Apparently We Won’t Always Have Paris After All

The problem with “the Pen and the Phone” is that every president has a pen and any number of phones. What’s easily established is just as easily destroyed.

Yesterday, Trump “Pulled out” of the Paris Accords, and I’m going to take a little different approach here and say: The arguments for leaving the Accord were mediocre, but the arguments for staying were worse.

Honestly, this was a cluster of agreement. Kerpen and Ceren note that many of the countries have already more or less walked away form their commitments. Oren Cass’s tweetstorm sums up more or less why. #2-3 are pretty much the breakout points:

Oh, so each country came up with a voluntary commitment which was automatically accepted, and this constitutes a world changing agreement? You’ll often hear “WELL CHINA IS MEETING ITS GOALS” but this is disingenuous for several reasons:

  1. China has a massive air pollution problem, not CO2, but a “makes mid-20th century LA smog look quaint” air pollution problem. They have to clean up for their own good (just as LA cleaned up it’s act not out of a intangible “global warming” concern but for tangible benefits of being able to see more than 100 yards.)
  2. China set pretty weak sauce goals so it could make them easily and claim victory. (Goal is merely PEAKING by 2030) This probably mixes a bit with the fact that China blatantly cooks it’s economic books, so I expect it to be cooking these books as well.

The US meanwhile set up some pretty aggressive targets of about 1/4 CO2 reduction in the 15 year timeframe.

So on the one hand: Why leave? Just stay and do what everyone else is doing and totally ignore it. Sure there are some monetary commitments, but honestly if we really wanted to be assholes about it we could just repurpose some of our foreign aid money to go to this instead of other things and have a more or less net 0 effect.

On the other hand: Why stay? It’s just going to be used to bludgeon us repeatedly for “not doing enough.” In part because, much like the increasing car fuel standards we’ve basically agreeing to something that is likely not technologically feasible at our current level. (50MPG combined on a combustion engine for a car that seats 5? Yeah, whatever.)

The current argument being made by the left to stay is “This will destroy American Leadership around the world.” I tend to think that’s bunk for about 100,000 reasons. The biggest though are that American leadership around the world isn’t the result of some government policy, it’s the result of our fundamental freedoms and ingenuity making us the best place on the planet to set up shop if you want to change the world. Suck it Russia.

At the end of the day withdrawing from Paris doesn’t stop companies from following through on their “commitments” to continue to research renewable energy. To the extent many of these companies employ huge armies of lobbyists I doubt it will even affect the underlying subsidies that they’re really interested in propping up.

And here’s the thing, if a “Renewable revolution!” is coming, as we keep hearing, a free economy won’t stop it. If anything it’ll be the place where it takes off. Meanwhile, if it’s not actually coming, you can’t force it no matter how much you try. Sure you can subsidize things (CFLs) or make things illegal (incandescent bulbs) but if people don’t want it they’ll find a way. This makes more sense when you consider LEDs probably would eventually have replaced incandescent bulbs if we just let things go on their own. Instead we more or less delayed LED uptake by screwing everything up. Relatedly, I just bought a smart bulb (tweet link to me goofing off with it) so I could dim my bedside reading lamp without rewiring my house and dump the blue light from the shitty CFL I had so I can sleep easier.

So listen, while Nathan Myhrvold is miserable patent trollĀ  I want to live in a world where we all have his nuclear reactor buried in our back yard for cheap, uninterrupted power supply. How do you get there? You make a free economy that fosters innovation. (Which, ironically, will involve smacking his patent troll ass around quite a bit, but I digress.) So that’s where we need to be. A great place to do business, a great place to research, the best f’ing place on earth. The core of that is affordable energy. You can’t engage in R&D if you’re throwing all your money at just keeping the lights on (literally).

Companies right now are saying “Fine! we’ll take our ball and move to Germany.” Yeah, sure, like you’d really go somewhere that’s harder to do business just to spite us. Sure the EU is going to shower you with subsidies for a bit, but then they’ll tax you into oblivion. If we unshackle the economy, Silicon Valley isn’t going anywhere.

Leave? Stay? It doesn’t matter, lay down the groundwork for freedom to innovate and the rest will follow.

Closing point:

Oh well then.

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