
they do. Mitigation of climate change requires international deals. So diplomats eagerly negotiate
climate agreements for the sake of the negotiating
agreements, certain they’re saving the world from
trouble they might not fully understand. And the
world gets photos of hand-holding negotiators of
an unenforceable agreement not likely to be fully
implemented and sure to impose hardship to the
extent that it is—while influencing temperature
• Condemn the repression that so far fouls political
discussion about climate change. Scientists questioning assertions of the need to take sacrificial precaution against global warming have been shunned,
harassed, and possibly—in an Apr. 22 incident
at the University of Alabama in Huntsville—shot
at. Oil companies and interest groups leaning toward skepticism have been subject to prosecuto-rial witch-hunts. Such repression is intolerable. It
weakens the case for active mitigation.
• Address the genuine issue. Proponents of aggressive precaution treat climate change as an issue of
faith, with believers on one side and deniers on the
other. Yet very few of those dismissed as deniers reject the phenomenon of climate change or the existence of human contribution to it. The issue craving
discussion is the extent to which people affordably
can limit observed warming and how they might
go about it.
If the Paris agreement can become the platform
for deliberation of climate-change policy free of extremist manipulation, it offers value and deserves
US participation. But its foundations need adjustment in line with conditions outlined here.
If that can’t happen, the US should withdraw.