By William Happer
Tribune News Service
Editor’s note: The writer is addressing the question, “Did President Donald Trump make a mistake in deciding to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change?”
President Donald Trump was right to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement on climate change, which makes no scientific or moral sense and was extremely unfair to Americans.
Misled by inaccurate, allegedly scientific arguments, a worldwide network of sanctimonious policymakers generated the agreement to solve a problem that does not exist — so-called carbon pollution from burning coal, oil and gas.
Indeed, uncontrolled combustion of fossil fuels can generate real pollutants: fly ash, oxides of sulfur and nitrogen, and heavy metals that can and should be controlled with cost-effective technologies, as has been done in the United States, resulting in one of the cleanest environments in the world.
But carbon dioxide, or CO2 — the main target of the Paris Agreement — is not a pollutant; it’s a benefit to the Earth.
Agriculture, forestry and plants benefit from having much more CO2 in the atmosphere. Because humans and other animals are fed, clothed and sheltered by the products of plants, the entire biosphere will benefit from more CO2, which makes plants grow more efficiently and need less water.
Satellite images already show a significant greening of the Earth from more CO2. Some 15 percent of the impressive increases in crop yields over the past 50 years is due to more CO2.
The benefits of more CO2 to agriculture have been largely ignored or downplayed in the economic models used to justify the Paris Agreement.
And the costs of the Paris Agreement will fall most heavily on the poor, who will be compelled to pay much more for so-called sustainable energy, which is highly unreliable. Energy costs in the European Union have doubled since 2005 in the name of CO2 reductions, leaving many unable to heat their homes.
Sincere policymakers and other trusting people, including many scientists, have been hypnotized by lurid predictions of computer models. In ominous colors, computer screens show a future Earth that is afflicted by droughts and hurricanes. But there has been no change in the incidence of observed droughts, floods, tornadoes and hurricanes.
The climate models that are the basis for the Paris Agreement predicted temperature increases that are three to four times larger than the very modest temperature changes that have been observed over the past few decades.
The Earth has already experienced much larger CO2 levels than those of today, about 400 CO2 molecules per million air molecules, or 400 ppm.
Over most of the geological history of Earth, CO2 levels were 1000 ppm, 2000 ppm, even more. Life was more abundant than today at these higher CO2 levels, both on land and in the oceans. Coral reefs flourished, sea creatures did not die from ocean acidification and there were no mass extinctions.
Anguished cries from environmental lobbyists, crony capitalists and foreign governments about the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Agreement remind me of Aesop’s fable about the fox who lost his beautiful bushy tail (reliable, affordable fossil energy) in a trap (unreliable, expensive renewable energy).
To try to cover up his embarrassment, the tailless fox used all sorts of absurd arguments (we have to save the planet) to persuade all the other foxes to cut off their tails. Luckily, at least one fox, the United States, has decided to keep its tail.
— William Happer is an emeritus Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University and a former director of energy research of the U.S. Department of Energy.