Politics & Policy

Au Revoir, Paris Climate Accord

Bloomberg at the C40 Mayors Summit, December 2016 (Reuters photo: Henry Romero)
A Michael Bloomberg–led group has announced that America will still adhere to the climate-change pact.

A few days after President Trump said the U.S. would pull out of the Paris climate accord, a group of political and corporate heavy hitters announced that they are still in.

The climate flank of the Trump resistance is being led by former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. On June 5, Bloomberg — the United Nations secretary general’s special envoy on cities and climate change — published a letter to the U.N. signed by more than 1,200 “mayors, governors, college and university leaders, businesses, and investors” who are “joining forces for the first time to declare that we will continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement.” The group’s new website is called WeAreStillIn.com and immodestly claims to represent the collective interest of 120 million Americans and one-third of the nearly $18 trillion U.S. economy.

Bloomberg says the group will

formally quantify these sectors’ aggregate climate actions and submit a report to the UN as “America’s Pledge” to the world under the Paris Agreement. America’s Pledge intends to eventually submit a “Societal Nationally Determined Contribution” to the United Nations, accounting for the efforts of U.S. cities, states, businesses and other subnational actors.

Among the signatories signaling their fealty to a poorly run international organization hostile to American interests are nine states (all of which voted for Hillary Clinton, except North Carolina), 19 state attorneys general, a few hundred university presidents, and a roster of American businesses including Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Tesla. In a bit of shade-throwing, the mayor of Pittsburgh also signed the letter. (Trump said during his Rose Garden announcement last week that he was elected to represent the “citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”)

This should be an interesting exercise not just in political posturing and global boot-licking, but also to see how this group will appease its many members opposed to two technologies — nuclear energy and agricultural biotechnology (or GMOs) — that are proven to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

One of the key organizers is the Sierra Club, which called Trump’s move a “historic mistake which our grandchildren will look back on with stunned dismay at how a world leader could be so divorced from reality and morality.” But while the Sierra Club pushes for clean-energy options to end fossil-fuel use, it remains “unequivocally opposed” to nuclear energy: “Nuclear is no solution to Climate Change and every dollar spent on nuclear is one less dollar spent on truly safe, affordable and renewable energy sources.” The Sierra Club even wants your help to “phase out nuclear as quickly as possible.”

Due to their spotty reliability, renewables must be backed up by fossil-fuel power — nuclear does not.

This stance is not only inaccurate but environmentally stupid. Nuclear power is one of the lowest emitters of greenhouse gases; according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, nuclear energy releases as much carbon dioxide per kilowatt as wind power does. Hydropower, geothermal, and solar all have bigger carbon footprints than nuclear. Moreover, due to their spotty reliability, renewables must be backed up by fossil-fuel power — nuclear does not.

Two governors who have been the most outspoken against Trump’s decision — California’s Jerry Brown and New York’s Andrew Cuomo — have been shuttering nuclear plants in their states. Diablo Canyon, California’s last remaining nuclear facility, which supplies about 20 percent of the electricity to northern and central California, will close in 2025 after pressure from Brown and environmental groups.

“Nobody has killed more clean energy than Jerry Brown and the Sierra Club,” Michael Shellenberger, head of the pro-nuclear group Environmental Progress in Berkeley, Calif., told me. “Brown and the Sierra Club have worked hand-in-glove to kill nuclear plants — which produce one-quarter the carbon emissions of solar panels — in California and around the country. As a result, California’s emissions are two and a half times higher than they would have been had planned nuclear plants been built and existing ones remained open.”

Cuomo has been trying to shut down New York’s Indian Point nuclear plant for 15 years; the plant’s operator finally caved and will close it down by 2021. Indian Point provides about 23 percent of the state’s clean power, but Cuomo fantasizes that he can replace that power by building more wind farms and importing hydropower from Canada. (This from the man who, in a rambling response to Trump’s decision, cited “seven-foot-high snow in Buffalo” as evidence of global warming.)

Several companies that signed Bloomberg’s missive actively oppose genetically engineered crops and refuse to use any GMO ingredients in their food products, including Ben & Jerry’s, Nutiva, Clif Bar, and Blue Apron. Organic dairy-product companies such as Danone Foods and Stonyfield Farms — whose CEO, Gary Hirshberg, is a major funder and front man for the anti-GMO movement — are also on the list. Keep in mind these are the same companies that are now fueling a huge rise in imported organic corn and soybeans from countries such as Turkey, Romania, and Ukraine (which I wrote about, here) even though genetically modified versions of those grains are grown in abundance in the United States. Not exactly a climate-friendly supply chain.

Study after study confirms the environmental benefits of genetically engineered crops — such as producing higher yields on less land while using fewer natural resources and chemicals. In fact, on the same day Bloomberg issued the letter, two U.K. economists released a 200-page paper highlighting the global impact of these crops. PG Economics found that

crop biotechnology has significantly reduced agriculture’s greenhouse gas emissions by helping farmers adopt more sustainable practices such as reduced tillage, which decreases the burning of fossil fuels and retains more carbon in the soil. Had biotech crops not been grown in 2015, for example, an additional 26.7 billion kilograms of carbon dioxide would have been emitted into the atmosphere, which is the equivalent of adding 11.9 million cars to the roads.

President Trump’s exit from the Paris Agreement might do more than save jobs and money here. It might finally expose the galling duplicity of environmentalists who profess to want to protect the climate while opposing policies that do just that. Au revoir, green hypocrites.


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