Thursday, June 1, 2017


The Paris Accords

Trump is said to be considering leaving the Paris Climate Accords. I do not know his reasons but reasons are often foreign to him. The main American objection to the Treaty has been that it was negotiated and signed outside of established Constitutional Law: The Congress, not the Administrative Branch, confirms treaties. The Constitution provides that the president "shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur" (Article II, section 2).
The international reaction to the recent Trump rumor has been quite negative, as if a great and noble thing will be lost if the U.S. indeed leaves.
Here is a summary of several points of the Treaty:

In 2009, in Copenhagen, the world’s nations agreed: The global temperature average should not be allowed to rise more than two degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. This is a difficult demand because the very nature of the mechanism and degree of global warming is in dispute. The data has been criticized and the models based upon that data have not been accurate. Nonetheless, in 2015, the Paris climate deal agreed to limit the rise of global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius in this century. To bell the cat, the agreement also directed the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—the climate-science arm of the UN—to draw up a report by 2018 on how to reach that 1.5 degrees Celsius target.
The mechanisms of this rise is assumed to be carbon fuel. If humanity hopes to keep warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2100, it must essentially stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by 2060, according to a recent study from Nature Climate Change. Their estimates come from the same unfulfilled models mentioned above. The Paris meeting could not agree on this crucial concept because the world runs on carbon and replacing it implies relying on technology we do not yet use.

If nations eliminate carbon fuel which is cheap and efficient for another energy source we do not have or use, changes will be necessary. Alternative power sources must be made available. Growing nations will be especially stressed it is said, but it is difficult to imagine how established economic powers like the U.S., China, Russia and India will manage such a conversion. This energy gap is not filled by the Paris Accords but it seems that money will solve the question. As usual, as it is assumed that someone will have to pay and, unsurprisingly, it seems that the Americans are most likely to be the ones. Mrs. Clinton, in Copenhagen, volunteered $100 billion that the rich world would “mobilize." But "mobilize" is different from "pay."  And the Paris agreement includes no new specific commitments to finance the change. But item 115 of the Paris decision says that more than that $100 billion will be needed.

How will the progress of this vision be assessed? The Paris agreement deals with both "stocktaking" and "ratcheting." It announced that the first  taking stock will occur in 2023, then every five years, and that countries should “update and enhance” individual plans at that and future meetings, those innovations presumably the ideas the aforementioned  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will bring forth in 2018.

No outside agency will approve and oversee whether nations are keeping their words—this was a red line for China and India. But under Article 13, nations will be subject to a common framework of transparency, though it will recognize that developing countries may need more help reaching their goal.

According to the U.N.’s website on climate change, the agreement has a “hybrid of legally binding and nonbinding provisions.”
But there’s no clear cut consequence or penalty for countries that fall short of their pledged goals.
So we have a presumed climate problem, for which we apparently have no definitive solution. If we assume carbon fuel is the problem and we eliminate it, that elimination will cause untold economic problems for which we have no solution as we do not have a substitute energy source. We agree to start the process but defer the means to do so. There is no money for the project and there is no process for the enforcement of any of the Agreement's notions.
Do I have that right? Is that the great international achievement we should defend?

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