Today is Earth Day, ostensibly a symbolic holiday to give our planet the day off. It’s also the day when 167 confirmed countries have said they will sign the climate accord reached at the Paris Climate Talks last December. But the goal of averting warming by 2.0 degrees Celsius from pre-industrial levels, or 1.5 degrees if that wasn’t attainable, is voluntary for the largest carbon dioxide emitters. More troubling, it also allocates $100 billion in aid to developing countries, which critics argue was the U.N.’s goal all along.
Even Christiana Figueres, the former executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change, admitted that reordering the world’s “economic development model” of the past 150 years was her most important task. She has also praised communism, and specifically China, as the most efficient way to fight global warming, saying “democracy is a poor political system for fighting global warming.”
The accord is also proving difficult to swallow by even its most ardent supporters, as many think it gives a free pass to emit a fixed amount. The signatories will meet at the United Nations’ headquarters in New York City to sign the agreement, even though its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol, was by all accounts an abject failure. Secretary of State John Kerry will be there to represent the United States, and not President Obama, which is surprising given his second-term push to pass the global warming agreement, cementing his climate legacy once and for all.
Even former NASA climatologist and green activist James Hansen, considered the godfather of the global warming movement, called the accord a “fraud.” Speaking to the Guardian, he said: “It’s just bulls*** 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.”
Part of the problem is that the accord is not legally binding with the two biggest emitters, China and the U.S., and voluntary by most of the other signatories. The other problem is that even if every single country stopped using all fossil fuels, warming would continue unabated as the planet gets further removed from the Little Ice Age, which ended around 1850.
Most experts say if any warming is averted, it would be so minuscule as to be undetectable by humans or even the most accurate measuring devices. Climate scientist Chip Knappenberger told the Daily Caller that there are two very good reasons Mr. Obama should withdraw his pledge to cut emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2025. “The first is that I don’t believe that human-caused climate change is a “problem” that rises to a level which requires solutions which may jeopardize future well-being through energy restrictions/price increases.”
The second reason is “it appears highly unlikely that US energy policies will actually come close to meeting his emissions targets under the timeframe that he has promised.” Even the EPA’s own data modeling shows the administration’s signature legislation, the Clean Power Plan (CPP), would only avert warming 0.019 degrees Celsius by 2100; this amount is smaller than the margin of error for even the most accurate temperature measuring devices on land, sea, and in space.
While the CPP is laboring through the courts, having been issued a “stay” by the Supreme Court because the rules and regulations are so sweeping they amount to new legislation, it is expected to cost $41 billion a year. The United States “signing the Paris Agreement on Earth Day would be a disingenuous act and would show the rest of the world that we value symbolism over substance,” Knappenberger notes.
Senate Republicans released a 30-page “white paper” yesterday saying this global warming accord is destined to fail just like its predecessor, the Kyoto Protocol. Written by Republicans who sit on the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), they note the Kyoto Protocol was signed by more than 150 countries, and still “failed to produce a long-term meaningful approach to address global climate change.”
The EPW Committee says “an overarching theme has emerged with respect to international climate agreements,” which is they are a “poor mechanism for addressing global climate change” because they create “bad policy and economic failures.” Countries that adopted radical greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions experienced “vast economic pains with little GHG reductions to show for it.” Yet the U.S., which did not sign it, “experienced faster GHG emission reductions from innovation rather than climate policies.”
And while Hansen and others think the Paris climate accord is only a rubber-stamp to stay on our fossil-fueled path, others argue it’s nothing but “symbolism over substance.” Knappenberger also says the “President should embrace policies which result in plentiful, reliable and inexpensive energy.” He notes that Mr. Obama is picking “winners and losers” while he should be working to ensure a “level playing field.” That means removing subsidies for wind and solar and allowing further development of cleaner fuels.
As noted previously, man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have remained flat for the last two years, largely due to the United States extracting natural gas via fracking, an extraction method both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders oppose. And last November, the free-market think-tank Manhattan Institute released a study showing U.S. CO2 emissions have fallen by over one million tons in 2014, and nearly 20 percent of that came from natural gas replacing retiring coal plants. They also write in the same study that solar is only responsible for a one percent drop in U.S. CO2 emissions.
Surprisingly, the president is skipping the accord’s ceremonial signing today in New York City, especially after seven years of advocating for a sea change in lowering CO2 emissions and propping up renewable energies. He may have finally come to the realization that embracing a less carbon-heavy, inexpensive energy source is the only way to get the world off the fossil fuel teat.