WaPo Issues Wildly Misleading ‘Fact Check’ On EPA Head
By Paul Homewood
During an appearance on “Fox & Friends,” on 13th April, the EPA administrator , Scott Pruitt, denounced the Paris Accord, the global agreement on curbing climate change, as a “bad deal for America” that “we need to exit in my opinion.” Asked his biggest objection to the accord, he claimed that China and India had no obligations until 2030, even though “they are polluting far more than we are.”
Although Pruitt did not spell it out, it is abundantly clear that the obligations he was referring to were to cut emissions. Indeed, the EPA actually responded to the Washington Post:
“Administrator Pruitt was referring to no emission reduction obligations “
The Washington Post took exception to Pruitt’s statement, and published a Fact Checker which concluded that the claim was totally false, awardingPruitt with a maximum of four Pinocchios.
In fact, the supposed “Fact Checker” was itself wildly misleading.
Let’s start by looking at the Paris Accord itself.
Article 4.4 states quite clearly that developing countries should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards emission reduction or limitation:
China, despite now being heavily industrialised, is still classified as a developing country. This classification is a hangover from 1992 UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, at which time it was no doubt a fair one. India too is counted as “developing”.
Since then, China has steadfastly refused to be reclassified as a developed nation.
So we see it in black and white. Under the terms of the Paris Accord, neither China nor India have any legal obligation whatsoever to make any emission cuts at all.
Both countries have submitted Nationally Determined Contribution plans, but these carry no obligation at all, they are simply “promises”.
And what have they actually promised?
Let’s look at China first:
Nowhere do they actually commit to reducing emissions. They promise to peak around 2030, but do not say at what level.
The EIA calculate that China’s emissions of CO2 are in fact likely to grow by 32% through 2040.
They also promise to reduce emissions per unit of GDP by 60 to 65%, but half of this, according to their own figures has already been achieved.
The simple reality is that all economies tend to become less energy intensive as they mature. This is because GDP growth mainly comes from low energy consuming sectors, such as services. On top of this, industries become more efficient, producing more goods for less energy.
The World Bank show how far world emission intensity has dropped since 1990.
World CO2 Emissions 1990 to 2013
In effect, China’s “promise” is virtually worthless.
India’s NDC also makes absolutely no mention of any cuts in CO2, and, as with China, simply promises to reduce the emissions intensity:
The EIA project that this will mean India’s emissions will skyrocket by 110% through 2040.
So Scott Pruitt is absolutely correct in claiming that neither China nor India have any obligation to cut emissions.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the “Fact” Checker’s claims:
1) Pruitt appears to be stuck in a time warp. His concerns might have made more sense if he had been referring to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which did not require developing nations such as China and India to face legally binding requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That agreement was rejected by President George W. Bush.
Whoops! The last time I checked, Bush did not even take office until 2001.
According to Wikipedia:
The US signed the Protocol on 12 November 1998, during the Clinton presidency. To become binding in the US, however, the treaty had to be ratified by the Senate, which had already passed the 1997 non-binding Byrd-Hagel Resolution, expressing disapproval of any international agreement that did not require developing countries to make emission reductions and "would seriously harm the economy of the United States". The resolution passed 95-0. Therefore, even though the Clinton administration signed the treaty, it was never submitted to the Senate for ratification.
Bush never “rejected” the treaty, because it had never been ratified in the first place.
2) The Paris agreement, reached in 2015 and effective in 2016, took a different approach, with all of the nearly 200 signatories agreeing to lower emissions, based on plans that they submitted.
In fact, as already noted, only developed countries agreed to reduce emissions. The vast majority of signatories made no such promise at all.
As even the UNFCCC admitted, the Paris Accord would lead to global emissions continuing to rise to 2030 and beyond.
3) The plans [NDCs] are not legally binding, but there is a distinction made between developing and developed countries in that developed countries are expected to reduce actual emissions, while developing countries would lower emissions based on units tied to measures such as gross domestic product or economic output.
“Developed country Parties should continue taking the lead by undertaking economy-wide absolute emission reduction targets,” the text says. “Developing country Parties should continue enhancing their mitigation efforts, and are encouraged to move over time towards economy-wide emission reduction or limitation targets in the light of different national circumstances.”
The distinction is made because developed countries, on a per capita basis, often produce more greenhouse gases than developing countries. Pruitt claimed that China and India and are polluting more than the United States, but that’s misleading.
China (but not India) does produce more carbon dioxide than the United States, but it has nearly 1.4 billion people compared to 325 million for the United States. So, on a per capita basis, the United States in 2015 produced more than double the carbon dioxide emissions of China — and eight times more than India.
It is certainly true that US per capita emissions are still higher then China’s. But what the Washington Post forgot to tell its readers is that China’s own emissions have increased so much in recent years that, on a per capita basis, they are now now greater than in the UK, France, Italy and Spain:
Clearly, by any reckoning, China should be shouldering its own share of the burden , and committing to substantial emission cuts.
But, as we know, the per capita argument is purely a red herring. China has no intention of wrecking its economy by agreeing to such cuts.
Scott Pruitt’s basic complaint is that the US is being asked to make large cuts in emissions, while the likes of China and India (amongst others) are allowed to carry on increasing them.
The Washington Post may think this is a fair arrangement, but should not be allowed to get away with blatant lies to further its case.
Washington Post Fact Checker earns Four Pinocchios