Time For Obama To Tell The Truth About Paris Climate Agreement

Tom Harris Executive Director, Climate Science Coalition
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In his final State of the Union address this evening, President Obama will almost certainly highlight the role his administration played in securing the Paris Agreement on climate change. Following the announcement of the accord last December, he tweeted:

“This is huge: Almost every country in the world just signed on to the#ParisAgreement on climate change—thanks to American leadership.”

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 12, 2015

But what Obama did not tell Americans, and will undoubtedly not admit tonight, is that the accord is dangerously flawed. It is, in effect, another Kyoto Protocol since, like all United Nations greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction agreements, it provides an opt-out clause for developing nations, the source of most of today’s man-made GHG.  

The Paris Agreement starts:

The Conference of the Parties, … recalling Articles 2, 3 and 4 of the Convention.”

The ‘Convention’ refers to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed by President George H.W. Bush and other world leaders at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. The UNFCCC is the foundation upon which all UN climate agreements, including that reached in Paris, are based.

UNFCCC Article 2 specifies that:

“The ultimate objective of this Convention … is to achieve, … stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.”

Reports such as those of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) demonstrate that science is far too immature to know what, if any, GHG concentrations would cause “dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.” Professor Bob Carter, an NIPCC lead author and former Head of the Department of Earth Sciences at James Cook University in Australia explains, “Science has yet to provide unambiguous evidence that problematic, or even measurable, human-caused global warming is occurring.”

So the UNFCCC, and anything derived from it such as Kyoto and the Paris Agreement, are based on an illusion. It is the mistaken idea that the science is sufficiently advanced that we know we can control global climate merely by tinkering with our GHG emissions.

Article 3 is equally nonsensical, phrased as if we had a global thermostat, stating, “The Parties should protect the climate system for the benefit of present and future generations of humankind.”

But it is Article 4 that should most concern Congress. It states:

“The extent to which developing country Parties will effectively implement their commitments under the Convention will depend on the effective implementation by developed country Parties of their commitments under the Convention related to financial resources and transfer of technology and will take fully into account that economic and social development and poverty eradication are the first and overriding priorities of the developing country Parties.”

Translated, this means that, under treaties based on the UNFCCC, developing countries will keep their emission reduction commitments only if we pay them enough and give them enough of our technology.

Also implied is that, even if we give them everything we say we will, developing countries may simply forget about their emission targets if they interfere with their “first and overriding priorities” of “economic and social development and poverty eradication.”

Developed nations do not have this option. We must keep our emission commitments no matter how it impacts our economies.

The U.N. has not been hiding this “firewall” between developing and developed nations. They have told us over and over, in climate change agreements in Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, and Lima, that “development and poverty eradication,” not emission reduction, takes top billing for developing countries. The Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests even stated in a December 5, 2014 press release, “The developing countries’ need for inclusive growth, sustainable development, poverty eradication, and energy access to all must be recognized as fundamental.”

Actions to significantly reduce GHG emissions in developing countries would involve dramatically cutting back the use of coal, the source of 71 percent of India’s electricity and 81 percent of China’s. As coal is by far the cheapest source of power in most of the world, reducing GHG emissions by restricting coal use would unquestionably interfere with development priorities. So, no matter what they promise at UN climate conferences, developing countries won’t do it, citing the UNFCCC in support of their decisions.

It has been suggested that the statement in the Paris Agreement that countries’ responsibilities will be decided “in light of different national circumstances” will impose tougher requirements on poor nations over time as they develop. This is naïve. The UNFCCC treaty, especially Article 4 that addresses the preferential treatment given developing countries, has been the foundation of all U.N. climate negotiations. Developing nations will clearly not allow this to change. Associated Press’ Karl Ritter admitted in his December 15, 2014 article, “Last minute deal salvaged UN climate talks”:

“Asked about the implications of the Lima deal, Chinese negotiator Su Wei repeated China’s mantra that the purpose of the Paris agreement is to ‘reinforce and enhance’ the 1992 convention, not rewrite it.”

John F. Kennedy once said, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived, and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic.”

Obama should ask himself, does he really want to be remembered as the President who promoted the myth that the new UN climate agreement applies equally to all countries? It’s time he told the truth about this dangerous attack on America’s prosperity.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition. The NIPCC reports may be viewed here. ICSC’s WTOP and WMAL radio ads on this topic may be heard here.