By Reed Shapiro
“US President Donald Trump Pulls US Out of Paris Climate Agreement”
I think I have seen more posts on this topic in the last 12 hours than perhaps there were when the Agreement was passed back in 2015. Some are sounding the alarm, some are claiming the Paris Agreement was a sham anyway, and should never have been signed. Which is it? Is it really so bad that the US is pulling out of the deal? Does the deal even actually accomplish what we need as a planet?
Let’s try to bring some clarity to this situation. First of all: the deal’s goal of limiting global temperature rise well below 2 degrees Celsius when compared to pre-Industrial Revolution concentrations of CO2 – is this a worthy endeavor?
YEAH – unless you’re up for inundated ports globally, sending hundreds of millions of people into Syria-like migrant patterns, and likely permanently disrupting the supply of staple commodities (food, cotton, you name it, if it depends on a stable climate, it’s at risk), which will in turn disrupt traditionally reliable commodity markets on a global scale. So again, unless you are comfortable saying, “no, none of those potential negative outcomes is worth protecting against, or seriously preparing for,” then the Paris Agreement and subsequent climate action is not just a good idea but absolutely necessary. By the way, no smart investor in the world would fly so blindly into such risk (just look at all of the big banks now scrambling to assess climate risk as thoroughly as the US military has been doing for years).
Now on to a more interesting question, does the Paris Accord actually mitigate these clearly identified threats of a rapidly changing climate? Most critiques are citing the fact that the current commitments would only constitute a 0.3 degree Celsius drop in temperature would say no – the deal is a sham, we’re going to spend $100 Trillion over the next 100 years to do not much. Is that worth it? Maybe, maybe not. The better question is how much are we likely to spend on disaster relief and resources whose price has skyrocketed due to a global shortage? Tens to hundreds of billions of dollars are already being spent annually in the US alone. Keep in mind that, like the idea of a graduated carbon tax, the Paris Agreement was put in place to be a foundation. We start small, and every 5 years reassess to determine how much farther we can push, so 0.3 degrees is not the final stop.
Nevertheless, trying to stay objective here, do also keep in mind the fact that we are talking about 2 degrees, and 0.3 degrees is 15% of 2 degrees. So the Paris Agreement, as it stands now, if followed to the “T” would only constitute 15% of what we need to do. To answer my previous question bluntly then – no, the Paris Agreement definitely does not even come close to the type of action we need globally. In addressing the US question, we constitute about 14% of the worlds GHG emissions on an annual basis at about 5 billion tonnes of CO2e, however, that’s not what was pledged in our commitments. We pledged a 28% reduction in our 2005 levels, which nets out to about 3.5 billion tonnes in annual emissions by 2025 as opposed to 5 billion tonnes. That’s not exactly what we need – that falls very far short of what we need, both as a country and as a planet.
I feel as though I shouldn’t even have to address this but because of the current global predicament we find ourselves in with heated nationalism pulling at the very fabric of reason and scientific method – but there is not one reason why we should take the logical leap in saying, “well because the Paris Agreement falls way short of our goals, we should probably just completely abandon the effort all together!”
My question to the people of the world is this: are you serious about climate change? Or do you just like to say you care? Are you actually frightened that we will be growing old and dying (my age group -18-30 let’s say) in a resource scarce, potentially disease-ridden (due to inundation), war-stricken (due to land-grabs and population migrations) world, or are you just trying to give Donald Trump flack because he’s also screwing up some other policy measure you care more deeply about?
The immediate solutions to climate change are not constrained to the Paris agreement! You’re absolutely kidding yourself if you think any of this is going to be remediated by policy and policy alone. No, policy can help prop up great ideas and solutions, but it cannot be depended upon when every couple of years to 5 years we have leadership changing the course 180 degrees.
Might I offer a more favorable, more financially feasible, more immediately actionable and accountable climate solution?
Look to the cities and mayors and companies of the world who have, in backlash, voluntarily committed themselves to the Paris Accord. Some are going further than what their equivalent commitment would be. But don’t stop there, because even if 30 cities and the biggest companies in the world were carbon neutral tomorrow (let’s say the Fortune 5,000) we’re still likely going to have about 25-30 billion metric tonnes to mitigate every year until we can get everything down to zero. It’s going to come down to every city and every company and individual in the world to address their own carbon emissions whether under mandate or their own volition.
Look rather to the energy providers who are offering switches to renewable energy. Check a box, displace fossil fuels – some of this stuff is really as simple as that. Look to the companies, like Patagonia, for example, who are literally overhauling their entire supply chain to reflect a positive cycle, where their growth regenerates the earth and brings wealth to those who make your down jacket possible. Look to the companies who are already carbon neutral.
And quite frankly, look to Carbon Credit Capital (“CCC”). We have, now for the past 6 years or so, been a resource for individuals and corporates to immediately reduce their carbon emissions via high quality carbon offset (carbon mitigation) projects. We are in the midst of making it as easy as a few clicks to eliminate the impact of your home, your daily lives, your lunch, your new sweater, you name it, it’s possible. We run a program that has absolutely zero policy dependence, can be implemented at no direct cost to any company, and passes costs on to consumers in increments of as little as $0.01 – $0.5, or $1. By doing so we are able to build the cost of carbon mitigation into the cost of what you and I buy on a daily basis. This way, simply by consuming, we tackle carbon emissions – we are able to reach our goals of net zero emissions by year end as opposed to mid century, through innovative initiatives like these.
Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS – the cornerstone of future emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement) are expensive as all hell, and are unproven to be scalable at the rate at which is needed. Do not depend on unicorn technologies or knight-in-shining-armor politicians. I forget who said it, but the quote, “if you want something done you have to do it yourself,” comes to mind. The resources, the tools, the finance is out there, its in your web browser, your pockets, and soon to be in the products you buy (if we have anything to say about it). It comes down to whether you’re going to play your part. Isn’t that the whole silver lining here? When our leaders don’t step up to the challenge, it’s on us. This is an opportunity to be a leader yourself, to make a difference yourself, to spit in the faces of those who would otherwise undermine you, and to rise up and accomplish your goals in spite of them. Which is it going to be America? World?
Don’t tell me, go to CCC’s webstore, tell your local businesses you buy from often to join Carbon Neutral Checkout™, follow these guidelines from New York Times, tell Con-Ed you want renewable energy, offset your flights, travel and your own business. Go make it happen yourselves – nothing’s stopping you but you, not Donald Trump, not Mike Pence, not Steve Bannon – if you haven’t done anything to act on climate by now look no further than the mirror for an opportunity to be the shining star they refuse to be.