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Paris Agreement: President Trump's Mystery Math

By this time, your eyes may have glazed over from reading the myriad of fact checks and rebuttals of President Trump’s speech announcing the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. There were so many dizzying falsehoods in his comments that it is nearly impossible to find any truth in the rhetorical fog.

Of all the falsehoods, President Trump’s insistence that compliance with the Paris accord would cost Americans millions of lost jobs and trillions in lowered Gross Domestic Product was particularly brazen, deceptive, and absurd. These statements are part of a disturbing pattern, the latest in a calculated campaign to deceive the public about the economics of reducing climate pollution.

Based on a study funded by industry trade groups

Let’s be clear: the National Economic Research Associates (NERA) study underpinning these misleading claims was paid for by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) – two lobbying organizations backed by fossil fuel industry funding that have a history of commissioning exaggerated cost estimates of climate change solutions. When you pay for bad assumptions, you ensure exaggerated and unrealistic results.

In the past five years alone, NERA has released a number of dubious studies funded by fossil fuel interests about a range of environmental safeguards that protect the public from dangerous pollution like mercury, smog, and particulate matter – all of which cause serious health impacts, especially in the elderly, children, and the most vulnerable. NERA’s work has been debunked over and over. Experts from MIT and NYU said NERA’s cost estimates from a 2014 study on EPA’s ozone standards were “fraudulent” and calculated in “an insane way.” NERA’s 2015 estimates of the impacts of the Clean Power Plan, which are frequently quoted by President Trump’s EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and others, have also been rebutted due to unrealistic and pessimistic assumptions.

The study does not account for the enormous costs of climate pollution

In his speech about the Paris agreement, President Trump crossed a line that made even NERA so uncomfortable that it released a statement emphasizing that its results were mischaracterized and that the study “was not a cost-benefit analysis of the Paris agreement, nor does it purport to be one.”

The most important point embedded in this statement is that the study does not account for the enormous benefits of reducing the carbon pollution causing climate change. Climate change causes devastating impacts including extreme weather events like flooding and deadly storms, the spread of disease, sea level rise, increased food insecurity, and other disasters. These impacts can cost businesses, families, governments and taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars through rising health care costs, destruction of property, increased food prices, and more. The costs of this pollution are massive, and communities all around the U.S. are already feeling the impacts – yet the President and his Administration continue to disregard this reality as well as basic scientific and economic facts.

Cherry-picking an impractical and imaginary pathway to emission reductions

The statistics the President used were picked from a specific scenario in the study that outlined an impractical and imaginary pathway to meet our 2025 targets designed to be needlessly expensive, as experts at the World Resources Institute and the Natural Resources Defense Council have noted. The study’s “core” scenario assumes sector by sector emission reduction targets (which do not exist as part of the Paris accord) that result in the most aggressive level of mitigation being required from the sectors where it is most expensive. This includes an almost 40 percent reduction in industrial sector emissions – a disproportionate level not envisioned in any current policy proposal – which results in heavily exaggerated costs.

An expert at the independent think tank Resources for the Future, Marc Hafstead, pointed out:

The NERA study grossly overstates the changes in output and jobs in heavy industry.

Yale economist Kenneth Gillingham said of these numbers:

It’s not something you can cite in a presidential speech with a straight face … It’s being used as a talking point taken out of context.

The NERA analysis also includes a scenario that illustrates what experts have known for decades – that a smarter and more cost-effective route to achieving deep emission reductions is a flexible, economy-wide program that prices carbon and allows the market to take advantage of the most cost-effective reductions across sectors. Even NERA’s analysis shows that this type of program would result in significantly lower costs than their “core” scenario. Not surprisingly, that analysis is buried in the depths of the report, and has been entirely ignored by the Chamber of Commerce and ACCF as well as President Trump.

Study ignores potential innovation and declining costs of low carbon energy

Finally, the NERA study assumes that businesses would not innovate to keep costs down in the face of new regulations – employing pessimistic assumptions that ignore the transformational changes already moving us towards the expansion of lower carbon energy. Those assumptions rely on overly-conservative projections for renewable energy costs, which have been rapidly declining. They also underestimate the potential for reductions from low-cost efficiency improvements, and assume only minimal technological improvements in the coming years.

In reality, clean energy is outpacing previous forecasts and clean energy jobs are booming. There are more jobs in solar energy than in oil and natural gas extraction in the U.S. right now, and more jobs in wind than in coal mining.

The truth is that the clean energy revolution is the economic engine of the future. President Trump’s announcement that he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris accord cedes leadership and enormous investment opportunities to Europe, China, and the rest of the world. His faulty math will not change these facts.

By Susanne Brooks

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Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on June 9, 2017

Susanne,

Your arguments have some validity, but COP-21 is not the answer.

The promised reduction is so small compared to what is required to make COP-21 a farce, as most scientists are beginning to realize, including UN climate chief Christina Figueres.

COP-21 is a non-binding, CO2 emission reduction agreement, which aims to limit the world temperature to 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level during the 1861 – 1880 period by 2100. By 2015, the increase was about 1.0 C. That leaves just 1.0 C to go. This may appear minor, but is not.

Based on projected CO2 emission, population, and economic growth trends, the 2 C increase likely would be reached by about 2045, and a 4.3 C increase likely would be reached by 2100, based on the MIT and Lomborg analyses.

MIT claims, with FULL implementation of the voluntary, Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) agreed to during the COP-21 conference, and kept in place till 2100, COP-21 would prevent about 0.2 C of any warming that would occur by 2100, i.e., instead of 4.3 C from pre-industrial baseline, it would be 4.1 C by 2100. See Page 2 of MIT URL.

Bjorn Lomborg estimates COP-21 would prevent about 0.17 C, in close agreement with the MIT estimate.

The UN climate chief Christina Figueres estimates the COP-21 promises will reduce CO2 emissions by 33 billion metric ton by 2100, which is a very small quantity considering the total CO2 emissions of the 2017 – 2100 period. To limit the temperature increase to 2.7°C by 2100, about 3,000 billion metric ton by 2100 would need to be reduced, or about 100 times the COP-21 promises. See Lomborg URL.

NOTE: To achieve an increase of 2 C or less by 2100 is even more difficult, as it would require a CO2 emission reduction much greater than 3,000 billion metric ton. There is even talk of achieving 1.5 C or less by 2100. All of that is not optimism, but wishful thinking.

Based on outcomes of about twenty prior COPs, the RE investments required for such a huge CO2 emission reduction likely will not take place.

https://globalchange.mit.edu/sites/default/files/newsletters/files/2015 Energy %26
Climate Outlook.pdf
http://www.lomborg.com/press-release-research-reveals-negligible-impact-...

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on June 9, 2017

Susanne,

A total of 193 countries signed on to COP-21, but that means nothing, unless they agree to do something, to undertake pain. The majority of these countries are underdeveloped and developing countries. They signed on to COP-21 in expectation of payments from the Green Climate Fund. Only a few countries have made financial contributions to the Green Climate Fund. See below URLs.
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/jun/5/paris-climate-agreem…

The Fund is administered by the UN. As of 17 May 2017, a total of $10.3 billion had been pledged to the Fund.
– EU member states pledged $4.7 billion (UK $1.2 b; France $1.0 b; Germany $1.0 b; Others $1.5 b)
– US $3.0 billion; already paid $1 billion.
– Rest of World $2.6 billion (Japan $1.5 b; China $0; India $0; Others $1.1 b). See table in URL.

The Fund’s initial goal is to distribute to recipient countries $100 billion in 2020, and much more in EACH YEAR thereafter. The US, about 20% of gross world product, likely would be hit up for $20 billion in 2020, and much more in EACH YEAR thereafter. That Fund likely would become the mother of all boondoggles.

No. Thank you, said Trump. He was not about to let the UN do boondoggle projects with US taxpayer money, especially when considering the insufficient outcomes of almost all prior COP conferences.
http://www.greenclimate.fund/partners/contributors/resources-mobilized

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