The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) hosted a panel titled “Implementing the Paris Agreement.” That Agreement referring to the Paris Climate Accord, which was approved at the United Nations meeting on climate change in Paris in late 2015 and sets goals for lowering CO₂ emissions from signing countries.
But it is 2018. And President Trump already withdrew the United States from the Paris Accord over a year ago. So why is AEI having a meeting on implementing the treaty now?
A scene from the movie Jumanji comes to mind, when Robin Williams’s character, Alan Parrish, gets transported back to the real world after several decades trapped in the magical board game.
“What year is it!?!” Alan screams when he realizes he finally made it back.
You may find yourself asking the same question about this panel. Sorry AEI, it’s no longer 2015.
Yet the attitude displayed at the event was as if President Trump’s decision to leave Paris hadn’t happened. Aparna Mathur, a resident AEI scholar who opened the panel, said, “…all of this discussion is particularly relevant given that President Trump and the White House has signaled that the U.S. may no longer support the Paris Agreement.”
Talk about the understatement of the century.
To continue the use of movie references, let’s jump in the Doc’s DeLorian to time travel to June 1, 2017 to the White House Rose Garden. Make sure to check the flux capacitor first.
President Trump is speaking, and says, “Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”
And let’s not forget:
“It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania — along with many, many other locations within our great country — before Paris, France.”
To quote Aparna Mathur, that is quite the “signal” that this administration is no longer supporting the Paris Agreement.
Now, despite the glaring questions as to why this panel was taking place at all, I attended on behalf of CFACT to really see what was discussed. AEI usually advocates for free markets. Perhaps they would have an open debate about whether the Paris treaty was a good or bad idea, I thought to myself.
Even Mathur said at the beginning: “Here at AEI, we emphasize disagreement and debate and we are hoping for a vigorous back and forth between the panelists themselves and between the audience.”
I was optimistic.
Unfortunately, all panelists, including the moderator, were all in favor of the Paris accord. This included Joe Aldy of the Harvard Kennedy School and former Obama administration official, Daniel Besley of the World Bank Group, Maureen Cropper of the University of Maryland and Resources for the Future, Ian Parry of the International Monetary Fund, and Adele Morris of the Brookings Institution.
The panel wasn’t a debate or even a discussion of pro’s and con’s. It was an echo-chamber of leftist talking points on climate change and carbon taxes.
So, when the audience was allowed to ask questions, I decided to pose this question to the panelists: “Can anyone provide insight as to why, according to AEI research, the United States is leading the world in CO₂ emissions reduction, despite not entering the Paris agreement, or enacting national carbon taxes, and how that compares to global emissions?”
Joe Aldy, the former Obama official, answered my question:
“As I mentioned, power sector emissions are down a quarter, since 2005, about 15 percentage points, and about 60% of that is natural gas displacing coal. And about 10% of that is wind and solar. And wind and solar, almost all of that investment, you could say, was leveraged by policy. It’s hard to imagine much of the investment in wind and solar over the past decade would have happened in the absence of both federal and state policies.”
It was surprising to hear a former Obama official admitting that U.S. CO₂ reductions were due to the natural gas boom (thanks to fracking although that was not mentioned), and freely admitting that solar and wind cannot compete in the market without government subsidies.
But it was never picked up by the panelists that if CO₂ is a problem, technological innovation in the U.S. is solving it with finding more natural gas than are other countries with the Paris accord. Without signing the agreement, the United States is leading the world in CO₂ emissions reduction. Not only that, global CO₂ emissions have increased, despite most of the rest of the world signing the pledge!
Unfortunately, it seems this view of ignoring technological innovation and being in favor of big-government subsidies is being embraced by AEI in the realm of climate change.
Aldy was then asked why not all the scholars at AEI agree with re-entering the Paris agreement:
“My view on this when I hear people sort of arguing on the science as someone who is not a scientist is to say I don’t care, I know enough to know that in a world of uncertainty, and where the risks are irreversible, there is an economic case” for action on climate change.
So even if there are legitimate questions on the science of climate change, Aldy specifically stated that he does not care. The risks are too great to not act!
Apparently, the risk of respected, skeptical scientists being ostracized and attacked for having a different opinion, and the damage climate policies could do to energy prices, economic growth and the reliability of energy grids, are not risks that this panel chose to pay attention to.