Bishop: Trump’s Leading in Right Direction on Climate, & Leading From the Front!

Thursday, June 08, 2017


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Donald Trump

Barack Obama won a noble peace prize just for getting elected. This was no doubt a message to Americans that if they lead from behind there are accolades waiting in the wings. It wasn’t so much whether Bush had lead in the right or wrong direction, but he had lead from the front of the pack. Obama got the prize for essentially taking his marching orders from a euro-centric view of proper international order, whether that be on engaging Iran or prostrating oneself before the gods of climate.

This week Trump has emphatically doubled down on climate apostasy. More Reaganesque than Bushist, he has determined that the United States economic growth should not be place on the chopping block of the Paris Treaty. The main reason I voted for him was his promise to do just that. But the beautiful people thought their neo-conservative globalist alliance could capture his presidency and turn it towards their aims.

Nothing short of Reagan’s pushing forward on Pershing II missiles in West Germany and creating the Strategic Defense Initiative in the absolute face of world opinion comes to mind. It never occurred to those who were so sure of Reagan’s moral and intellectual bankrupty, like myself at the time, that he actually despised nuclear weapons but understood the possibility of ending the cold war as we knew it. And, apropos of Trump, folks forget the history of what a disruptor Reagan was. Yuri Andropov, then premier of the Soviet Union said: “Reagan is unpredictable. You should expect anything from him.” Where have we heard that recently?

Burke and Eisenhower came before Reagan and Trump

The actions of both disruptive presidents trace to the world’s most famous disruptor, Edmund Burke, whose “Reflections on the Revolution of France” was actually a broadside against elite world opinion that saw revolutionary zeal as the inevitable course of human events leading to progress. Burke’s famous letter was aimed directly at do-gooders of the sort embodied by Richard Price and the Revolution Society who welcomed developments in France. Burke saw, in the intellectual orgy that had shed all bounds of tradition, not the democratic opportunity and liberty sought in the American Revolution, but rather the Terror these abstractions would exert over France.

While this epsitle is famous for its hagiography of the French Royal Family, it is anything but the work of an obsequious prisoner of tradition. Burke simply doubts the notion that the rationalist approach ought to wholly displace our reliance on accumulated human wisdom and experience:

“What is the use of discussing a man's abstract right to food or to medicine? The question is upon the method of procuring and administering them. In this deliberation I shall always advise to call in the aid of the farmer and the physician, rather than the professor.”

Eisenhower said the same thing some 170 years later in his farewell speech known predominately for its concern over the hegemony of the military industrial complex. Following from that very famous caution Eisenhower warns: 

Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. 

The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite. 

It is these words to remember whilst, for years, the solitary tinker has been poking holes in the global warming balloon that folks somehow imagine Donald Trump just burst. There is a reason that they changed the message to climate change, and then to extreme weather -- and yet the average fellow can stick a fork in these concerns as well.

Folks who should know better than to surrender to a scientific-technological elite are busy voicing apoplexy that Trump didn’t listen to that siren song beguiling him to sacrificing our economy on the alter of Paris. Trump isn’t particularly ideological on climate. He simply is committed to 3% economic growth as the policy to make American great again; and Paris is the major threat to economic recovery. Milennials have never experienced 3% economic growth. They have no idea the power it has to further the good life and the good works of man. Subjugating ourselves to the crystal ball of a technological elite who are clearly motived by redistributionist ideology is a stupid idea, even if these same elites are offended by the truth.

Eisenhower and Environmentalism

To avoid being accused of taking Eisenhower out of context we should advise that he voiced a proto-environmentalist philosophy as well:

As we peer into society's future, we -- you and I, and our government -- must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow. We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without risking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.

But it is a completely emotional falsehood to imagine that favoring a strong economy over ephemeral concerns of climate is “living only for today”. You can’t afford investments in environmental quality without a good economy. That is, after all, why all the developing nations postpone their own CO2 contributions and insist that any they do make be bought with the proceeds of western civilization.

Without an abundance of fossil fuel energy you won’t have the resources to make actual strides in alternative energy. Mark Mills detailed that succinctly for Fortune Magazine. And if we cripple our economy with absurdly expensive and inefficient projects like Deepwater Wind, we won’t have the resources or the resilience to respond to climate, whatever role man might have in its meandering path.

What if we don’t ‘always have Paris’?

What is actually at stake? Environmentalists show us graphs that say Paris really matters. It could limit temperature increase by a degree Celsius although they would prefer much deeper cuts to limit the increase by 2 degrees. But Bjorn Lomborg in a peer-reviewed paper shows Paris would be an order of magnitude less effective. Lomborg assumed that voluntary commitments were all adhered to and accepted doubtfully high values of CO2 sensitivity modeled by the International Panel on Climate Change. Yet the very climate models use to alarm us show Paris would do next to nothing.

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Environmental graph exaggerating Paris treaty SOURCE: Breakthrough National Center for Climate Research

The environmentalists are trying to overemphasize the results of Paris – for if it costs a lot and does nothing, why bother? There are two key distinctions that differentiate Lomborg’s peer-reviewed analysis, and climate alarmist blog posts. First, the greens used a much higher and imaginary “business as usual” scenario. By overstating anticipated emissions growth, the effect of any reduction from present levels is vastly overstated. Second, the baseline year of the Paris Treaty is 2005, even though the treaty was negotiated in 2015. Lomborg doesn’t credit this accord with the intervening reductions in CO2 emissions that had already occurred because of the recession (and, in the US, the widespread substitution of unconventionally drilled natural gas for coal).

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Thank you sir, may I have another [recession].

Speaking of the recession, that was negative growth of 2% a year. How did yawl like that? 

It is true that if CO2 reductions were really necessary, there are more sensible approaches than economic freefall, but they are hardly cost free. Cap and Trade, or a Carbon Tax are echos of ideas that Republicans have advanced to allow the market to find the most efficient pollution reductions. But those were reductions in industrial emissions that were generally agreed to constitute pollution -- that hurt people directly. There is no agreement that CO2 constitutes pollution; nor that it constitutes the predominant climate influence; nor that its effects are all bad!

And, even if careful economic approaches to CO2 reduction might be able to keep the annual negative drag on GDP below 1%, do you want a half of a recession every year? This is the equivalent of deciding to shoot ourselves in the foot and aiming for the little toe.

Maybe Paris isn’t so great after all, say the environmentalists!

Environmentalists want to have it both ways, clinging to Paris and yet longing for more. The same graph showing an outsize effect of reducing CO2 emissions by approximately 30% implies that the real required reduction if you are an adherent of their religion is 98% by 2040. (Yes you read that right, in 20 years, the entire world we would be using virtually no fossil fuels). Yet Paris alone represents an almost insurmountable economic challenge!

At least some are honest in this respect. I have a good friend, Ken Ward, whom I love but who is, nonetheless, my alarmist doppelganger. He is a pioneer in the ‘valve turners’ movement, the monkey wrench gang of the 21st century. They engage in the dangerous practice of shutting valves on operating pipelines to minorly disrupt fossil fuel transmission but mostly to emphasize through civil disobedience how much angst they have. He writes in praise of Trump pulling out the Paris because Paris is not remotely enough from his perspective.

Of course my own praise for Trump is that he understands that Paris is an economic suicide pact in which the United States is supposed to go first. At some time in the future we may indeed reduce our fossil fuel use 98%. But there is simply no urgency whatsoever. We place our economy and the world’s economy in peril by undertaking to proclaim the date certain this will happen as well as likely delaying that date by our inefficient action.

Rhode Island’s decades old legislation requiring us to recycle 70% of our trash is a perfect example even as Providence currently wrestles with rates below 10% in some neighborhoods. This was a policy made in spite of human nature. Yet poor waifs roam the city pushing shopping carts full of materials to recycle that anyone will pay for. We had only to consult human experience but instead we consulted ‘experts’.  

Paris really has absolutely nothing to do with what you think about climate science and everything to do with – as Burke proposed – consulting those citizens who will actually make the energy transition. Wasting $400 million dollars of ratepayers money on the inefficient photo op of Deepwater Wind is so emblematic of Paris. Spend money for no reason other than to line the pockets of corporate rent seekers while feeling better about ourselves. I’d prefer that citizens keep the money and ultimately reward those solitary tinkerers who actually offer a practical transition to alternative energy. 

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Brian Bishop is on the board of OSTPA and has spent 20 years of activism protecting property rights, fighting overregulation and perverse incentives in tax policy. 


Related Slideshow: RI Democrats React to Trump Withdrawing from Paris Climate Agreement

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Gina Raimondo

RI Governor

I am deeply disappointed that the President has decided to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize that the Paris Agreement is about so much more than climate change. It’s about opportunity, stewardship and America’s standing as a global leader. 

President Trump’s action will not deter Rhode Island from taking necessary steps to address climate change. Our action at the state level will create new jobs and attract new investment in the green economy. 

We’ve set a goal to secure 1,000 MW of clean energy resources and double the number of clean energy jobs by 2020. Ocean State families and businesses are on the front lines fighting climate change. I will continue toward with the General Assembly and partners in other states to protect our environment and advance clean energy alternatives, while creating new opportunities for our workforce in the process. 

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Jim Langevin 

U.S. Congressman

President Trump’s ill-considered decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement puts the future of our entire planet at risk. The withdrawal represents an abandonment of pledges to protect our environment and risks undermining the entire accord, which includes nearly every country on earth. In addition, the President’s action cedes Unites States leadership and means losing a seat at the table to negotiate global agreements in our country's best interest.

The Obama Administration made significant progress toward slowing the rapidly warming climate by negotiating the Paris Climate Agreement to reduce greenhouse emissions on a global scale. Unwinding these commitments represents another assault by President Trump on the health of the public and the planet. His Administration continues to deny climate change despite the overwhelming scientific evidence that shows this is an ongoing human-caused crisis.

Rhode Island is on the front lines of sea level rise, and our citizens will ultimately pay the price for inaction today. Communities like my hometown of Warwick are particularly vulnerable to the storms and floods that come with climate change. Warming seas have chased our traditional catch out of our fisheries and threaten to decimate our beloved Ocean State coastline. Abandoning the Paris deal, the culmination of a multi-year effort by world leaders, is an abdication of our responsibility to leave the world a better place for our children.”

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Sheldon Whitehouse

U.S. Senator

“Donald Trump and his children said just a few years ago that climate change was ‘irrefutable’ and its consequences ‘catastrophic and irreversible.’ They were right. There is no denying the growing threat of rising seas, warming global temperatures, and melting glaciers and ice sheets. 

But we can still avoid the worst if we quickly reduce carbon emissions. That is why ignoring reality and leaving the Paris Agreement could do down as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in our nation’s history, isolating the U.S. further after Trump’s shockingly bad European trip. 

Trump is betraying the country, in the service of Breitbart fake news, the shameless fossil fuel industry, and the Koch brothers’ climate denial operation. It’s Sad. 

America’s biggest corporations and investors urged the President to stick with international efforts to address the climate threat. They and all of us will now have to proceed with a seriousness of purpose commensurate with the threat, knowing of this President’s grave defects. 

If you haven’t joined an environmental group, join one. If your voice needs to be heard, get active. If you are a big corporation with good climate policies that has shied away from engaging politically, it’s time to engage. And if you’re a university that teaches climate science, it’s time to stand up for your scientists. Whoever you are, help end climate denial and take action.”

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Jack Reed

U.S. Senator

“President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris climate agreement is a blow to the environment that makes us a less secure nation. Our military, which spends every hour of every day thinking about how to protect Americans says climate change is a problem and a real threat multiplier. Indeed, climate change is an established part of the military’s threat and risk assessments.

The United States should continue to be a leader when it comes to protecting the planet; instead, the President is abdicating this responsibility. President Trump is unwisely putting the United States alongside Syria and Nicaragua in declining to be part of the Paris agreement. 

The American people deserve better.” 

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David Cicilline

U.S. Congressman

The President’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is a terrible mistake. It will diminish American leadership in the world, undermine our ability to create good-paying jobs, and contribute to the further degradation of our environment. 

It is very disappointing that we now know, without question, that the President of the United Sates is a climate change denier. His decision today ignores the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding the serious consequences failing to address climate change. 

The only thing President Trump will accomplish by this decision is to set the United States and world back decades in this fight. I have no doubt that future generations are going to wonder what the hell we were thinking today”


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