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The U.S. Should Not Have Reneged on the Paris Agreement

Feb 4, 2019 | Environment, Politics

With the Paris Agreement, most nations in the world came together to discuss one of the most serious threats to our civilization: reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Sadly, the agreement was non-binding and required the cooperation of member UN nations, but it was historic and an important step toward establishing the framework for helping all countries to curb their emissions. It was also a seat at the table where all nations gathered to discuss this threat that impacts us all.

Now the United States has stood up and left the table. Is it not better to sit and talk instead of getting up and leaving?

When President Trump pulled out of the Paris Agreement, he gave many absurd reasons that I’ve grown tired of hearing (you can read about them in this New York Times article), only to excite his rank and file voters – who are not the majority of Americans.

Trump and some of his supporters see a future built upon clean coal. But what does “clean coal ” mean? There is no such thing as a “clean coal” power plant. Even with mining low sulfur coal, scrubbers to reduce sulfur dioxide, precipitators to remove fly ash, there is still the reality that coal stacks emit billions of tons of CO2 each year. There is no choice. It is simply math. Burning coal for electrical generation is coming to an end all around the world, and inevitably most of those jobs will come to an end, of course. There will still be mining jobs and I want high-paying, safe, union jobs for miners, but coal will not be for our electrical power plants. There are other uses for coal in making steel and carbon fibers.

What are we spending? What has been pledged? $100 billion per year? I am not sure how much the U.S. has spent on curbing CO2 emissions or helping other countries meet their goals, or what other countries have spent and/or pledged. I do know that China, the U.S., and the developed countries of the world are by far the major contributors and should lead the way politically and financially to curb emissions. I also know that the real cost to all of us and our civilization will be in the trillions and trillions of dollars, not billions.

So no, Mr. President, your proclamation to pull out of the Paris Agreement was to heap praise on yourself for keeping campaign promises that were just propaganda. Pulling out is not good for the United States or the world.

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