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Top 5 Reasons U.S. Pulling Out of Paris May Not Be a Bad Thing After All

Scott Edward Anderson's picture
, EY (Ernst & Young)

Scott Edward Anderson is the founder of the popular blog, The Green Skeptic. A cleantech investor and entrepreneur, he founded VerdeStrategy, and is currently a director with EY's (Ernst &...

  • Member since 2018
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  • Jun 9, 2017

Snowflakes were melting all over the Internet. The sky was falling and people forgot all about secret messages encoded in typos from the Tweeter-in-Chief.

On Thursday, US President Donald Trump did what everyone suspected he would, despite the advice of some of his closest advisers, corporate heads, and even a family member, he pulled out of the Paris Agreement.

I’m not convinced he really knows what he did or even what’s actually in the Paris Agreement.

Like many of Trump’s decisions, this one seemed knee-jerk, ill-informed, and spiteful.

He wants to renegotiate to get a better deal?

The agreement is non-binding, each country gets to set its own targets and decide how to get there, and almost every country is involved.

What more do you want?

Look, I’m not convinced these big global agreements do much good. I’ve long argued that there’s more hot air and fewer teeth in these types of global pacts than a nonagenarian who’s just eaten a bowl of chili.
But with the Paris Accord, at least everyone was participating — everyone, that is except Syria, which is too war-torn to commit to anything, and Nicaragua, which didn’t think the agreement went far enough.

Renegotiate? Come one, Donny, even some of the best deal makers in the world could see this was a pretty sweet deal, considering how much polluting we’ve been able to get away with over the past 257 years since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

Under the Paris Accord, developed countries will contribute towards the so-called Green Climate Fund, intended to be the main fund for financing global climate change projects in the context of mobilizing $100 billion by 2020. The fund is designed to help poorer countries reduce their emissions and address the impacts of climate change.

The price tag for the US is a meager $3 billion — $1 billion of which was already paid by the Obama administration.

Folks, that’s less than $10 per person to help fund such projects as “development of irrigation and groundwater replenishment systems in northeastern India, where climate change has made monsoon rains less reliable; a hydropower plant in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific to eliminate diesel generators; and restoration and protection of Ugandan wetlands that are used by subsistence farmers,” according to the New York Times.

(To put this in perspective, Business Insider reported last year that people around the world spent over $10 billion on beverages at Starbucks in 2015. At Starbucks alone!)

In any event, what’s done is done. Well, there is that nasty business of the time it takes to actually withdraw from the agreement. By some estimates, the process won’t be completed until the day after the next presidential election in 2020.
The reaction to this threatened withdrawal, however, has prompted some unintended consequences –perhaps Donny really is a genius and his decision was meant to encourage states, cities, companies, and individuals to act, and spur private investment to address climate change.
Here are my top 5 reasons the US Pulling out of the Paris Agreement may not be a bad thing after all:
  1. Climate change “ratings” went way up. Okay, well, Google searches on “Paris Accord” hit an all-time high on Thursday around 3PM Eastern, and then quickly dropped back down to normal. However, “climate change” tracked along with it on the uptick and, arguably, got more attention in the media in any 24-hour news cycle since Superstorm Sandy hit.
  2. Rather than prompting countries to abandon the Paris Accord, Trump’s withdrawal seems to have strengthened the resolve of many of other countries. Some, such as China, see the US withdrawal as an opportunity to increase their share of the pie when it comes to addressing the issue. As Reuters reported on Thursday, China and the EU pledged to come together to fill the leadership void created by the president’s decision.
  3. US cities, States, and companies are stepping up their game in response to Trump’s trashing of the agreement, as the Times reported Thursday.
  4. Captains of the private sector, including leaders of Goldman Sachs, Disney, Tesla, and Apple have recommitted to tackling the issue. Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein even joined Twitter to voice his disappointment, and billionaire Michael Blomberg pledged $15 million to help tackle climate change.
  5. Trump’s pulling out of Paris may have poked the polar bear. By doing so, he may have awakened a force to be reckoned with — the many organizations and individuals already committed to finding solutions to the climate change issue, especially those who have been on the front lines of the environment, social justice, and renewable energy for decades. It may also serve as a wake-up call to many others to take action.

In the end, the decision to withdraw may be heralded as a catalyst to finally getting the world to rally around the climate in an unprecedented way. Perhaps not what the Donald intended with his reality-show build-up and reveal in the Rose Garden, but potentially a pretty good ending.

Photo Credit: Leon Brocard via Flickr

Original Post

Willem Post's picture
Willem Post on Jun 9, 2017


The 5 reasons you cite are all talk but no money. Talk is cheep.

The promised COP-21 CO2 reduction is a very small quantity to what is required, i.e., at least 100 to 150 times too little to achieve 2 C by 2100. Most RE proponent folks have no clue regarding these numbers. See URL.

In addition, the world is investing in RE systems about $300 billion per year. That investment is at least 15 times too low.

Many people think we can have 90% of ALL primary energy from renewables for 10 billion people and their economies by 2050, or by 2100. Prorating the $33 billion cost of Vermont’s energy transformation* for 10 billion people would be $33 b x 10000/0.625 = $528 trillion, adjusting for per capita income would be 12,380/47,000 x 528 = $139 trillion.
* The Vermont goal is 90% of ALL primary energy from renewables by 2050, not just electrical energy.

NOTE: The gross world product was about $78 trillion, or $78 trillion/6.3 b = $12,380/capita, in 2014. Vermont’s GDP/capita was about $47,000 in 2015.

World spending on renewables was about $300 billion in 2015, of which about $100 billion by China. Some RE people, during and after COP-21, called for RE spending to be increased to $1.0 trillion/y. The numbers indicate the world is under-spending by large factors.

– $139 trillion/34 y = $4.09 trillion/y would be required until 2050; under-spending factor of 13.6
– $139 trillion/84 y = $1.65 trillion/y would be required until 2100; under-spending factor of 5.5…

However, significant categories of costs are not included in above estimates, such as having a transformed transportation system and other infrastructures, various transformed industries, healthcare systems, defense systems, education systems, etc., all that to be transformed with renewable energy, which is generally more expensive than traditional energy sources, if storage and grid costs are added and subsidies are taken away.

At present, Russia, China and India are the main actors in the world’s nuclear sector. All three have major building programs. Japan, the EU and the US have nearly abandoned the nuclear sector.

The transformation of the world’s economies and build-outs of systems for 90% RE will never happen, unless massive nuclear plant capacity, at least 1,000,000 MW, is built, and that capacity would have to provide about 70% of the world’s primary energy (not just electrical energy) to replace fossil fuels with syn-fuels, plus generate about 70% of the world’s electricity. Modern renewables (wind, solar, hydro, bio, etc.) would provide the other 30% of the world’s primary energy. At present modern renewables provide about 10%. See above table.

NOTE: France generates about 80% of its electricity with nuclear plants, equivalent to about 35% of its primary energy. France has the lowest electric rates in west Europe.

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