Thursday, June 1, 2017


The US has exited the Paris Climate agreement. You really have to hand it to Trump for carrying through with that campaign promise. Imagine the great pressure on him not to do so. The vast majority of what we'd consider to be establishment forces are poised against him on this issue. The political elites, the media, the celebrities, foreign interests, even many global corporations are opposed to his action. He has benefited politically from having people like Elon Musk (the left's darling entrepreneur) involved in his government, who has suggested he will end that relationship in response to Parexit. It would be very, very easy for Trump to pay tribute to the religion, but he has opted not to, for a single reason: it's not a good deal for the US. He's right, and he is sticking to his principles on this issue. We think of Trump as the ultimate pragmatist, but this is not pragmatic for him politically. The negative reaction is so strong that the political gains of serving his base can hardly be worth the tremendous backlash he's receiving, and yet he has done so anyway.

Despite the hysteria, he made the right decision. The Paris agreement was flawed economically, politically and scientifically.


The goal of the Paris agreement is to reduce global carbon emissions. That may be a laudable goal, but the reality is that the agreement will shift carbon emissions from advanced countries to backwards countries. The agreement punishes successful economies and rewards failed economies. Perhaps you can see why the liberals love the agreement so much: it's welfare on steroids. Generally speaking, they support anything that punishes success and rewards failure. I can't off hand think of any example that contradicts the principle.

The agreement doesn't stop at just shifting economic production, but actually advocates a direct transfer of wealth as well. The financial goal is an annual transfer of $100 billion a year from rich to poor countries. The reasoning behind this is that backwards countries need investments to modernize towards more efficient, carbon-friendly economies. But that is not logical from an environmental viewpoint. Advanced economies always generate more externalities than primitive ones. The proposed transfer of finances is not evidence but proof that the primary agenda of the agreement is more about social justice than the environment. The liberal agenda is always wrapped in virtue signaling.


In their angst over why Trump would remove the US from a virtuous climate agreement, I wonder how many are stopping to ask themselves why he was able to unilaterally remove the US from the agreement in the first place. None that I can find. Trump was able to do so because Obama unilaterally put the US into the agreement. Unilateral action by one president can be unilaterally undone by the next one.

Many conservative commentators are informing us that the US involvement in the Paris agreement wasn't Constitutional because it was a treaty that was never ratified by the Senate. And they're right, but they aren't right enough. It's true that international treaties must be ratified by the Senate; the president does not have the authority to act on his own. But that assumes that a climate agreement can be considered a treaty. Treaties are relevant to war/peace posturing between nations. Climate agreements have nothing to do with those sorts of diplomatic relations. They are internal policy decisions reached in unison with other nations. They must be enacted in the normal way: by passing both houses and the president. The agreement really just amounts to a tax on the American people. It is an outrage that Obama imposed it on Americans. How did he even get away with it? Even if the agreement was the most wonderful thing imaginable, Trump would be right to revoke that unilateral decision and encourage the Congress to legislate on the issue in the proper manner.

But even that isn't right enough. Where is the federal government granted the authority to dictate carbon emissions regulations? [You can almost hear a distant muttering about the Commerce Clause.] In response to Trump's action, many states are considering adopting the climate agreement's standards anyway (warning: Buzzfeed). That is wonderful news! Have you ever noticed that the left always resorts to states' rights when it benefits their agenda? If only they adopted states' rights in principle I wouldn't have nearly the problem with them that I do. California can be as liberal as it wants, just don't impose it on Missouri.


The major premise of all this is that the agreement will reverse man-made climate change. We've heard some wild responses to Trump's action. That climate change is sexist and racist. (Don't laugh, racist climate change is actually codified in the Democratic national platform.) But the most common allegation is that the act is anti-science. Nearly everyone I see opposed to the measure reminds us that it is anti-science, and they are pro-science. None of them have any clue about the science at hand or, if they do, they sure don't indicate it.

The core aim of the agreement is to restrain the global temperature to within 2° Celsius of the pre-industrial global temperature, with a preferred delta of 1.5°. I'm not able to find where they define the pre-industrial temperature. Clearly the temperature a few thousand years ago was cooler than a few hundred. A favorite tactic they like to play is to measure from the Maunder Minimum, a period of abnormally cool weather near the end of the pre-industrial era.

The big question in all of this is the degree to which humans are impacting the climate. (Unless you're Bill Nye, who is certain that the climate would not change at all if it weren't for humans.) Let's go through some scenarios, just to understand the dynamics a bit. Let's say Nye is correct, and only humans can change the climate. If human actions caused a 2° degree change in global temperature, then the agreement would require no action. We'd just barely meet the requirement. If human actions caused a change of 4° then drastic action would be needed. We'd have to reduce carbon emissions by 50%, which effectively means a 50% reduction in human economic activities. (Which means more poverty and all that.)

Let's say Bill Nye is wrong and that the climate can change without human activity. (There's a bit of evidence to that effect.) Let's say the natural underlying climate cycles would increase the Earth's temperature 1°. Then all human economic activities would have to be reduced to the point their impact had at most a 1° impact on the climate. What if the natural forces caused a 2° increase? Then we would have to halt all burning of fossil fuels completely. In short, we'd have to stop nearly all economic activity and revert back to pre-industrial economies. And if it is 3°? Then we'd have to get creative. Perhaps we could increase the Earth's albedo (its tendency to reflect sunlight) by seeding clouds with chemicals and wrapping equatorial areas in aluminum foil. Or perhaps we could erect some sort of massive solar umbrella at the first Lagrangian point. Interesting approaches, but none include the global transfer of wealth, so they're not likely to be considered.

The point of all this is that we don't know how much warming is caused by humans and how much is natural. Hell we're not even sure exactly how much warming there is. It makes no sense to base the agreement on a hard-set temperature limit. A more reasonable approach would be to concede that we aren't sure exactly what the effect of human behavior on the climate is -- although we know that carbon dioxide must have at least a small effect -- and to throttle carbon emissions to get the most economic bang for the carbon buck. While that creates its own complications, at least we'd be framing the problem in the proper manner. The goal would be maximizing our efficiency and reducing our potential impact, rather than binding ourselves to arbitrary goals which may not even be feasible. But this won't happen, because they will never concede that the question of climate change is anything but wholly settled.

Carbon exchanges

One aspect of the agreement is carbon exchanges, where carbon emissions carry a cost that can be bought in a marketplace. I'm not opposed to the idea in principle. I advocate for a similar concept (see Energy Backed Currency) in which the national currency is backed by energy production. This arrangement would have the effect of increasing efficiency by reducing unproductive energy use. Carbon credits are a proxy to that approach, but they allow for far too much tinkering and exploiting. Much of the regulation will be politicking over who gets more carbon credits (thus they can influence who the economic winners are) and will manipulate things to benefit economic activities that bureaucrats think are environmentally friendly but really aren't. Further, there is a question of what to do with the collected taxes. In energy-backed currency the taxes are used to cancel government bonds. In a carbon credit scheme the money is collected and given to ... someone. Carbon credits are inherently redistributive; energy-backed currency is not.

The Grand Triggering

There is a bonus to Trump removing the US from the Paris climate agreement: the enormous triggering of the left. There is great entertainment value in this, but it serves practical purposes. In the intermediate-term, it means that in 4 years liberals will likely be exhausted and demoralized, much as they were before Reagan's epic landslide re-election. And in the long-term, the American psyche will improve as the atrophied amygalae that drive people to leftism in the first place become exercised and either strengthened and returned to healthy functioning, or pushed towards over-the-top neuroticism. We're seeing signs of all those effects already.

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