(WASHINGTON POST) - In his speech Thursday (June 1) announcing his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement, President Donald Trump frequently relied on dubious facts and unbalanced claims to make his case that the accord would hurt the US economy.
Notably, he looked at only one side of the scale - claiming that the agreement left the United States at a competitive disadvantage, harming US industries.
But he often ignored the benefits that could come from tackling climate change, including potential green jobs. Trump also suggested that the United States was treated unfairly under the agreement.
But each of the nations that signed the pact agreed to help lower emissions, based on plans they submitted. So the US target was set by the Obama administration.
The plans are not legally binding, but developing and developed countries are treated differently because developed countries, on a per capita basis, often produce more greenhouse gases than developing countries.
For instance, on a per capita basis, the United States in 2015 produced more than double the carbon dioxide emissions of China - and eight times as much as India. Here's a roundup of statements made by the president during his Rose Garden address.
"We're getting out, but we will start to negotiate, and we will see if we can make a deal that's fair."
Each country set its own commitments under the Paris agreement, so Trump's comment is puzzling. He could unilaterally change the commitments offered by President Barack Obama, which is technically allowed under the accord. But there is no appetite to renegotiate the entire agreement, as made clear by statements from world leaders after his announcement.
"China will be allowed to build hundreds of additional coal plants. So, we can't build the plants, but they can, according to this agreement. India will be allowed to double its coal production by 2020."
This is false. The agreement is nonbinding, and each nation sets its own targets. There is nothing in the agreement that stops the United States from building coal plants or gives permission to China or India to build coal plants.
In fact, market forces, primarily reduced costs for natural gas, have forced the closure of coal plants. China announced this year that it would cancel plans to build more than 100 coal-fired plants.
Gary Cohn, director of Trump's National Economic Council, recently told reporters that "coal doesn't even make that much sense anymore as a feedstock. "Natural gas, which we have become an abundant producer, which we're going to become a major exporter is, is such a cleaner fuel."
"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. This includes 440,000 fewer manufacturing jobs - not what we need."
Trump cited a slew of statistics from a study that was funded by the US Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation, foes of the Paris accord. So the figures must be viewed with a jaundiced eye.
Moreover, the study assumed a scenario that no policy analyst expects - that the United States will take drastic steps to meet the Obama pledge of a 26 to 28 per cent reduction in emissions by 2025.
Trump also cited the impact by 2040, including a "cost to the economy" of nearly $3 trillion (S$4.16 trillion) in lost gross domestic product.
But in addition to an unrealistic scenario, that number must be viewed in context over more than two decades, so "$3 trillion" amounts to a reduction of 6 per cent.
The study concludes that coal usage would almost disappear, but innovation in clean energy sources would slow considerably, which also raises the cost of complying with the commitments.
Environmentalists say greater investment in clean energy will lower costs and spur innovation. That may not be correct, either, but it demonstrates how the outcomes in models of economic activity decades from now depends on the assumptions.
"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. Tiny, tiny amount."
Trump is referring to research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in a 2015 report. Researchers found that proposed emissions cuts in the Paris plan would result in about 0.2 degrees (Celsius) less warming by 2100, if the cuts were not extended further.
John Reilly, lead author of the report, said he "disagrees completely" with Trump's characterization that the 0.2 degree cut is a "tiny, tiny" amount that is not worth pursuing.
As a part of the deal, countries reexamine their commitments and can exceed or extend their pledges beyond 2030.
The intent of the research was to say that the Paris deal was a small step and that more incremental steps need to be taken in the long run.
"The logic that 'This isn't making much progress on a serious problem, therefore we're going to do nothing,' just doesn't make sense to me. The conclusion should be - and our intended implication for people was - not to overly celebrate Paris, because you still have a long journey in front of you. So carb up for the rest of the trip," Reilly said.
"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. Nobody else is even close. Most of them haven't even paid anything - including funds raided out of America's budget for the war against terrorism. That's where they came (from)."
It is incorrect that other countries have not contributed to the United Nations' Green Climate Fund.
In fact, 43 governments have pledged money to the fund, including nine developing countries. The countries have pledged to pay $10.13 billion collectively, and the US share is $3 billion.
As of May, the United States contributed $1 billion of the $3 billion it pledged. Trump implies that the money was taken out of the US defense fund.
But the US contributions were paid out of the State Department's Economic Support Fund, one of the foreign assistance programs to promote economic or political stability based on US strategic interests. Republican lawmakers have criticized the use of this fund, saying Congress designated the money to prioritize security, human rights and other efforts unrelated to climate change.
"Believe me, we have massive legal liability if we stay in. As president, I have one obligation, and that obligation is to the American people. The Paris accord would undermine our economy, hamstring our workers, weaken our sovereignty, impose unacceptable legal risk and put us at a permanent disadvantage to the other countries of the world."
Trump is referring to concerns raised by White House Counsel Donald McGahn that staying in the Paris agreement would bolster legal arguments of climate advocates challenging Trump's decision to roll back the Clean Power Plan.
The Clean Power Plan is a flagship environmental regulatory rule of the Obama administration and proposes to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030.
It is crucial to the US meeting its carbon emissions reductions pledge in the Paris agreement. But it has been placed on hold while under litigation.
According to Politico, McGahn raised concerns that the Paris agreement "could be cited in court challenges to Trump's efforts to kill Obama's climate rules.
McGahn's comments shocked State Department lawyers, who strongly reject both of those contentions, the sources said."