Monday, June 5, 2017

Trump Provides the Right Kind of Leadership in Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord until a “better deal” can be negotiated is not the ideal action. I had advocated that he do what Obama refused to do—submit the agreement to the Senate for ratification as a treaty. Americans deserve a robust political debate on the merits and principles behind the Paris Climate Accord. The issues involved are too critical to America and Americans to be flippantly dismissed. A mere presidential order to withdraw from the Accord, like Obama’s signing of the order without ratification, will not even come close to giving the issues a thorough hearing. The impetus behind the Paris Accord is thoroughly regressive. We can only defeat the morally and economically horrendous basic ideas underpinning Paris on the battleground of ideas and debate. A suspension rather than outright withdrawal of America’s participation in the agreement, followed by the long, contentious, drawn-out Senate ratification process could go a long way to accomplishing that defeat. In a ratification fight, the Paris proponents would be made to go beyond simple-minded sloganeering and smear mongering, and actually explain themselves against the rational and (I believe) stronger arguments of the opponents.

Nonetheless, I’ll take it. Trump’s withdrawal is a second best option—better than staying in. The Paris agreement is a call for world political control of energy, the industry that makes all other industry possible—and thus central control of the economy. Read the New York Times brief on the Paris Basics. The “parties” it speaks of are governments—the institutions that hold a legal monopoly on physical force in their respective countries, meaning the power to coerce obedience at gunpoint. “Solutions” must come from these parties—from governments, which means, from coercive rights-violating actions. Where does that leave private energy producers and consumers and their choices?—under the thumb of government officials backed by the power of law. Supporters said the agreement marked the “the end of the era of fossil fuel” as world governments “transform” and “shape” the world economy.

The Accord calls for a world socialist regime of massive wealth redistribution from “developed” countries to “developing” countries, with the U.S. citizens bearing the brunt of the cost—which potentially could amount to 10s or 100s of $billions, and ultimately $trillions; out of as much as $2 trillion per year overall; all of it paid by developed countries led by the U.S. Essentially, it is a demand that the United States of America bow its head and pay atonement for its very virtues—to apologize for its intellectual, political, and economic freedom and freedom’s consequence, prosperity. The Bolivian government put it more honestly: Echoing Pope Francis, it called for “a world without capitalism” as a means of preventing “the destruction of Mother Earth and humanity.” Naomi Klein explicitly ties climate change catastrophism to the Left’s anti-capitalist crusade, calling climate science “the most powerful argument against unfettered capitalism.”

Climate catastrophism is more about promoting socialism and destroying capitalism than it is about solving what they imagine as “the climate crisis.” In fact, the exact opposite is true. As Ronald Bailey argues over at Scientific American—and, more extensively, in his book The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the 21st Century, long term,  

To truly address climate change, responsible policy makers should select courses of action that move humanity from slow- to high-growth trajectories, especially for the poorest developing countries. This includes honest bureaucracies, the rule of law, free markets, strong property rights and democratic governance. Whatever slows down economic growth will also slow down environmental cleanup and renewal.

The facts, evidence, and experience are clear: the more advanced an economy, the better its environment becomes. In other words, more capitalism, not central planning, is the answer, because the kind of innovation that can combine rising prosperity with cleaner development and industrialization can only happen when people are free, rather than subservient.

As to more “mainstream” critics of Trump’s decision to withdraw, their loudest argument is designed to be more palatable: Pulling out of the accord, they claim, abdicates America’s “leadership” role in the world. We hear this line over and over. But this begs the question—what kind of leadership? America has never been a leader in trampling its own citizens’ rights and property—in shackling its own progress at the behest of the greedy, power hungry, the envious, and the resentful of the world. America’s leadership consists of being a beacon for the inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness—the right of individuals to live, work, and trade through voluntary consent in mutual pursuit of individual personal self-interest, which in turn made America a leader in scientific, industrial, technological, and [real] environmental progress uninhibited and undirected by central planning statists.

The Paris agreement itself is an abdication of American leadership, committing the U.S. instead to a course of increasing statism both internally and globally, all in the name of containing carbon dioxide emissions. Control of carbon emissions means control of human beings. It’s that simple. Such grandiose central planning schemes directly contradict the Declaration of Independence, America’s Founding philosophical document. What kind of leader repudiates its own values? Is national self-immolation an example of leadership, or subjugation?

Granted, the Paris Agreement is technically “non-binding.” But don’t be fooled by that one. I was surprised and delighted to hear this, in my view the most important part of Trump’s speech:

Staying in the agreement could also pose serious obstacles for the United States as we begin the process of unlocking the restrictions on America’s abundant energy reserves, which we have started very strongly. It would once have been unthinkable that an international agreement could prevent the United States from conducting its own domestic economic affairs, but this is the new reality we face if we do not leave the agreement or if we do not negotiate a far better deal.

The risks grow as historically these agreements only tend to become more and more ambitious over time. In other words, the Paris framework is a starting point — as bad as it is — not an end point. And exiting the agreement protects the United States from future intrusions on the United States’ sovereignty and massive future legal liability. Believe me, we have massive legal liability if we stay in.

“A starting point, . . . not and end point.” It’s rare to hear Trump speak in broad terms. But he’s absolutely right. Principles and precedents, once accepted, have tremendous power. The principles and precedents established by the Paris Climate Accord must, by logical progression, be expanded and ultimately made mandatory—until and unless they are explicitly repudiated. As James Madison stated:

[I]t is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of Citizens, and one of the noblest characteristics of the [American] Revolution. The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.  

The Paris Climate Accord is precisely “an experiment on our liberties.” For the sake of the principle that individuals have inalienable rights that governments are instituted to protect and secure, Americans must not allow the usurpation of American power and sovereignty. It is our first duty as American citizens to deny the principles of the Accord so as to prevent the usurped power to become entrenched by practice and precedent. Principles are inexorable powers. Once we accept the principle that America must submit to a global climate regime, there is no way to fight the dictates of that regime—and America will have repudiated its very essence.

There is nothing inherently wrong about international agreements to address problems that transcend borders, so long as American involvement doesn’t come at the expense of America as a sovereign, free country. That’s what the Paris Climate Accord threatens to do. The Climate Paris Accord is Obama’s Pyramid—a monument to his “legacy”; i.e., his vanity. It is un-American to force Americans to pay for any “leader’s” delusions of unearned greatness.

Related Reading:

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels Hardcover—Alex Epstein  

Related Listening:

Bjorn Lomborg: The U.S. Was Right to Withdraw From the Paris Climate Accord [Reason Podcast]

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