President Trump recently shed light on a little-acknowledged but critical fact: Free-market American ingenuity, not the Paris Agreement, is improving our environment.
“The Paris Accord would’ve been a giant transfer of American wealth to foreign nations that are responsible for most of the world’s pollution,” President Trump said at the Shale Insight conference in Pittsburgh. “My job is to represent the people of Pittsburgh, not the people of Paris.”
Three years in, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Paris Agreement is a sham. Its anti-energy, globalist ideas are not only detrimental to the global economy, prioritizing liberal elite ideology over human well-being, but also utter failures at their ultimate goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Only seven countries are on track to meet their emission targets, and many of the Paris Agreement’s signatories have actually increased their carbon dioxide emissions.
Germany, a supposed world leader in renewable energy, has reduced its emissions by about 10% — but renewables have only been a minor factor. The decrease has been largely attributed to a decline in manufacturing, driven out by high energy prices. While Germany has spent $200 billion in its shift to renewable energy, its electricity prices have risen by more than 50%—some of the highest prices in the world, a significant burden for families and business owners to bear.
Ironically, Germany is now forced to turn to high-emission energy sources to sustain its renewable energy agenda. Unable to rely on wind and solar power alone, the nation is now acquiring much of its energy from biomass (wood pellets imported from the United States) and building natural gas pipelines from Russia. In Europe, importing Russian natural gas produces 41% more lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than importing American natural gas.
Meanwhile, the United States has cut more total carbon dioxide emissions than any other nation. From 2008 to 2018, our energy-related emissions fell by 9% when the rest of the world increased their emissions by 17%. China’s emissions growth alone wiped out America’s reductions in 2017 by more than threefold, and now its emissions are growing even faster.
The widespread failure to comply with the Paris Agreement proves its just empty political posturing—virtue-signaling fanfare with no promise of action. But even if the signatories managed to rise to the occasion and meet their emission reduction targets for the rest of the century, global temperatures would be just 0.17 degrees lower in 2100.
Does two-tenths of a degree really justify strangling our energy industry and, therefore, our economy and way of life?
In reality, there’s no evidence to suggest climate change will be anything other than mild and manageable. The environment will be better off if we prioritize cutting pollution and encouraging economic growth and innovation. Contrary to the popular narrative, economic growth and environmental quality historically go hand-in-hand.
More important than greenhouse gases are reducing toxic pollution known to cause human harm. Here the United States is a leader as well. Despite the common belief that our environment is deteriorating, America’s air is the cleanest on record. We’ve cut the EPA’s six key air pollutants, toxic substances that cause humans harm, by 74% since 1970.
We’ve achieved these unprecedented improvements while growing our economy by 275%, our energy consumption by 49%, our vehicle miles traveled by 191%, and our population by 60%.
And our air might be even cleaner were it not for Asia’s air pollution problem. Several studies show a significant portion of the West Coast’s air pollution is blown over from Asia. Ironically, states like California that continually pass stricter environmental regulations often force manufacturing jobs overseas, further contributing to this problem. Our competitors in Asia can produce goods cheaply in part because they don’t utilize our advanced pollution control technology—something President Trump was right to call attention to.
America’s environmental leadership is something to celebrate, but it shouldn’t stop there. We should challenge world leaders to take a bold step: to meet America’s air quality standards. We should expect our allies and trading partners to share our commitment to environmental stewardship.
While other nations feign moral superiority by fighting a so-called crisis, the United States is leading the world through its actions. It’s only fair we ask the rest of the world to step up to the plate and do the same.
This commentary originally appeared in The Resurgent on November 15, 2019.