The writer of a letter to the editor published in the Oct. 23, 2020, issue of the Coastal Point ends the letter with “Facts matter.” They do, and it would have been good to have had some.
The Trump administration cited an MIT study to justify pulling the U.S. out of the Paris Agreement (PA). The co-director of MIT’s Joint Program on the Science & Policy of Global Change and one of the authors of the study accused the administration of cherry-picking and misinterpreting data presented. Neither the program nor the authors were given an opportunity to help the administration interpret the complexities of the data. He also made it clear that despite the limitations of the PA to slow global warming, it was in the best interest of the country to remain an active participant in the global accord.
There were 196 signatories to the 2105 PA (holdouts Syria and Nicaragua both signed on later). The PA was the culmination of efforts over nearly a quarter of a century to get buy-in from the global community (large, small, developed, developing, big polluters, minimal polluters, rich and not so rich) that global warming is a threat to everyone. Therefore, every nation has a responsibility to commit to doing what it could to slow the warming.
The goal was to hold global temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above what it was pre-industrial growth A 2-degree rise is the temperature above which food security, potable water, public health and changing weather patterns are likely to be incompatible with human life as we know it. The Earth will be just fine. The choice of mankind’s survival is ours to make.
China and India are not the two biggest contributors of greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution. Until 2007, America had the dubious distinction of being the biggest polluter. In 2007, China, in a push to meet the demands of a growing middle class, engineered a massive economic growth based largely on coal and cement. Given the potent GHG emissions from both, China surpassed the U.S. as the Earth’s worst polluter.
The Union of Concerned Scientists just updated country pollution emissions rankings in August: China 28 percent, US 15 percent, India 7 percent — nowhere near the 80 percent the letter to the editor claimed were emitted by China and India alone.
Dozens of chief executives of major American companies wrote a series of open letters to the president and/or spoke out urging that the U.S. stay in the PA. Some of the reasons for staying in included a more level playing field for American companies, a broader foreign market for new energy technologies and U.S. job growth in well-paying fields.
The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) does not, in fact, contradict climate warming models used in the PA. The latest IPCC report showed that global temperatures are rising faster than predicted, and ice melt at both polar caps is faster than initially predicted.
Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, says that melting ice in the Arctic is a good thing... “Steady reductions in sea ice are opening new passageways and new opportunities for trade.” The U.S. military sees ice melt at the northern ice cap as a national security threat and has strengthened both intelligence and physical surveillance in the region.
Efforts, including those from the PA, to control rising global temperatures are falling behind partly due to the rate of increase in temperature rise and partly due to the very real costs involved. But inadequate action in the U.S. is the failure of political will at the federal level. Doing nothing is not an option. States, cities and towns are taking up some of the slack.
The five years (2015-2019) since the PA was signed have been the hottest on record. The rise in global temperature has been combined with a cascade of worsening of extreme weather events from hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires.
In that same time period, the total U.S. cost of billion-dollar disasters exceeds $525 billion of public money. This does not include costs incurred by families who lost homes, businesses and family members and who suffered immediate or longterm health consequences. Neither does it include the value of time, food, clothing and money willingly given by good and caring Americans across the country to help our hurting fellow citizens.
Given the stark differences between my letter to the editor and the previously mentioned letter to the editor, you may want to do some research to decide for yourself. Below are some of the resources I used to establish facts: