Top Ten Inaccurate or Confusing Statements in Trump’s Paris Agreement Speech

Donald Trump’s speech “justifying” U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement was so full of inaccurate, misleading and confusing claims that we can’t begin to address them all. Here are the Top 10:

10) “It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with many, many other locations within our great country, before Paris, France.”

U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement is intended to help people across the United States – including in Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania – by avoiding the worst impacts of climate change. And it might just be rhetorical flourish, but we hope President Trump understands that it’s called the Paris Agreement because it was signed in Paris. The agreement is not intended to specifically benefit Paris, France.

9) “As someone who cares deeply about the environment, which I do, I cannot in good conscience support a deal that punishes the United States.”

It’s impossible to quantify, but we still feel the need to question President Trump’s assertion that he cares deeply about the environment. After all, as a candidate Trump defended his plans to gut the EPA by saying “we’ll be fine with the environment. You can leave a little bit, but you can’t destroy businesses.”

8) “Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations it is estimated it would only produce a two tenths of one degree – think of that, this much – Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100.”

Trump is apparently referring here to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology study, published in 2016, and titled “How much of a difference will the Paris Agreement make?” The study said that if countries meet their current Paris Agreement commitments, global warming would slow by somewhere between 0.6 degrees and 1.1 degrees Celsius by 2100 as compared to a scenario with no climate policy. More importantly Trump’s statement here ignores the fact that Paris Agreement commitments were designed to be revised and strengthened every five years, so the eventual effect of the agreement will be much greater than that of its initial round of commitments.

7) “Thus, as of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country.”

The Paris Agreement does not impose any burdens on the United States. The commitments are non-binding, voluntary, determined by the country itself, and can be modified at any time. Moreover, recent studies of real-world experiences with actual climate policies, including regional policies within the US, show that these policies have had modest economic benefits. These benefits would seem even larger if one took into account the avoided harms from climate change.

6) “We need all forms of available American energy, or our country will be at grave risk of brownouts and blackouts. Our businesses will come to a halt in many cases.”

The amount of renewable energy potentially available is vastly more than we’ll ever need, and recent assessments have shown that the United States could power itself completely from renewable sources (using existing technology) by 2050. On top of that, brownouts and blackouts are not caused by inadequate power supply – but rather by an inadequate power grid. Trump’s recent budget proposal includes significant cuts to research on improving the U.S. electrical grid.

5) “Foreign leaders in Europe, Asia and across the world should not have more to say with respect to the U.S. economy than our own citizens and their elected representatives. Thus, our withdrawal from the agreement represents a reassertion of America’s sovereignty.”

Under the Paris agreement every participant—including the U.S.—makes its own commitments independently and voluntarily. Foreign leaders have no say in our commitments and no authority over the U.S. economy. Furthermore, commitments under the Paris agreement can be unilaterally adjusted at any time. Trump’s talk of “renegotiating” the Paris agreement just does not make any sense.

4) “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.”

The economic analysis that Trump cites was funded by U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation, both of whom are opposed to the Paris Agreement. More importantly, the study openly acknowledges that it “does not take into account potential benefits from avoided emissions. The study results are not a benefit-cost analysis of climate change.”

3) “The Paris accord … includes yet another scheme to redistribute wealth out of the United States through the so-called “green climate fund” — nice name — which calls for developed countries to send $100 billion to developing countries all on top of America’s existing and massive foreign aid payments. So we’re going to be paying billions and billions and billions of dollars and we’re already way ahead of anybody else. Many of the other countries haven’t spent anything. And many of them will never pay one dime. 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.”

More than 40 governments have pledged money to the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. This, of course, is very much in our own interest, since emissions from these countries threaten to swamp our own as these economies grow. The existing pledges total $10.1 billion including $3 billion from the U.S. (an amount equal to one half of one percent of what we spend every year on defense). This does not “obligate the United States to commit potentially tens of billions of dollars,” as President Trump claimed. The $100 billion figure is a broader target for global public and private contributions to support climate efforts in the developing world.

2) “Under the agreement, China will be able to increase these emissions by [sic] a staggering number of years, 13. They can do whatever they want for 13 years. Not us.”

Commitments under the Paris agreement, including from the United States and China, are framed in terms of greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 (13 years from now). To meet those commitments, of course, requires actions by both nations well before that date. So this is silly. More importantly, China is making enormous investments in renewable energy, and the latest data show that they may have already met their Paris commitment, more than a decade ahead of schedule.

1) “So we’re getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that’s fair. And if we can, that’s great. And if we can’t, that’s fine.”

This is misleading and suggests that Trump does not understand how the Paris Agreement works. Each country independently sets its own targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Any party, including the US, can unilaterally adjust those targets at any time, so there’s nothing to negotiate and there’s no deal to be struck.