Today, Earth Day, President Obama will attach America’s name to the Paris Climate Agreement. Greatly affected, according to gushing accounts in the press, will be the president’s “legacy.” Unaffected, according to math, will be the threat of climate change. And left holding the bill, as seems to happen with each new acquisition for the Obama presidential library, will be the American people.
The Obama administration concedes its own policies are unlikely to fulfill its own [climate action] pledge. Third-party analyses… conclude the policies will get nowhere close.
The agreement’s uselessness stems from its negotiating structure. Each country submitted a pledge of climate action, each pledge was accepted without question, and the sum of those pledges became the deal. Doe-eyed diplomats at the United Nations envisioned this process creating an “upward spiral of ambition,” as they phrased it during the 2014 Bonn Climate Conference. But the major developing countries, whose rapidly rising greenhouse-gas emissions are the driving force behind fears of climate change, care more about economic growth for their impoverished populations. So, as I wrote at National Review Online in December, they submitted pledges to continue with business as usual.
China pledged that its emissions would peak “around 2030,” precisely when the U.S. government’s national laboratory had already estimated the peak would occur. India’s pledge amounted to a slowdown from its current rate of progress. Pakistan said simply that it would “reduce its emissions after reaching peak levels to the extent possible,” which offers nothing beyond a definition of the word “peak.”
Unsurprisingly, the sum of many pledges to do nothing is: nothing. When the Massachusetts Institute of Technology compiled the pledges and compared them with its own preexisting projection, it found a temperature reduction by 2100 of only 0.2°C. When the analysts compared the pledges with the projection created by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change back in 2000, they found no improvement at all.
Unfortunately, not everyone was in on the joke. Determined to display “leadership,” President Obama made the classic mistake of the kid who hears everyone is going skinny-dipping, strips naked, plunges into the water, and then turns to find his dry and still-modest peers laughing from the shore as they run off with his clothes…
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