Is Biden right to rejoin Paris Climate Accord?


Fact Box

  • Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was inaugurated as the 46th president on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. 
  • On Biden’s first day in office, he rejoined the Paris Accords as well as the WHO, ordered a federal mask mandate, ended the Trump-era travel ban, as well as 13 other orders.
  • The Paris Climate Agreement is a pact among nations created in 2015 to “address climate change.” 197 countries joined the accord to limit the temperature increase to 2 degrees Celsius around the globe.
  • On June 1, 2017, President Trump announced the United States’ removal from the Paris Accords saying, “the US will cease all implementation of the non-binding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.” 
  • Analysts estimate if the Obama-era 2015 Paris Climate environmental regulations were met by 2035, there would be an overall loss of nearly 400,000 US jobs (mostly in manufacturing), an average total income loss of more than $20,000 per family of four, and a total GDP loss of over $2.5 trillion.

Andrew (Yes)

Climate change is a fundamental human conflict that could affect every single person on Earth. It has become clear that climate change represents a threat to national security. With the importance of this issue so glaringly obvious, President Biden is right to rejoin the most significant climate action ever taken. Former Defense Secretary Mattis illustrated this threat saying that climate change is “impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.” A 2014 defense report describes how climate change will act as a “threat multiplier,” potentially bringing about water shortages, increased disease, hunger, and disputes over resources and migration. 

While rejoining the Accord puts the United States back on track to mitigating the worst effects of climate change, it is also highly symbolic. It shows how the United States is committed to rejoining the world after four years of increased isolationism under the Trump Administration. Only Syria and Nicaragua have not joined the Accord, and frankly, no one is looking to them for leadership. Rejoining shows that the US is committed to working with allies to solve a problem that threatens all of humanity. 

Contrary to the commonly used argument that the Paris Climate Accord is economically dangerous, rejoining is actually a major economic opportunity. A major component of the Accord is to move away from fossil fuels to renewables such as wind and solar. Jobs in the solar and wind sectors are currently growing at a rate twelve times faster than the rest of the economy. Continuing in this direction has the potential to put more Americans into good-paying jobs.


Mandy (No)

America can commit to reducing carbon emissions without signing a meaningless non-binding piece of paper. Every nation (except the UK) who signed onto the Paris Climate Accords (PCA) increased their emissions. The International Energy Agency noted that China and India were the worst offenders, but the EU also increased their emissions since 2015. The PCA means nothing in practice. Even if every nation were to meet their PCA-outlined goals by 2030, 'the total temperature reduction will be 0.048°C (0.086°F) by 2100.' This is not enough to make any significant impact on climate change

The US proved that between 2017-2019, despite withdrawal from the PCA, Americans could reduce more greenhouse gases without strangling workers with the PCA's unfair economic burden. We saw 'the largest decline in energy-related CO2 emissions in 2019 on a country basis—a fall of 140 Mt, or 2.9%, to 4.8 Gt.' From 2017-2019, while the pre-pandemic economy boomed, America lead the way in carbon emission reduction 'without signing the Kyoto Protocol, never enacting a carbon tax, [and] refusing to impose a 'cap and trade' carbon emission program.'   

Wind and Solar are not our saviors in this endeavor; Nuclear and Natural Gas (Fossil Fuels) are the single highest players in lowering greenhouse gases. Moreover, Wind and Solar only power batteries, and mining the rare earth minerals increases environmental damage and harms the poorest developing countries, even causing human rights violations. Plus, it would take a factory bigger than Tesla's massive Nevada facility and '500 years to manufacture enough batteries to store just one day's worth of America's electricity needs.' The best way to combat climate change is not through virtue signaling but to continue innovating cleaner technology and improve Natural Gas and Nuclear technology.

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