Today Donald Trump declared his intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. There are lots of pragmatic reasons that this is just dumb, no matter what you think about global warming:
- Under the terms of the agreement, participants can’t effectively withdraw until 2020 – and with luck Trumpy and his oil-love minions will be gone. Meanwhile, there’s no immediate big bang for the buck.
- If anyone really thinks the carbon reduction targets designated by the U.S. – historically one of the biggest contributors to the problem – are unfair, we don’t need to withdraw from the agreement to change them – or even just ignore them. They are voluntary. Of course, they’re also desirable, but that’s another story.
- The U.S. will sacrifice its leadership role in world climate policy by withdrawing from the main forum for world climate policy formation.
- Many businesses, even Exxon-Mobil, oppose the move for many of the foregoing reasons, as well as the fact that many realize that climate change isn’t going to be good for business in the long run. Others are indifferent.
Then there are, of course, the moral reasons. The world is at risk; the agreement represented a collective effort to meet the challenge. Without the U.S. the future of the agreement is unsure. Even if other participants persevere, the loss of cooperation from one of the biggest polluters will hurt. Do we even need to point out that we owe our children a future, one which will be either impossible, or brutish in the extreme, in a ruined earth?
But, still, as they say, elections have consequences, and if one of those consequences is going to be environmental doomsday along with corresponding economic chaos, so be it. I’m old, I won’t be around in twenty years, I have no children; it’ll only be a little skin off my nose – you know, higher risk due to extreme weather events, warmer winters, etc. I’ll probably be fine as will most of us older folks.
Although Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt qualifies as older, he does have children, some of whom have children of their own, but he evidently feels the same way I do, to hell with his progeny. Or else he thinks that they’ll be part of an elite insulated from the consequences. At any rate, though, he seems to think it’s no skin off his nose either. Which is probably why he was one of twenty-two Republican Senators who signed a letter to Trump, begging him to pull the U.S. out of the Paris agreement. Also it may have made it easier for him to put his name to arguments advanced in that letter that are specious at best.
Blunt and his pals argue that the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change will insure that the U.S. retains a seat at the negotiating table when it comes to climate policy. We don’t need, they argue, to be part of the Paris agreement to have a seat at the table. This arguments ignores the fact that it is the Framework that has provided the basis for the Paris agreement, the participants of which will dominate climate policy in the future.
Of course, if you read the letter, you’ll notice that the real object of the Senators’ ire is the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plant regulations. The regulations do reflect the former administration’s effort to meet carbon reduction targets agreed to in the climate pact. However, contrary to the letter’s assertions, legal authorities deny that there is an actionable, legal linkage between administrative regulations enacted by the U.S. and the rather vague requirements of the Paris agreement. Guardian writer Dana Nuccitelli, quotes David Doniger, a Senior NRDC attorney, who stated unequivocally that:
They are making things up. EPA did not rely on Paris to justify the Clean Power Plan, and none of the parties defending the Plan has cited Paris as a legal basis. On Clean Air Act Section 115, no one I know has made, or even thought of, this argument.
What the letter doesn’t say, though, is probably more important than the strained arguments it does make. Another Guardian report notes that each of the signatories, including our own inestimable Senator Blunt, have received buckets of cash from the oil and gas industries who have urged the President to withdraw from the agreement:
Unmissable behind the elected Republicans stand other interests: the oil, gas and coal industries, which together are some of the most influential donors to Republican candidates.
The big-money supporters got a return on their investment last week, when 22 Republican senators whose campaigns have collected more than $10m in oil, gas and coal money since 2012 sent a letter to the president urging him to withdraw from the Paris deal.
Nor should we ignore the fact that the $10 million that these public servants have openly collected from the fossil fuels industries isn’t even the lion’s share of their haul. The Guardian report adds:
Visible donations to Republicans from those industries exceeded donations to Democrats in the 2016 election cycle by a ratio of 15-to-1, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And that does not include so-called dark money passed from oil interests such as Koch industries to general slush funds to re-elect Republicans such as the Senate leadership fund.
At least $90m in untraceable money has been funneled to Republican candidates from oil, gas and coal interests in the past three election cycles, according to Federal Election Commission disclosures analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics.
It’s truly inspiring to watch the intricate dance of political influence taking place in our new Trump world. Interesting also to note which of our politicians seem to be finally ready to really flourish, unchecked, in what seems to be their natural environment.