The Paris Accords and Where Do We Go From Here?

In the aftermath of the President deciding to withdraw the United States from the Paris Accords on climate change the mayor of Pittsburgh immediately responded by saying his city would abide by the accords. He did this because President Trump had made a comment that the represented the people of Pittsburgh and not the people of other nations.

I have seen photos of Pittsburgh in the 1040’s posted on the Internet. I have seen them juxtaposed against photos of today. I am very familiar with these photos since I grew up in Pittsburgh. Yes, the basic reason that the air became better was the slow elimination of coal furnaces in almost every home. There were no electric heat pumps then. Natural gas lines had not been laid. As a boy in the 1950’s I remember having to shovel the coal into the bin and then to stoke the furnace on a regular basis. Technology helped advance the efforts in clean air and they will do so again. Another factor is the declining production of steel in Pittsburgh. Those jobs were lost to other nations who did not have to abide by the same regulations and had lower wages. I worked in three different steel mills in the summers home from college. J&L used to be right in Pittsburgh but it is long gone now.


The real reason for cleaner air in Pittsburgh is not industry changes but the elimination of coal fired furnaces in homes. Nobody is ever going to return to those here in the United States but in many nations around the world they are still a primary source for heating.

I had hoped that Trump would decide to stay in the Paris Accords for one simple reason, the optics. Leaving the accord does not mean that the United States will suddenly quit looking at new technologies on how to produce cleaner air. It does not mean that we will abandon efforts to reach goals on cleaner air. What it does mean is that Trump decided that the agreement was heavily weighted against the United States financially and it allowed nations like China and India to get a pass. China, as an economy, will soon surpass the United States and they should be contributing to smaller nations and not getting money. India, for all their bravado, had made it clear they will only make the changes if someone else funds it.

When the negotiations on this agreement were in full swing it became apparent that countries like India and China wanted to point to the past and not look to the future. These two nations have significantly larger populations than the United States. In the case of India the birth rate continues to boom and the population grows at an exponential rate. But in both of these nations the infrastructure for electricity and heat lag well behind the nations of Europe and the United States.

China is relying on coal power to provide electricity to its people. They are building new coal fired power plants at a rapid rate. How many of the environmentalists that are screaming obscenities at President Trump actually believe that in 2030 China will somehow reverse itself and shut down those power plants? That is not going to happen because the political leadership in China care about one thing, retaining power for themselves and to reduce the growth of the electrical grid in China would threaten that power base. They are going to mouth the words and force the American taxpayer to fund what small changes they are willing to make but in the end they will simply ignore any commitments they have made just like they have done with other agreements in the past.

Politically the elected leaders in India have said they have no choice but to use fossil fuels to bring electricity to more people. They look at the more developed nations and tell them they will have to pay for any changes in India. China is in the same boat to a lesser degree. Both nations are being allowed to delay making necessary changes by pointing to the past and ignoring the future. In the United States all we hear about is the dire consequences in the future if we do not make immediate changes. But all the changes in the United States and Europe will be meaningless if other nations are allowed to ignore the requirements placed on the developed nations. In this sense President Trump was exactly right, much of the Paris Accords were simply a redistribution of wealth from one nations to another.

Trump immediately said that he wanted to enter into new negotiations with both nations and Congressional Democrats. That is the way this would get done and become law. Not by the Executive Branch negotiating something and not getting approval of Congress. In some ways this is similar to the health care negotiations. While President Obama was in office the Democrats steadfastly refused to negotiate on ObamCare. Even as we saw the flaws in the law slowly bringing it to failure. Now that he is out of office even a Senator like Richard Durban (D-IL) had suggested that perhaps they need to look at the law and negotiate some changes. This is what needs to be done with the climate issue. Congress should be involved and it should not be exclusively an Executive Branch decision.

Now that he has exited the agreement and the chicken littles in the environmental world are predicting dire consequences the time has come for a new round of negotiations. One that would quit looking at the past and look directly to the future. We cannot change what happened in the past. Yes, western nations used coal as a major source of energy. But that is not a reason for developing nations to be given a pass to continue using it because they say it is cheaper. That ignores exactly what I hear from every liberal who is showing me photos of cities under water. Every nation has to be held to the same standards or we will all fail. That is the point that President Trump was making. If the future of our children and the world is at stake the new negotiations are needed to strengthen the agreement and bring every nation under the same rules and concessions. And everything cannot be funded by American taxpayers.

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