Climate Accord: U.S. exits – will China fill the void?

Friday, June 2, 2017
Chris Woodward (

climate change CO2Is China now the world leader on fighting climate change? Liberals may think so ... but skeptics – not so much.

Environmentalists and news outlets such as The New York Times have been saying that China is already reducing carbon emissions, canceling and even shutting down the equivalent of a coal-fired power plant a day; while possessing more wind and solar energy than any other country, so much so that China is poised to take over environmental leadership with the Paris climate agreement.

Thursday, President Trump announced he was pulling the U.S. out of the agreement.

"Here's the truth of the matter," responds H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., of The Heartland Institute. "If you're worried about greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S. has been the leader in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and it hasn't been due to regulations. It hasn't been due to anything other than the natural gas revolution: fracking and the natural gas revolution."

When utilities began switching over from coal to natural gas for electricity, Burnett says that reduced America's emissions even as its economy began to recover in recent years. "The recovery from the recession is almost entirely due to the fracking revolution, and that's also the primary responsibility for our reduction," he reiterates.

Reaction to U.S. withdrawal ...

Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., a research fellow on environmental policy for The Heartland Institute, says the Paris climate agreement is bad for the very reasons that President Trump explained yesterday and while on the campaign trail:

"It puts us at a competitive disadvantage with our global economic competitors – China, India, Russia, [and] others –  because we have to cut emissions and they don't. And it does nothing to protect the climate! Even the U.N.'s own research shows that if everybody that's party to the Paris climate agreement keeps their word [and] there's no cheating, it won't stop temperature from rising by the amount they say is dangerous. So what it means is [that] every five years we're going to have to come back and ratchet down emissions more. The Paris climate agreement is all pain, no gain."

Trump said he would attempt to negotiate a new Paris-type agreement, one that is better for America and its economy – but that concerns Dr. Pat Michaels, a past president of the American Association of State Climatologists who is now with the Cato Institute:


"That means that he's not entertaining getting out of the framework convention on climate change, which is the basis for Paris. And as long as we are in the framework convention, something like Paris can be attached to it at any point in time. Obviously, there's time to convince him of the need to do that. So this just didn't go quite far enough."

Marc Morano of Climate Depot offers similar concern:

Morano, Marc (Climate Depot)"The problem with renegotiating is it keeps the entire framework and the premise alive – and that means no matter what President Trump negotiates, the next president can just use the framework and go right back and go more severe than even President Obama wanted. What we need to do is kill it while he has a chance ... get rid of it now, get rid of the whole framework so the next president will have a much more difficult job of trying to re-up this and get us back involved and come to terms. This is an opportunity and you've got to jump on the opportunity."

Dr. Robert Jeffress, senior pastor of First Baptist-Dallas, thinks there's a spiritual component:


"When you look at the Genesis account of creation, God has given us a responsibility for being good stewards of the environment he's trusted to us. But I think Genesis is also clear that God created the environment to serve man – he didn't create man to serve the environment.

"That doesn't mean we shouldn't be good stewards of the environment God has given us, but I think some of these environmentalists have actually started worshipping the creation rather than the Creator, and that's always been the mistake of secularists and humanists."

Meanwhile, Burnett says China surpassed U.S. emissions 15 years before they were expected to just 18 years ago.

"They [by far] are the largest ... emitter of greenhouse gases in the world," he continues. "They have made steps in recent years to reduce their emissions, but not reduce emissions overall."

What China has been doing, says Burnett, is putting one coal-fired power plant online per week, as opposed to two. China has also closed some small, dirty power plants that did not have pollution controls, replacing them with bigger, more powerful power plants.


"There's no question their emissions per capita are going down, but ... as [every country] has developed beyond a certain point, emissions per capita declines," he adds. "China under the Paris agreement has said not that they will cut emissions, rather they say their emissions will peak by 2030."

China's emissions may peak earlier than that, but Burnett argues that peaking does not reveak anything.

"Because what if they peak at double what they are today, or quadruple what they are today? Well, then all the emissions cuts in the world don't matter," says Burnett. "What's important is where they peak at, if they actually peak; and whether they decline after that, because they are already the largest emitter."

The Heartland spokesman says if the left wants to look to a communist dictatorship as the leaders that should be followed, go right ahead – but he prefers the liberty and the freedom that fossil fuels allow.

"But as far as pointing to absolute greenhouse gas emissions reductions, China is not there – and [they] won't be there for more than a decade, and likely not even then," he explains. "They're going to keep growing, and that's what they say they'll do in the Paris treaty. India the same way. Russia the same way."

More importantly, the reason Burnett says China is cutting the emissions they are isn't because of greenhouse gas emissions.

"It's because of air pollutants," he continues. "They've got a serious pollution problem, and I don't think greenhouse gases are pollution. But you know what is? Smog ... particulate matter. All those things they're putting into their air and making the air there almost unbreathable."


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