Fisking CBS: What Happens if the U.S. Withdraws from the Paris Climate Change Agreement?

Published May 31, 2017

A friend over the Memorial Day weekend sent me a link to a story at the CBS News website about the supposed parade of horribles that would befall the planet if Donald Trump keeps his promise and withdraws from Paris Climate Treaty. The story was so full of errors and inaccuracies I felt the need to break it down and correct the record, otherwise known as “fisking.”

WASHINGTON — Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming even sooner if the U.S. retreats from its pledge to cut carbon dioxide pollution, scientists said. That’s because America contributes so much to rising temperatures.

Both sentences are meaningless. “More dangerous levels of warming” than in the past? The benefits of past warming exceeded the benefits, so those levels were not dangerous. “More dangerous” is therefore nonsensical. More dangerous than what is now forecast to occur in a century or two? Those forecasts are not scientific, are technically “scenarios” and not predictions, and are too speculative to compare and contrast.

President Donald Trump, who once proclaimed global warming a Chinese hoax …

Trump suggested the hype surrounding the global warming campaign could be fueled by the Chinese as part of their ongoing propaganda campaign against the U.S. and to create markets for its wind and solar industries. That’s probably true, since the global warming movement resembles other Chinese disinformation programs.

… said in a tweet Saturday that he would make his “final decision” next week on whether the United States stays in or leaves the 2015 Paris climate change accord in which nearly every nation agreed to curb its greenhouse gas emissions.

Global leaders, at a summit in Sicily, have urged him to stay. Earlier in the week, Pope Francis made that case with a gift of his papal encyclical on the environment when Trump visited the Vatican.

Just a reminder, Pope Francis is not a climate scientist, but is a very liberal environmentalist who thinks capitalism is responsible for turning the planet into a “an immense pile of filth.” He is being advised on the climate issue by far-left activists, not real climate scientists. His opinions on scientific and economic controversies are not binding on Catholics, and in fact are at odds with those of past Popes.

In an attempt to understand what could happen to the planet if the U.S. pulls out of Paris, The Associated Press …

“The Associated Press” most likely refers to Seth Borenstein, a radical environmentalist pretending to be a reporter. He has been called out for his bias and misrepresentation of the truth many times.

… consulted with more than two dozen climate scientists and analyzed a special computer model scenario designed to calculate potential effects.

Anyone paying attention to the climate change debate knows “special computer model scenario” is code for a newly tuned model based on assumptions and unreliable data designed to arrive at politically acceptable forecasts. Of course this new model provides support for the US staying in the Paris agreement… that is what it was tuned to find. The NIPCC produced a devastating critique of computer models.

Scientists said it would worsen an already bad problem and make it far more difficult to prevent crossing a dangerous global temperature threshold.

No, some scientists (but mostly nonscientists) dependent on government grants or working for environmental advocacy groups claim this. Most scientists either disagree or don’t have an opinion on the subject. See Chapter 1 of Why Scientists Disagree About Global Warming. See also the “skeptical” scientists who appear here.

Calculations suggest it could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year. When it adds up year after year, scientists said that is enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.

Even the IPCC disagrees with most or all of this, saying in its latest report that significant sea level rise and more extreme weather are unlikely or cannot be predicted with certainty. See here. This claim is also dependent on the residence time of CO2 in the atmosphere, which probably is much less than alarmists believe. See here.

“If we lag, the noose tightens,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change.

Michael Oppenheimer is “an activist first, a scientist a distant second.” He was an environmental activist working for Environmental Defense Fund who went back to college to get a Ph.D. so he could pretend to be a climate scientist. He should never be quoted in a real news story as a climate scientist.

One expert group ran a worst-case computer simulation of what would happen if the U.S. does not curb emissions, but other nations do meet their targets. It found that America would add as much as half a degree of warming (0.3 degrees Celsius) to the globe by the end of century.

Right… see above about models.

Scientists are split on how reasonable and likely that scenario is.

Wow, a concession that there isn’t “overwhelming consensus” on one model or one forecast? This sentence is the tip of an iceberg of truth.

Many said because of cheap natural gas that displaces coal and growing adoption of renewable energy sources, it is unlikely that the U.S. would stop reducing its carbon pollution even if it abandoned the accord, so the effect would likely be smaller.

So the U.S. is reducing its “carbon pollution” and this trend is likely to continue regardless of Paris. Other countries are increasing their emissions and would continue regardless of Paris, since the goals set in Paris are supposedly nonbinding. What, then, is the accord supposed to achieve? About the only thing “for sure” about the Paris accord is that it would commit the U.S. to sending hundreds of billions of dollars on renewable energy (with virtually no impact on emissions or climate) and to third world countries. What does America get out of this agreement? Nothing at all.

Others say it could be worse because other countries might follow a U.S. exit, leading to more emissions from both the U.S. and the rest.

Another computer simulation team put the effect of the U.S. pulling out somewhere between 0.1 to 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.18 to 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit).

While scientists may disagree on the computer simulations they overwhelmingly agreed that the warming the planet is undergoing now would be faster and more intense.

The world without U.S. efforts would have a far more difficult time avoiding a dangerous threshold: keeping the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

Why is 2 degrees C a “dangerous threshold”? We’re half-way there and see no dangerous impacts so far. And the latest estimates of climate sensitivity and atmosphere residence time suggest human emissions are unlikely to ever cause 2 degrees or more of warming, with or without treaties and efforts to reduce emissions. (See Figure 5 starting on page 66 of Why Scientists Disagree.) So this is all just fake news.

The world has already warmed by just over half that amount — with about one-fifth of the past heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions coming from the United States, usually from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

So the efforts are really about preventing another 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) from now.

“Developed nations – particularly the U.S. and Europe – are responsible for the lion’s share of past emissions, with China now playing a major role,” said Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis. “This means Americans have caused a large fraction of the warming.”

Even with the U.S. doing what it promised under the Paris agreement, the world is likely to pass that 2 degree mark, many scientists said.

But the fractions of additional degrees that the U.S. would contribute could mean passing the threshold faster, which could in turn mean “ecosystems being out of whack with the climate, trouble farming current crops and increasing shortages of food and water,” said the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Kevin Trenberth.

Kevin Trenberth is another bad apple who ought not be presented as an objective or independent climate scientist.

Climate Interactive, a team of scientists and computer modelers who track global emissions and pledges, simulated global emissions if every country but the U.S. reaches their individualized goals to curb carbon pollution. Then they calculated what that would mean in global temperature, sea level rise and ocean acidification using scientifically-accepted computer models.

By 2030, it would mean an extra 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the air a year, according to the Climate Interactive models, and by the end of the century 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming.

“The U.S. matters a great deal,” said Climate Interactive co-director Andrew Jones. “That amount could make the difference between meeting the Paris limit of two degrees and missing it.”

Climate Action Tracker, a competing computer simulation team, put the effect of the U.S. pulling out somewhere between 0.1 to 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.18 to 0.36 Fahrenheit) by 2100. It uses a scenario where U.S. emissions flatten through the century, while Climate Interactive has them rising.

One of the few scientists who plays down the harm of the U.S. possibly leaving the agreement is John Schellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the scientist credited with coming up with the 2 degree goal.

“Ten years ago (a U.S. exit) would have shocked the planet,” Schellnhuber said. “Today if the U.S. really chooses to leave the Paris agreement, the world will move on with building a clean and secure future.”

Not so, said Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe: “There will be ripple effects from the United States’ choices across the world.”

Katharine Hayhoe is another bad apple who ought not be presented as an independent or credible climate scientist.