A central goal of Vice President Joe Biden’s climate agenda entails re-joining the Paris Agreement. His campaign’s webpage about climate mentions the Paris Agreement 14 times, with Biden emphasizing his role in having “rallied the world” to create this climate accord. For the record (since many Biden surrogates and supporters don’t seem to know this), we are still in the Paris Agreement and are not scheduled to leave until November 2020.
Under Article 28 of the agreement, the U.S. cannot withdraw at an earlier date.
More importantly, I would encourage those concerned about climate change — and how to effectively respond to it — to read the full text of the Paris Agreement. At 25 pages (and with a good amount of double-spacing), it is not a heavy lift. Upon doing this reading, it quickly becomes clear why this agreement falls well short of an effective solution.
According to Article 4(2), "Each Party shall prepare, communicate and maintain successive nationally determined contributions that it intends to achieve. Parties shall pursue domestic mitigation measures, with the aim of achieving the objectives of such contributions."
In other words, all countries are asked to set their own standards. And there is no real way of holding any country accountable if they don’t meet their own standards. If China decides to ignore or lower their own goal, there is nothing we can do about it. While Article 4(3) includes the sentiment that the parties should successively raise their contribution to fighting climate change, and that each nation should do so in a way that reflects its "highest possible ambition," there is no mechanism for enforcing such aspirational goals.
In Article 4(4), the agreement states that "Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets. Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances."
In other words, the United States, Japan and most European Union countries are told to cut emissions, while the Chinese, Indians and many others are allowed to take their time. Additionally, the U.S. and other developed countries are required to give financial assistance to developing nations as they are pondering the "encouragement" they have received to “move over time” toward any real goals. To further emphasize and expand on this point, Article 9(1) of the agreement states that “Developed country Parties shall provide financial resources to assist developing country Parties with respect to both mitigation and adaptation in continuation of their existing obligations under the Convention.”
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese are in no position to usefully honor the agreement. The Chinese economy contracted by 6.8% in the first quarter of 2020 (or possibly more, since self-reported numbers from China are not particularly reliable) and it is projected to grow at less than 2% this year.
According to the World Bank, from 1978 to 2018 the Chinese economy grew at an average of 9.5% per year. In order to avoid political turmoil, it is highly unlikely that the Chinese government will undertake any measures that hamper their economy any further.
The better news is that our scientific community has made some significant strides in recent years in how to reduce carbon and methane levels, which potentially offer a more grounded way forward than the loose hopes that underpin the Paris Agreement.
Methane: More than a third of global warming is caused by methane. Scientists have studied a seaweed from Australia called Asparagopsis taxiformis. This seaweed can disrupt the enzymes that produce methane from cows by almost 99%. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the livestock sector contributes 14.5% of greenhouse gases.
Carbon: In July 2019, Dr. Thomas Crowther and a team of researchers from ETH Zurich discovered that that we have enough room on the planet to plant 1.2 trillion trees. Crowther believes that 1.2 trillion trees can reduce 205 gigatons of the 300 gigatons of carbon in the atmosphere.
Since 10 gigatons of carbon are annually emitted by human activity, a reduction of 205 gigatons would give us years to find additional breakthroughs in the areas of sustainability and renewable energy.
For instance, over the next decade, seed-planting drones and other technologies can help in the mass planting of trees. One company, Dendra Systems, has developed drones that can shoot seeds into the ground. It indicates that their drones can plant trees at ten times the rate, and at only 15 percent of the cost, when compared to traditional planting methods.
At 30 cents per tree, it would cost $400 billion dollars to plant 1.2 trillion trees.
It’s a large number, but actually a low one in the context of the economic havoc that the Green New Deal (which Biden’s website says is "a crucial framework") would unleash.
Moreover, planting 1.2 trillion trees over the next 10 years is a much more realistic solution to making an impact on climate change than relying on the promises of China’s leaders.
Robert Zapesochny is a researcher and writer whose work focuses on foreign affairs, national security and presidential history. His work has appeared in a range of publications, including The American Spectator, the Washington Times, and The American Conservative. For several years Robert worked closely with Peter Hannaford, a senior aide to Ronald Reagan, as the primary researcher on four books and numerous columns. Robert has also worked on multiple presidential, national and statewide campaigns, including as a field office staffer for the Bush-Cheney campaign. Due to his own Russian-Jewish heritage, Robert has a keen interest in the history of U.S.-Soviet relations. In 2017 he was the co-organizer of an effort that erected commemorative statue of Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow. Robert graduated with a major in Political Science from the University at Buffalo, and received his Master’s in Public Administration, with a focus in healthcare, from the State University of New York College at Brockport. When he’s not writing, Robert works for a medical research company in Rochester, New York. Read Robert Zapeochny's Reports — More Here.
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