It came as a surprise to some of us that the United States hadn't quit the Paris climate agreement already. Word came down late last week that the U.S. House of Representatives had approved a bill that would prevent the president from pulling out of the Paris agreement. Apparently, the president had only pledged to get out of the agreement by 2020. And from all appearances still plans to. But it won't be official till next year.
Speaking of fine print, it would help if more Americans actually read the agreement. If more do so, maybe even our friends on the port side of politics might come away with a different view of the Paris Accord, which really should be named the Paris Promises for snappy alliteration and accuracy's sake.
Of all the problems with the agreement, this might be No. 1: You can't build a wall to keep out carbon. It's in the atmosphere. Everybody's atmosphere. Americans are breathing China's pollution. And vice versa.
And Most of those countries increasing carbon in the atmosphere won't be tied down by this agreement. China is one of the leading producers greenhouse gases today. The ChiComs promise to lower their carbon footprint, as the kids call it, increase non-fossil fuels, and plant more trees.
The Red Chinese also promise, later, to develop wind power, solar power, clean coal, and, according to their part in the Paris agreement, "to increase the share of concentrated and highly efficient electricity generation from coal."
They plan more coal-fired power plants. They even say so in the Paris Accord document. Besides all of that, they're the ChiComs. If they decided to renege on their promises and skip the wind and solar part, who's to tell them otherwise? The United Nations? Somebody in Paris?
Another major global polluter, India, spends a lot of time (and words) in its Paris agreement discussing how poor the country is today. And mentions Climate Justice, which might mean that rich countries like the United States should downscale their economies while poorer countries catch up. And continue to pump carbon into the air.
India's agreement does say it has a voluntary goal of reducing emissions . . . "despite having no binding mitigation obligations as per the Convention." It wants to make that clear.
So if the Paris agreement is just a mixture of promises from more reliable sources and less reliable sources, then why doesn't the U.S. just sign off on it? Why should the president pull out of an agreement that isn't binding anyway?
Because it might certainly bind the United States.
Democrats who sponsored last week's bill said the president should stay in the agreement because his predecessor made the promise: "America does not cut and run," said U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Fla.). "America keeps its commitments."
You're darn right it does. Sometimes forcibly. Because if the United States stays in this agreement and doesn't cut carbon emissions as fast as it promises--no matter what China and India do--you can bet a federal lawsuit by the Sierra Club would make the U.S. government comply, and how.
Or Greenpeace or the Environmental Defense Fund or the League of Conservation Voters or some other pressure group will find a federal judge somewhere to see their points of view. And order the government to comply. The mainland Chinese and Indian authorities don't answer to federal judges in the United States.
On top of that, there's a secret that most Americans don't know about climate change and carbon emissions, which is less and less a secret every chance we get to comment on the Paris Accord:
The United States is already reducing its carbon output.
It doesn't take long to Google "United States carbon emissions." The graphic by the World Bank shows a steady decline over the years. From a high in the 1970s to an almost continuous drop. That is happening even as our population, and Gross Domestic Product, increases. It's called innovation, and it's an American specialty.
As more Americans become more aware of climate change and man-made carbon outputs, the more of us are going to take steps to reduce our footprints. For goodness sakes, some of us don't use straws any longer. We recycle, grow gardens, have chickens in the backyard, drive fuel-sipping cars, bring our own bags to the grocery, use reusable water bottles, download scooter apps, compost kitchen scraps, and use environmentally friendly shotgun shells.
Doubtless, the United States will be even cleaner, and an example for other nations, in another 20 years. All without the Paris agreement.
Now if we can just convince China, India, and the rest of the world to follow our example.
Editorial on 05/06/2019
Print Headline: Paris in spring