Among my New York friends, one of the most frequent criticisms that I hear of Donald Trump is that he just doesn't have the basic competence to be President. He is ignorant of fundamental issues of public policy; he arrogantly thinks he knows everything, while in fact he knows little or nothing; his attention span is about 6 seconds, and he refuses to learn. I mean, how can such a person possibly carry out in an appropriate way the awesome responsibilities of the presidency?
For myself, I've been withholding judgment. After all, a President doesn't really need to know all that much. He has endless expert advisors, indeed far more advisors than any human being could have time to listen to. Far and away the most important thing he needs to do is avoid making major blunders that can do great harm to the American economy and the American people.
In the decision regarding the Paris climate accord, Donald Trump has just been tested on this fundamental criterion of basic competence, and has passed. Barack Obama was tested on the same criterion, and totally failed.
It is impossible to look at the Paris climate accord with any degree of scrutiny and conclude that a remotely competent American president could have anything to do with it. This conclusion applies irrespective of whatever you might think about whether "greenhouse gas" emissions are causing a problem or even a crisis for world climate. Even if you think that the climatic effect of human GHG emissions is an existential crisis facing the planet, it would still be completely incompetent for an American president to sign on to this particular agreement.
This conclusion follows from the most basic cost/benefit analysis. The Paris accord imposes huge and uncapped costs on the American people and economy, for little to no climate benefit -- and that is even if you completely accept the U.N.'s phony climate models that have been ginned up without empirical verification to scare the bejeezus out of you. Just look at the structure of the Paris accord. The United States commits to reduce "greenhouse gas" emissions by 26-28% below 2005 levels by 2025 -- only 8 years away. China, with 1.3 billion people and emissions already about double those of the U.S., agrees to no reductions whatsoever, and only to try to reach "peak" emissions by 2030 -- by which time its emissions could be 50% or even 100% higher than today. India, with well over 1 billion people -- a good half of whom don't yet have electricity and somehow think they are entitled to get it -- commits to nothing whatsoever. Africa, with another about 1 billion people, very few of whom currently have electricity, commits to nothing whatsoever. In my view these billions of people are entitled to electricity and transportation and heat and cooling just like we have, and they are going to get those things by use of the cheapest and most reliable energy available, namely fossil fuels. But even if you believe that all the Africans and Indians and Chinese must be kept in perpetual poverty in order to avoid a hypothetical degree or two of atmospheric warming, the Paris agreement does not contain any commitment by them to go along with that.
And how about that 26-28% emissions reduction by the U.S. by 2025? According to this EPA report, U.S. GHG emissions have already decreased about 7% from the 2005 benchmark (largely due to the fracking revolution and increased use of natural gas versus coal). But the next 20% will not come nearly so easily. The main proposal of the prior administration and of environmentalists to achieve that next 20% was the EPA's Clean Power Plan -- that is, shutter cheap coal power plants, and cover the landscape with wind and solar farms. A version of that same strategy has led Germany to residential electricity prices about triple the U.S. average, and even so they seem to have hit a ceiling at getting about 30% of their power from wind and solar. To get any higher they now need some combination of even more redundant fossil fuel back up generation plus some kind of massive storage capacity, the technology for which doesn't even exist. Or, maybe the U.S. could revert to Obama's previous plan of a cap-and-trade system, otherwise known as intentionally driving up the cost of electricity and gasoline -- making their price "skyrocket," in Obama's immortal locution -- until the people can't afford them anymore.
Trump had his people make some estimates of what would happen to selected industries if the U.S. followed one of these intentional-energy-poverty scenarios. Here's what they came up with (as of 2040, as reported by James Delingpole at Breitbart):
Paper down 12 percent. Cement down 23 percent. Iron and steel down 38 per cent. Coal down 86 percent.
OK, maybe they are exaggerating. But they are clearly not entirely wrong, because the whole idea of the program of fossil fuel restriction is to force down the use of fossil fuels, which inherently means that the heaviest users of the fossil fuels will be driven out of business.
Now perhaps you believe the warnings of the climate alarm movement, and you think that all of this is necessary to avert all-but-certain climate catastrophe. The problem is that the Paris accord will not avert the climate catastrophe, or even change anything measurably -- even if you accept the alarmist models at face value. If you take the U.N.'s models of the relationship between GHGs and temperature, and factor in full implementation of the Paris accords, including all U.S. and European GHG reductions but also increases from the third world, you find reductions in projected temperature increases out to the year 2100 that are so small as to be at the very margin of measurability. The following chart illustrating the point is from Bjorn Lomborg, via WattsUpWithThat:
In other words, President Barack Obama signed up for the intentional energy impoverishment of the American people on a massive scale to achieve absolutely nothing with respect to the climate. It is hard to think of anything more incompetent. With a principal job of avoiding major costly blunders for the American people and the American economy, Obama committed an obvious error likely of multi-trillion dollar magnitude. Trump has identified the issue and has reversed the error. This is just simple, basic competence.
While we are talking about competence, let us also examine the reaction of the titans of American business to President Trump's announcement. The Washington Post has a roundup, headlined "'Climate change is real': CEOs share their disappointment over Trump's Paris accord exit."
In response [to President Trump's announcement], one corporate titan after another tweeted their disappointment at the announcement, companies issued statements committing to action on climate change and two high-profile members of Trump's business advisory council said they would leave the forum in response.
Yeah, well who? The Post's Exhibit A is Elon Musk:
Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted Thursday afternoon that he was "departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world."
Hey, Post -- is Musk the head of any other company? Hint: that would be SolarCity, a manufacturer and installer of solar panels that is on the brink of financial disaster and totally dependent on government "renewable energy" handouts and tax credits to survive. Trump's new policies could likely spell the end of SolarCity, and could even take Tesla down along with it (the two Musk-controlled entities merged a few months ago). Funny, isn't it, that the Post wouldn't mention that?
Let's move on to the Post's Exhibit B. That would be Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric:
General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt, who had said during a speech to students at Georgetown University in May that the business community "has kind of moved on in this debate," tweeted a similar refrain, calling upon business to lead the way on global climate standards. "Disappointed with today’s decision on the Paris Agreement," he wrote in a tweet. "Climate change is real. Industry must now lead and not depend on government."
So, Post, might GE have any interest in multi-billion dollar government giveaways for wind and solar energy? Nothing that you can find in this article. If you are interested, try here as to wind, and here as to solar. GE is in up to its neck in government subsidy farming.
Keep going through the Post's list of CEOs, and you'll find it's a combination of subsidy farmers like Musk and Immelt, and others who think that their businesses are immune to intentional energy-impoverishment policies (e.g., Tim Cook of Apple). Could Tim Cook take ten minutes to evaluate the actual Paris accord critically to see if is actually a remotely reasonable deal for the United States? I guess not. He's too busy running Apple! And is there anything in the Post of the reaction of people in businesses like -- to take a few random examples -- paper, cement, iron and steel, or coal? Of course not. Those people are expendable!