The Washington Post ran a fact-check on President Trump's speech regarding the United States pulling out of the Paris Accord, and it was full of assumptions, peculiar rationales, and misdirections.
Here's the breakdown — Part I
- TRUMP: "China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can’t build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020."
- WAPO: This is false. The agreement is nonbinding and each nation sets its own targets. There is nothing in the agreement that stops the United States from building coal plants or gives the permission to China or India to build coal plants. In fact, market forces, primarily reduced costs for natural gas, have forced the closure of coal plants. China announced this year that it would cancel plans to build more than 100 coal-fired plants.
The fact-checkers at The Washington Post want to have their cake and eat it, too. They say the Accord would be non-binding, and therefore, nothing would stop the United States from building more coal plants, or force China and India to build fewer.
If that's the case, why does anyone care about the agreement to begin with? Well, they care because despite its non-binding nature, the agreement would be understood as socially binding. Every time the U.S. violated the "non-binding" agreement, environmentalists and the press would swoop in and castigate the administration for sabotaging the "spirit of the Accord." The scolding would ring out across the land, blanketing news coverage and damaging the administration.
On the other hand, if China and India failed to meet their admittedly less rigorous requirements, reprimands from U.S. and European media would mean less than nothing.
Additionally, Trump is correct when he states that the Accord offers a lopsided advantage to China and India. Oren Cass of Commentary writes:
China committed to begin reducing emissions by 2030, roughly when its economic development would have caused this to happen regardless. India made no emissions commitment, pledging only to make progress on efficiency—at half the rate it had progressed in recent years. Pakistan outdid the rest, submitting a single page that offered to “reduce its emissions after reaching peak levels to the extent possible.” This is a definition of the word “peak,” not a commitment...
Moreover, the non-binding nature of the agreement means that nations are much less likely to follow it:
An April report by Transport Environment found only three European countries pursuing policies in line with their Paris commitments and one of those, Germany, has now seen two straight years of emissions increases. The Philippines has outright renounced its commitment. A study published by the American Geophysical Union warns that India’s planned coal-plant construction is incompatible with its own targets.
According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, China plans to lower its "carbon dioxide intensity (carbon dioxide emissions per unit of GDP) by 60 to 65 percent from the 2005 level."
However, The Heritage Foundation details what reduction in "intensity" of emissions actually means, using India as an example:
India has pledged to reduce its emissions intensity, or cuts in the ratio of CO2 emissions to GDP. The ratio will go down so long as CO2 emissions rise less rapidly than GDP, but CO2 emissions will continue to increase.
So, like India, China will continue to pump out CO2 under the guise of lowering emissions intensity. Moreover, Heritage also notes that China has cheated before:
China has repeatedly falsified its coal-consumption, CO2 emissions, and air-monitoring data even as it participates in the Paris Protocol. According to a December 2015 report from the Climate Action Tracker, it is expected that 2,440 coal-fired power plants will be constructed by 2030, the vast majority in developing countries.
As an example, China and Pakistan recently began a $3.5 billion joint venture to mine lignite coal deposits in Pakistan that are intended to generate 1.3 gigawatts from coal power plants.
- TRUMP: "Compliance with the terms of the Paris accord and the onerous energy restrictions it has placed on the United States could cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025, according to the National Economic Research Associates. This includes 440,000 fewer manufacturing jobs — not what we need."
- WAPO: Trump cited a slew of statistics from a study that was funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation, foes of the Paris Accord. So the figures must be viewed with a jaundiced eye. Moreover, the study assumed a scenario that no policy analyst expects — that the United States takes drastic steps to meet the Obama pledge of a 26 to 28 percent reduction in emissions by 2025. Moreover, the study did not consider possible benefits from reducing climate change. A footnote says: The study “does not take into account potential benefits from avoided emissions. ... The model does not take into consideration yet-to-be developed technologies that might influence the long-term cost. ... Environmentalists say greater investment in clean energy will lower costs and spur innovation. That may not be correct either, but it demonstrates how the outcomes in models of economic activity decades from now depend on the assumptions.
Trump cited a study that claims there would be massive job losses as a result of the Paris Accord. The Washington Post suggests the study is flawed because the organizations that funded it were against the international agreement. They offer no proof that the study is bunk — no flaws, no visual evidence — simply the suggestion is enough to allow them to summarily throw out Trump's numbers as if they're meaningless.
WaPo piles on by claiming that the study only finds job loses because it assumes compliance with Obama's high standard of emissions reductions — which is to say that if the former president got his way, and emissions were cut by his preferred amount, there would be job losses.
Most comically, they add that perhaps there will be some "yet-to-be developed technologies that might influence long-term cost."
For The Washington Post, technologies that have yet to be invented are a more reliable guidepost than projections made by an actual study because that study was "funded by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation," the evil anti-Paris Accord trolls.
In the end, however, nothing matters because The Washington Post nullifies all previous arguments for or against Trump's decision by noting that projections are based on models, which "depend on" inherently unreliable "assumptions."
- TRUMP: "The green fund would likely obligate the United States to commit potentially tens of billions of dollars of which the United States has already handed over $1 billion. Nobody else is even close. Most of them haven’t even paid anything — including funds raided out of America’s budget for the war against terrorism. That’s where they came."
- WAPO: It is incorrect that other countries have not contributed to the Green Climate Fund. In fact, 43 governments have pledged money to the fund, including nine developing countries. The countries have pledged to pay $10.13 billion collectively, and the U.S. share is $3 billion. As of May 2017, the United States has contributed $1 billion of the $3 billion it pledged.
This one goes to The Washington Post — sort of. Trump said most countries "haven’t even paid anything." WaPo writes that "it is incorrect that other countries have not contributed to the Green Climate Fund."
Trump is incorrect. According to the latest figures on the status of the Green Climate Fund, numerous nations have pledged and signed money.
However, where Trump is onto something is when he said the funds were "raided out of America’s budget for the war against terrorism."
The president's lack of specificity makes this statement difficult to fact-check. However, according to The Hill, the Obama administration used some legislative sleight of hand to get the money for the Green Climate Fund:
Obama in 2014 pledged $3 billion for the program by 2020, but he couldn’t get congressional Republicans to agree to the plan. Congress never appropriated money for the GCF, but lawmakers didn't explicitly block the State Department from finding funding for the program elsewhere in its budget, which is what the Obama administration did to pay for the two $500 million payments.
The Senate Republican Policy Committee writes:
The State Department raided $500 million from the Economic Support Fund to pay for its Green Climate Fund contribution. This was more than 26 percent of the total $1.9 billion that Congress appropriated for the Economic Support Fund to “promote economic or political stability” in countries with “special economic, political, and security conditions.” Congress designated this money to do things such as to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon; to assist Ukraine with counteracting Russian aggression; to assist Egypt with educational, democratic, and economic reforms; to assist Africa with its public health crises; to combat human trafficking; to help exhume mass graves and identify victims of war crimes and crimes against humanity; and to empower women in conflict prevention, peace building, and reconstruction efforts.
On this one, President Trump is somewhat correct, though not as specific as he should have been.
The Washington Post could have chosen to be honest. It would have been a mixed bag for them, as this was for The Daily Wire. Unfortunately, their dogmatic approach to climate change seems to have rendered them incapable of analyzing Trump's decision honestly. That's a shame.