Climate Accord Unconvincing

I’ve been cajoled once again into wrapping my head around an insane political battle. This time it’s the US withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord. Taking the US out of a huge world unifying attempt to save the environment for the purposes of preserving coal jobs is exactly the kind of thing we all expect from the sea-monster-in-chief.  But I wanted to go a little further into the matter and see what reasoning other people were using to justify this deplorable move.

The first clue I got was the number $100 Billion. It’s the annual amount that was set to be raised by involved countries to ease poorer countries into environmental stability. Notably this amount is annual and a “floor” meaning the commitment was well expected to rise over time. There is no mention of how this burden was meant to be portioned up, only that it was the responsibility of developed first wold countries to do their part because they produce more green house gasses per capita.

Following a long tradition of using shame to coerce others into action, the left has taken a particularly subtle approach to convincing us we want the accord. This is done in two steps: first make us believe the accord has meaningful impact on the environment, then shame developed countries for their production of green-house gasses by describing them as disproportionate polluters. This is reminiscent of the white shame tactic here. Richer countries foot the bill because they are at fault for the problem. China, the primary global source of pollution, is seen by the accord as one of the poor countries and will likely not be held to the same standards as the US.

I think this all is another great example of the parallel systems of thinking butting heads. On the Paris side we have the Outcome Oriented thinkers who want to control a specific variable they see as an indicator of a problem. The Pull-out side sees how thoroughly some top down imperative could screw with the process of building a strong economy. The two sides don’t even need to disagree on the matter of climate change or the seriousness thereof.

In fact, climate is the only matter not up for debate on this one. The argument sits squarely in the economic ring. The Paris accord is about enforcing non-market pressures on the global economies to change their behavior. Drawing out of the accord is about avoiding the potential economic damage that might do. The problem here is that economic models are almost entirely useless. They are poor predictors of real world variables and no one can seem to agree on which ones to use. Therefore making your argument for or against the Paris accord in economic terms is accomplishes less than nothing.

Trump highlighted this fact by siting economic reasons to not ratify the accord, and those have mostly fallen on deaf ears. In a feat of mental gymnastics, one report called his numbers fake because they describe the economic impact assuming an actual execution of the plan set out be the Obama administration. Climate/economic models are at this point so defunct even those fighting for them don’t expect their execution in any meaningful manner.



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