Are We Overreacting to Trump Pulling Out of the Paris Accord? No We Are Not!

This past Thursday, June 1st, 2017, President Donald Trump announced that he had decided to pull the US out of the Paris Accord. No big surprise given that it was one of his election pledges. However, this decision has come with criticism from all sorts, not just the far-left but other conservatives as well. But is it truly ridiculous for Trump to pull out? Aren’t there some economic arguments that justify his move? Take into consideration the following points:

1. One of the world’s largest superpowers just withdrew from an agreement that is currently either signed or ratified by all but three of our planet’s countries. (Even North Korea has supported the Paris Accord.) Is Trump truly smart enough that he and his cabinet have figured out something else that the rest of the planet missed?

2. The Paris Accord was set up by the United Nations to fight climate change by the year 2020. Perhaps ambitious goals to some—especially to the typical Trump supporter—but the goals set out within the Paris Accord are totally achievable if we are willing to work together as a global community of citizens to fight this growing threat, truly one of the greatest our civilization has ever faced. The agreement was created in the spirit of a global treaty, not something that should be considered optional. More importantly, it represents global unity to fight a global threat and the goals that can be accomplished if we work together to protect our planet.

3. The Paris Accord has currently been adopted by 185 nations around the world, including many who contribute a very small contribution of pollution into the atmosphere. These small countries still make an effort to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions in the hopes that their own pollution will one day drop to zero. So which countries haven’t signed the Paris Accord? Number one: Vatican City. Turns out, the Vatican can’t officially sign the agreement until it becomes an official member of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. However, Vatican City is currently in the process of becoming a member so that they can sign the agreement in time. Number two: Syria. Given that Syria has been in a constant state of civil war since early 2011, perhaps they deserve a pass on trying to solve a global problem. Number three: Nicaragua. Despite Nicaragua only contributing 0.03% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the Nicaraguan government has decided not to sign the agreement because it doesn’t make sense to participate in an agreement if other countries who have signed can’t be punished for breaking the agreement (like the US just did). Despite that fact, Nicaragua has still taken significant steps independently to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions with the goal to rely on 90% renewable energy by the year 2020. These three countries are either in the process of ratifying the accord or have a valid reason not to participate. However, the US has no comparable excuse whatsoever to withdraw from the Paris Accord, considering that more than 17% of global greenhouse gas emissions come from our neighbours south of the border.

4. It’s hard to see how withdrawing from the Paris Accord can help the US economy. After all, the coal industry employs less people than Arby’s, and withdrawing isn’t going to make coal more valuable as a product for the economy. It’s a) the naturally shrinking market for coal and b) automation that have hurt the job market for people working in coal mines, not being a signatory to the Paris Accord. In fact, this move will likely cost Americans jobs rather than stimulate them because moving toward renewable energy is good for the economy and definitely creates jobs. As an example of his misunderstanding of the situation, during President Trump’s speech last week he boasted about an amazing coal mine that just opened, arguing that this coal mine will lead to more jobs and will stimulate the American economy. However, a brand new coal mine is really quite foolish: coal is no longer a suitable energy source and is certainly not renewable. In 2017, green energy is becoming one of the top producers of energy all over the planet. The money invested in building a coal mine in 2017 could just as easily be put towards renewable energy solutions which have a much better future and would still create jobs. What does President Trump think will happen to those jobs once the coal has run out? If that money were invested in renewable energy instead, those jobs would have a future. It is simply a ridiculous and regressive idea to think that building a coal mine in 2017 is a smart idea as far as carbon emissions and job creation is concerned.

In conclusion, President Trump has made a very foolish and selfish decision to remove the US from the Paris Accord. His misplaced motivation—jobs and the economy—are trivial in comparison to the growing threat of climate change. Job creation should not be seen as a federal issue in the face of a global threat as devastating as climate change will become. The so-called jobs created by pulling out of the Paris Accord are not going to sustain the US economy in the long-term. Quite simply, there is no point in creating jobs if you don’t have a healthy planet for those jobs to live on.

Good News: China's Coal Use is Down

“I was taught that the way of progress was neither swift nor easy.”
Marie Curie

For the first time in the 21st century, China’s coal consumption is down. Last year its consumption of coal dropped by 2.9 percent while its production dropped by 2.5 percent. Given that the Chinese government announced only three months ago that it would reach a peak of coal use by the year 2020 and a peak of greenhouse gas emission by 2030, this observation suggests it might happen even sooner and helps disprove those who argued that China couldn’t achieve this pledge they made with the U.S. unless they shut down their economy. (As if fossil fuels are the only path to economic growth and a healthy economy.)

Given that China has been opening up new coal-fired power plants every week for the last 20 years to help boost its growing economy—leading them to become the largest carbon dioxide emitters on the planet ahead of the U.S.—this drop in coal consumption is a good thing. Oh, they’re still after more energy but they’ll do it by “increas[ing] the share of non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to around 20% by 2030.” That translates into the addition of somewhere between 800 and 1,000 gigawatts of carbon-free power over the next decade and a half. Just how much is that? By comparison, it’s more than all coal-fired power plants China has currently running, and it almost equals all of the electricity generation capacity in the US. Continue reading

China Commits to Phasing Out Coal!

“Bad news travels at the speed of light; good news travels like molasses.”
Tracy Morgan

Here’s today’s good news: the Chinese government—the political leaders of the nation with the largest emissions of greenhouse gases on the planet—announced earlier this week that their country is going to put a cap on its use of coal. They announced that China’s peak emissions will reach 4.2 billion tonnes. That’s still about a 15 percent increase over their present annual consumption, so in other words we should expect an ongoing climb before the decline will start. China has pledged that the peak will be reached by 2030 at the very latest, and many experts predict the peak will be reached before this decade is up.

In order to accomplish this, the Chinese will need to decrease their current rate of one or two new coal-fired power plants being built every week while they steadily increase their development of renewable energy at the same time. In order to achieve this goal, they need to start right now and not at some undefined point in the future. (Are you listening Canada and the U.S.?)

Will they be able to achieve these lofty goals? There’s actually a number of reasons to be optimistic: Continue reading

Ontario's Energy is Getting Even Cleaner

“Ontario’s coal phase-out is the largest carbon reduction project in North America.”
Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence

Green LivingLast week, my province of Ontario closed the Lambton coal-fired electricity-generating power plant. In 2005 that plant produced nine million tonnes of carbon pollution, an equivalent to that produced by 1.8 million cars. It’s been a major contributor to smog in southern Ontario and it’s estimated that dealing with the health impacts of burning coal in our province costs $3 billion per year.

Gillian McEachern is from Environmental Defence. According to their website they are Canada’s most effective environmental action organization, challenging and inspiring change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all. As one can imagine, McEachern had nothing but applause for the plant closure. In her words: Continue reading