Friday, April 22, is “Earth Day” – the date environmental activists have used since 1970 to raise awareness about the “environmental crisis.” But this Earth Day is different. Rather than protesting, environmental activists are celebrating implementation of an all-encompassing global plan that will once and for all end mankind’s despoliation of the planet.
I jest, of course. What actually happened is that Secretary of State John Kerry drove in a motorcade to the United Nations headquarters on Manhattan’s Turtle Bay, shutting down parts of midtown and causing enormous amounts of congestion, pollution and frustration for ordinary New Yorkers.
During an hour of earnest but boring speeches – this was the U.N. after all – noted climate expert Leonardo di Caprio called for an end to climate change (and the total transformation of the world economy), which he modestly compared to President Lincoln’s call to end slavery. Then Kerry, carrying his grand-daughter, and representatives of 170-odd other nations, who had flown in with their spouses and entourages (at great expense and generating thousands of tons of greenhouse gases) formally signed an agreement that they or other representatives of their nations had already agreed – and which has no hope of ending climate change.
Then everyone went shopping.
The reality is that the so-called Paris Agreement on climate change will not materially reduce the rate at which the earth warms, which is probably not bad news. For one thing, the world is warming far less quickly than alarmists once thought, and still usually claim. And in fact, a little bit of warming is likely to be beneficial, especially in the U.S., where warmer winters will reduce heating bills—and the burning of carbon-based heating fuel.
A little warming will also extend growing seasons, which in combination with the world’s high and still rising levels of carbon dioxide (the basic food for plants) will increase crop production. And the thaw is already opening up the North West passage through the Arctic seas, which will reduce the time and cost of transporting goods between Europe and Asia.
So what will signing the Paris agreement do? First and foremost, it could provide cover for all sorts of mischief. According to a briefing by the State Department, the signing will initiate a process by which the administration can formally “join” the agreement through executive action.
Usually, new treaties must be ratified by the Senate, which the current Republican majority would never do. The administration’s justification for “joining” the agreement through executive action rests on the presumption that it is not a new treaty but merely is a means of implementing the U.N.’s Framework Convention on Climate Change – a 1992 treaty that the U.S. has already ratified, and whose objective is to “combat dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”
The Obama administration’s unorthodox action is intended not only to help lock in existing climate policies – including the hugely expensive Clean Power Plan, which is currently stayed by the Supreme Court – but also justify new executive actions that would further restrict carbon emissions and send more taxpayer subsidies to the green cronies who own renewable energy companies.
Plans to do this, according to a recent State Department briefing, are already in the works.
That’s what the administration wants to happen. But it’s not clear yet that it will come to pass.
First, as noted, the Paris Agreement won’t do much if anything to reduce any warming that does occur, or slow down future warming. One big reason: the world’s biggest carbon emitters, including China and India, are not pledged to cut their own climate emissions any time soon. Any hypothetical future U.S. reductions won’t change that.
And second, to the extent that the Paris agreement arbitrarily redirects our resources towards low-carbon and renewable energy—its real aim-- it will lower rates of innovation and growth, which will hinder the ability of people to adapt to whatever climate change does occur.
In other words, to the extent that it does anything about climate change, the Paris Agreement is mostly counterproductive. And it almost certainly does nothing to achieve the objective of the Framework Convention.
The Paris Agreement is largely a ruse concocted by climate alarmists and cronies to justify current and future policies that would benefit them but harm the rest of us. Try to remember that when the big limo caravans carry dignitaries to the ceremony, adding further to the clouds of carbon and confusion that the ritual is intended to reinforce.
Julian Morris is Vice President of Research at Reason Foundation and author of "The Paris Agreement: An Assessment."