“Pittsburgh Not Paris” Triggers the Eco-Nuts

By | 2017-07-12T14:34:20+00:00 June 5th, 2017|
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I have only now stopped laughing. I was going to write about President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Accord the other day, but the reflexive and hysterical insanity emanating from the anti-Trump eco-nuts had me in stitches. John Kerry (who signed the accord in 2015): “one of the most shameful [decisions] any president has made.” Bill “It’s-not-easy-being-green” McKibben: the withdrawal “undercuts our civilization’s chances of surviving global warming.” Yikes, Bill, really? The billionaire Dem donor Tom Steyer: “a traitorous act of war against the American people.” Wow.

Everyone seemed to be trying to outdo the next fellow in hyperbole. The Daily News reprised a variation on its most famous headline: “Trump to World: Drop Dead.” The angst was international. You don’t need much German to translate the headline from the Berliner Kurier: “Erde an Trump: Fuck You!” And so on.

Trump’s most memorable line—”I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”—was greeted by the ambulatory jelly that is the mayor of Pittsburgh with categorical repudiation. “Fighting climate change,” said Mayor William Peduto, “will not only save our planet, but save lives.” Try getting your head around that statement when you have a spare hour.

Hysteria on the Left was universal. But as many cooler-headed commentators observed, one of the really amusing things is that the Paris Accord means exactly nothing. Since it requires nothing of its signatories, it will yield nothing from them. As an editorial in The Wall Street Journal pointed out, “amid the outrage, the aggrieved still haven’t gotten around to resolving the central Paris contradiction, which is that it promises to be Earth-saving but fails on its own terms. It is a pledge of phony progress.”

The 195 signatory nations volunteered their own carbon emission-reduction pledges, known as “intended nationally determined contributions,” or INDCs. China and the other developing nations account for 63% of annual global CO2 emissions, and their share is rising. They submitted INDCs that pledged to peak the carbon status quo “around” 2030, and maybe later, or never, since Paris included no enforcement mechanisms to prevent cheating.
Meanwhile, the developed OECD nations—responsible for 55% of world CO2 as recently as 2000—made unrealistic assurances that even they knew they could not achieve. . . . Paris is thus an exercise in moral and social signaling that is likely to exert little if any influence on atmospheric CO2, much less on global temperatures.

Perhaps this is the place to note that CO2 is actually good for Gaia. Plants love the stuff. That’s what they eat. Did you know that the slightly higher levels of CO2 in the atmosphere now are actually making the planet greener? Yes, it’s true. And since everyone on the hysterical Left likes to appeal to “science” (the scare quotes are necessary, since most of them know about as much about science as John Kerry or Al “Big-Carbon-Foot-Print” Gore), let me offer them a little instruction manual on the subject, The Climate Surprise: Why CO2 is Good for the Earth. For a very modest consideration and an hour’s reading, they could actually learn a little about the real science of climate change instead of repeating, mantra-like, the dogmatic imprecations that have been passed down to them from their tribal elders.

Trump’s most memorable line—”I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris”—was greeted by the ambulatory jelly that is the mayor of Pittsburgh with categorical repudiation. “Fighting climate change,” said Mayor William Peduto, “will not only save our planet, but save lives.” Try getting your head around that statement when you have a spare hour.

But I digress. If the Paris Accord is mere window dressing, which it is, then why the hysteria?

Two reasons, chiefly. One revolves around that “exercise in moral and social signaling” that the WSJ editorial speaks about. The whole climate change industry is a multinational conglomerate issuing toxic plumes of virtue signaling, stultifying for economies and the truth, but catnip for the virtucrats who are acolytes in this pagan cult. In other words, getting on to the climate change bandwagon makes the disciples of this religion feel better about themselves. It’s a simultaneous absolution and holy communion. It is an invitation to smugness, a recipe for an intoxicating shudder of group narcissism: “We few, we happy few, we band of eco-minded fruitcakes.”

As Holman Jenkins put it, Trump declined to attend their church.

The second reason for the hysteria follows from the one serious effect of the climate accord. It has nothing to do with saving the environment. Every candid observer understands that the real end of the accord is not helping “the environment” but handicapping the developed countries. At its core, the accord is intended as a mechanism to redistribute wealth by hampering countries like the United States from exploiting its energy resources and growing its economy. Hamstring the United States, but let countries like China and India—industrial strength polluters, both—do whatever they want.

But I digress. If the Paris Accord is mere window dressing, which it is, then why the hysteria?

Like many international agreements, the unspoken subtext of the Paris Climate Accord is “hamper America. Grab as much of its wealth as you can. Say it’s in the name of ‘fairness.’”

That’s not going to wash with Donald Trump. In this respect, he has returned to a much more traditional view of the role of president. He is not the president of the world. He is the President of the United States. We seek to get along with others, but his first task is to assure the prosperity and well being of the citizens of the United States. America First.

As Andrew McCarthy and others have pointed out, in withdrawing from the Paris Accord, Trump has also returned to a more traditional—which is to say, a constitutional—view of treaties. The Paris Accord was a treaty. But it was never presented to the Senate for ratification. In this respect, it was just another of Obama’s initiatives to circumvent the Constitution and govern by administrative fiat. The reason that the Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote of the Senate to ratify treaties is because treaties can deeply affect the the lives of American citizens. McCarthy explains,

The idea is that no international compact should be imposed on the American people unless an overwhelming majority of elected officials in the upper chamber are convinced . . . that the compact serves the national interests of the United States. Not of the world. Not of the Earth. Not along the lines of harming ourselves in order to set an example for China and India that will purportedly be a boon to humanity and the planet. An international agreement must plainly benefit the American people. If it does not, the treaty clause’s operation will reject it.

That attitude, it can almost go without saying, is the deeper reason the Left hates Trump. As he said in his statement withdrawing from the Paris accord, a clean environment is a high priority for him. But on our terms, not on the terms of countries that seek to harm us. “The United States, under the Trump administration,” he said,

will continue to be the cleanest and most environmentally friendly country on Earth. We’ll be the cleanest. We’re going to have the cleanest air. We’re going to have the cleanest water. We will be environmentally friendly, but we’re not going to put our businesses out of work and we’re not going to lose our jobs. We’re going to grow; we’re going to grow rapidly.

How the Left hates that: “We will be environmentally friendly, but we’re not going to put our businesses out of work and we’re not going to lose our jobs. We’re going to grow.” For the Left, being environmentally friendly doesn’t count unless it hurts. The idea is that if you really want to help the environment—as distinct from merely saying that you want to help the environment— you need economic growth. Why? Because only through growth will you have the resources to address the real (as distinct from the imaginary) problems besetting the environment.

Like many international agreements, the unspoken subtext of the Paris Climate Accord is “hamper America. Grab as much of its wealth as you can. Say it’s in the name of ‘fairness.’”

As I say, the last day or two has been delicious. There was the comic exhibition of hysteria, but there was also the embarrassing (though also comic) failure of logic. The United States, it was said, should not abandon its leadership role by refusing to follow what other countries are doing. Er, OK.

But among the many reasons to applaud Trump’s courageous decision to withdraw the 2015 climate accord is the independence it signals about Trump himself.

There are always a lot of rumors and innuendo swirling around the American president. But Trump has suffered from a veritable cloud of malicious rumor. “There’s chaos in the White House.” “His advisers hate each other.” “His advisers hate him.” “This faction is getting the upper hand.” “No, that one is.” And so on. One frequently heard suggestion is that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, form a powerful liberal faction that will influence Trump’s policy on a host of contentious social issues, including environmental issues.

Those who like what Trump promised on the campaign trail should be heartened by Thursday’s announcement. Maybe Ivanka and Jared represent a liberal faction among Trump’s advisers, and doubtless, as relatives, they have privileged access to him. But that did not matter. Trump did what he always suggested he would do: he left the agreement not because he is hostile to the environment but because it was a bad deal for America. “We’re getting out,” he said. “And we will start to renegotiate and we’ll see if there’s a better deal. If we can, great. If we can’t, that’s fine.”

My, how the PC Leftists hated that! But Trump was right. The accord was a bad deal for the United States. Perhaps there’s a better deal to be had. If so: terrific. If not, America will follow its own course.

 

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About the Author:

Roger Kimball
Roger Kimball is Editor and Publisher of The New Criterion and President and Publisher of Encounter Books. Mr. Kimball lectures widely and has appeared on national radio and television programs as well as the BBC. He is represented by Writers' Representatives, who can provide details about booking him. Mr. Kimball's latest book is The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press, 2012). He is also the author of The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee). Other titles by Mr. Kimball include The Long March: How the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s Changed America (Encounter) and Experiments Against Reality: The Fate of Culture in the Postmodern Age (Ivan R. Dee). Mr. Kimball is also the author ofTenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education (HarperCollins). A new edition of Tenured Radicals, revised and expanded, was published by Ivan R. Dee in 2008. Mr. Kimball is a frequent contributor to many publications here and in England, including The New Criterion, The Times Literary Supplement, Modern Painters, Literary Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Public Interest, Commentary, The Spectator, The New York Times Book Review, The Sunday Telegraph, The American Spectator, The Weekly Standard, National Review, and The National Interest.