Vail Daily column: Another perspective on the Paris Agreement
Editor’s note: Find a cited version of this column at http://www.vaildaily.com.
Amidst the hysteria about the president pulling out of the Paris climate accords, it is difficult to know “the truth” about whether this was a good or bad thing for the United States.
Everyone wants a clean planet, breathable air and unpolluted water. But simply because a group of international negotiators say the Paris Agreement is a good thing, doesn’t make it so. The real question is whether the agreement is structured to make it a “reasonable expectation” that its signatories will actually meet the agreed-upon goals.
Under the agreement, every country has an individual plan (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions) to tackle its greenhouse gas emissions. But no standards govern these contributions, making it fair to ask how effective can a voluntary agreement be when no one suffers consequences if they fail to meet their pledges?
Allow me to ask rhetorically, if the posted speed limit is 55 mph, but the local sheriff makes it known that adherence is strictly voluntary and no tickets will be issued for exceeding this limit, how many people do you think would actually keep their speed below 55 mph?
Additionally, a seldom-discussed aspect of the agreement is that while developing nations are pursuing economic growth as rapidly as possible, the question arises of, “where will they draw the line between using more expensive renewable energy or relying upon the cheapest and easiest to obtain source of energy, i.e. fossil fuels, to stimulate their economies?”
Meanwhile, big polluting nations such as China and India made some pledges that don’t even begin until 2030. Some argue these two countries are already reducing their carbon emissions. But what are the guarantees of continued reduction, considering nations can modify their commitments at will? Pakistan, for example, committed to reduce its emissions after reaching peak levels to the extent possible, but what does “to the extent possible” really mean?
Another part of the agreement some find troubling is the codicil allowing developing nations to petition the United Nations for monies from the Green Climate Fund, which is to be primarily funded ($100 billion) by the industrial nations of the west.
This is potentially problematic because it’s human nature to repeat rewarded behavior. So think about this: The Venezuelan economy has collapsed and hyperinflation has destroyed the country’s currency. This socialistic nation’s economy has contracted severely in recent years and inflation has accelerated to more than 700 percent.
But it was the Venezuelan people themselves who elected the man responsible for their economic calamity, so should this self-inflicted economic disaster be rewarded with monies from the Green Climate Fund?
In an even more extreme case, prior to 1980 Zimbabwe was known as the breadbasket of Africa. It boasted the most structurally developed economy and effective state systems on the continent. But under Robert Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe has suffered massive inflation and extreme poverty.
Land reforms and black empowerment failed to deliver economic benefits. His takeover of white-owned farms led to an economic collapse and 250,000,000 percent hyperinflation (yes, you read that correctly). Unemployment has been as high as 90 percent, while 80 percent of the population lived on just $2 per day.
These examples of self-inflicted wounds beg the question: Do we want to subsidize irresponsible demigods with U.S. taxpayer dollars for an agreement that may or may be effective? I don’t have the answer, but these things are certainly worth considering. So before passing judgment, look at the Paris Climate Accord in terms of the incentives it creates, rather than the goals the politicians proclaim.
Quote of the day: “To write with a broken pencil is pointless.” — Unknown
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.