States that claim they’re committed to Paris do nothing for the climate and ill serve their citizens
Paul Driessen and David R. Legates
Ten states, some 150 cities, and 1,100 businesses, universities and organizations insist “We are still in” – committed to the Paris climate agreement and determined to continue reducing carbon dioxide emissions and preventing climate change. In the process, WASI members claim, they will create jobs and promote innovation, trade and international competitiveness. It’s mostly hype, puffery and belief in tooth fairies.
Let’s begin with the climate. When Delaware signed on to WASI, for example, Governor Carney cited rising average temperatures, rising sea levels, and an increase in extreme weather events. In Delaware, sea level rise is almost entirely due to subsiding land resulting from compaction of glacial outwash, isostatic response from the retreat of the ice sheets more than 12,000 years ago, and groundwater extraction.
The biggest threat to homes, roadways and wildlife habitats lies not in sea level rise – but in the effects of nor’easters, tropical storm remnants and other weather events that impact Delaware’s sand-built barrier islands. Moreover, not a single category 3-5 hurricane has struck the US mainland for a record 11.5 years.
Climate models have long overstated the supposed rise in air temperature. Recently, even alarmist scientists like Ben Santer have agreed that a warming hiatus has kept air temperatures unchanged for over 15 years, even as plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere rose to 400 parts per million.
No trends exist in tropical cyclones, tornadoes, floods, droughts or other weather extremes. Contentions that these changes will pose health risks and threaten our economy are purely scare tactics. Climate has always changed and weather is always variable, due to complex, powerful natural forces. Insisting that these events must be caused or exacerbated by human activity reflects a denial of basic climate science.
Full adherence to the Paris Treaty by all nations would prevent an undetectable 0.3°F (0.2°C) rise by 2100 – assuming that all climate change is driven by humans and not by natural forces. This meaningless achievement, by switching to 100% renewable energy, would cost $12.7 trillion to $93 trillion by 2030.
Surely, WASI members and the rest of the world have better uses for that money than chasing climate chimeras. Paying their massive state debt, pension, welfare and retirement obligations, for instance; in developing nations, getting electricity and safe water to people and ending their poverty and disease.
But substantially reducing CO2 emissions will create jobs, won’t it? For every job these mandates and subsidies create, multiple jobs will be lost in businesses that require affordable, reliable energy. Your local or statewide CO2 emissions may decrease. But in 150+ countries that are under no obligation under Paris to reduce their fossil fuel use, emissions will increase. WASI groups may take pride in “resisting Trump,” but their actions really hurt America’s working class families, who had no vote on the matter.
WASI members California, Connecticut, Hawaii and New York already have among the worst unfunded pension liabilities. Their residential electricity prices are already outrageous: 17 cents a kilowatt-hour in NY, 19 in CA, 20 in CT and 29 in HI – versus 9 cents in North Dakota. Honoring “Paris commitments” would send rates skyrocketing to German and Danish levels: 37 cents per kWh. Expensive energy will hurt poor and minority families the most and send jobs to countries where energy costs less.
Just imagine what your WASI actions would do to households, hospitals, businesses, factories, malls and schools. How it would kill jobs and swell unemployment and welfare rolls – while creating a lot of low-pay, largely part-time jobs. Rather than producing jobs, the Paris Treaty is a job-killer for the USA.
For all these reasons, we should be glad we are out! We ask those who have told their constituents they are “still in,” How exactly will you meet your Paris commitments, and what exactly will you achieve?
How will you slash your CO2 emissions by 26-28% by 2025, as required for the USA under the Paris pact? The United States reduced CO2 emissions by 12% between 2005 and 2015. But that was accomplished by a downturn in the economy and increased reliance on natural gas, most of which is produced by hydraulic fracturing. Will you support fracking and build more gas-fired power plants?
Or will you build new nuclear and hydroelectric power plants to reduce your fossil fuel dependence? You cannot rely on wind and solar, as they currently account for barely 2% of overall US energy needs and the mining required to get rare earth metals, cadmium, iron, copper, limestone and other raw materials for these technologies has extensive, often horrendous environmental, health and human rights impacts.
Growing populations mean more energy will be needed. Do you expect wind and solar to grow to cover the new demand? These highly expensive technologies require vast land areas, much of it taken from wildlife habitats – and huge government/taxpayer subsidies. From whom will you take this money?
What will you get for your efforts? The cost is enormous, for minimal benefits. Higher electricity prices will affect businesses, hospitals, jobs and families in your state. The impact of 30, 40 or 50 cents per kilowatt-hour electricity will be devastating – especially for the poor, minority and blue-collar workers and families you say you care deeply about. They will be forced to choose among energy, food, clothing, shelter, health and safety. How will this serve climate and environmental justice?
By contrast, a change in global air temperature of about 0.01°F will have zero impact. That’s how much reduced warming the world is likely to see from all the sacrifices imposed by “We are still in” programs. Storms, floods and droughts are not linked to CO2 concentrations, so your actions will have no effect in these areas. Avoidance of an un-measurable increase in air temperature is simply not worth the cost.
Governors who have committed their states to this climate-centered resistance movement have done so without approval from the legislature or their constituents. How do you propose to pay for this unilateral executive decision? With tax increase and soaring energy costs? How will your constituents react to that?
The “We are still in” press release proudly proclaims that its members contribute $6.2 trillion a year to the US economy. That’s one-third of the United States $18.5 trillion GDP in 2016.
Under the Paris formula, the United States is to contribute $23.5 billion per year initially to the Green Climate Fund – with the US contribution rising to some $106 billion per year by 2030, based on the same percentages. Your one-third WASI share of that would be $7.8 billion in 2017, rising to $35 billion a year by 2030. Is this part of your vaunted commitment to the Paris treaty? How do you anticipate paying that?
Can individual cities and counties opt out of your pact, and become sanctuary cities or counties, to protect their jobs and families against runaway energy costs, climate fund payments and more autocratic actions?
By deciding that their schools will stay in the Paris Treaty, college and university presidents will drive up energy and other costs on their campuses. Did you consult with and get approval from your boards of trustees, legislators, taxpayers, students and parents – or was this simply another executive decision?
Delaware gets 95% of its electricity from natural gas, coal and oil. How exactly will the University of Delaware slash its fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions by the 26-28% required by Paris? How will George Mason University, with Virginia getting 63% of its electricity from fossil fuels?
Have you calculated how much this will cost? Will you make up the difference by increasing tuition? How will you compensate those who can least afford these increasing expenses? In the interest of integrity, accuracy, transparency and ethics, have you made those analyses public (if they exist)?
Did all you “socially responsible” companies and organizations in WASI get approval from your boards of directors, shareholders, customers and clients before committing to stay in Paris? Did you analyze and discuss the likely economic and employment ramifications? Or are you the real climate deniers – denying the costs of anti-fossil fuel, renewable energy commitments, regulations, subsidies and mandates?
Finally, for the millions of voters, taxpayers, citizens, students, workers and consumers who are being impacted by “We are still in” states, cities, colleges, universities, businesses and organizations, we ask:
Are you still in with expending trillions of dollars to have an undetectable effect on Earth’s future climate? If not, perhaps it’s time you made your voices heard – and started resisting The Resistance.
Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power - Black death. David R. Legates is professor of climatology at the University of Delaware and a former Delaware State Climatologist.