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By Andrew Follett
A top White House economic adviser said Thursday that keeping the Obama administration’s global warming pledge to the United Nations would be “highly crippling” to economic growth.
“We know that the levels that were agreed to by the prior administration would be highly crippling to the US economic growth,” chief economic adviser Gary Cohn said aboard Air Force One Thursday, referring to former President Barack Obama’s plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions as part of the Paris climate agreement.
Obama pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. But that plan would be economically harmful, according to Cohn, and experts say they would not reduce emissions enough comply with the Paris agreement.
President Donald Trump promised to cancel the 2015 United Nations pact while on the campaign trail. Now, Trump says he will make a decision on the agreement following the G7 summit in Italy this week. Nearly 200 countries agreed to a U.N. deal in 2015.
“The president has told you that he’s going to ultimately make a decision on Paris and climate when he gets back,” Cohn said. “He’s interested to hear what the G7 leaders have to say about climate.”
Trump “wants to do the right thing for the environment,” Cohn said. “He cares about the environment. But he also cares very much about creating jobs for American workers.”
Even if Trump keeps the U.S. in the Paris global warming agreement, it will almost certainly fail.
The significant reductions to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions required by the agreement are extremely difficult to achieve due to the immense costs involved. Scientists estimate that simply limiting global warming to the Paris agreement targets would require the annual installation of 485,000 wind turbines by 2028. Only 13,000 turbines were installed in 2015, despite the enormous tax breaks and subsidies offered to wind power.
“It would require rates of change in our energy infrastructure and energy mix that have never happened in world history and that are extremely unlikely to be achieved,” Glenn Jones, a professor of marine sciences at Texas A&M who co-authored the study on the feasibility of the agreement, told Science Daily. “For a world that wants to fight climate change, the numbers just don’t add up to do it.”
The likely costs of the kind of wind and solar power program the scientists say would be necessary to actually slow global warming would be measured in the tens of trillions of dollars, and even then success would be far from assured. The scientists conclude that other methods of reducing CO2 emissions, such as significantly increasing the number of nuclear reactors, would run into political opposition from environmental groups.
Scientists’ conclusions are mirrored by Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Gina McCarthy’s comments during a that the Clean Power Plan (CPP), her agency’s signature regulation aimed at tackling global warming, was meant to show “leadership” rather than actually prevent projected warming.
EPA repeatedly argued that the point of the Clean Power Plan was to show the world America was serious about tackling global warming in order to galvanize support for United Nations delegates to sign the Paris Agreement.