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WaPo Issues Wildly Misleading ‘Fact Check’ On EPA Head

April 20, 2017
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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,[92] 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.[93] Therefore, even though the Clinton administration signed the treaty,[94] 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

  1. John F. Hultquist permalink
    April 20, 2017 1:59 pm

    Well done.
    This required way more thought than a WaPo reporter is capable of.
    Perhaps the WaPo’s owner would be able to do better.
    He seems to be a strategic thinker.

    Now about that 100 Billion slush fund — yes the one promised to the many countries that found a clean sheet of paper and spent 5 minutes completing their Nationally Determined Contribution plans. That’s not going as intended either.

    • Santoka permalink
      April 21, 2017 11:19 am

      And that is where the rubber meets the road. These “developing countries” (in quotes because China has put men in space which doesn’t seem “developing” to me), really want the US to remain in Paris agreement so they can collect CASH from the dwindling US tax payer.

  2. quaesoveritas permalink
    April 20, 2017 2:36 pm

    Who fact checks the fact checker?

    • Broadlands permalink
      April 20, 2017 3:37 pm

      The “Fake News” editor?

  3. Curious George permalink
    April 20, 2017 2:45 pm

    Trump and Pope go boating on a lake. A sudden gust of wind blows Pope’s hat off. Trump gets up, walks on waters, brings the hat back. WaPo reports: Trump can’t swim.

  4. Harry Passfield permalink
    April 20, 2017 3:17 pm

    Would that your analysis could be seen by WAPO (I nearly wrote WOPA…seems to fit, though). It would be nice to know that they would print a correction.

  5. Robin Guenier permalink
    April 20, 2017 3:30 pm

    You are of course right that the Washington Post’s article is itself wildly misleading. Nonetheless, it’s unfortunate that someone holding a key climate-related position in the Trump administration opened himself up to this sort of criticism by failing, in his Fox appearance, to make it clear that he was referring to obligations to reduce emissions. It might also have helped had he referred, not just to China and India, but to all “developing” countries – none of which have any obligation to reduce emissions under the Agreement. Yet they are responsible for 65% of global emissions, compared with the US’s 14% – underlining the strength of his assertion that “they are polluting far more than we are”. And BTW he was wrong to suggest that China and India have any emission reduction obligations after 2030. They don’t.

    In its INDC, China spells out unambiguously how it believes the Paris Agreement should specify the difference between developed country and developing country emission reduction obligations:

    The 2015 agreement shall stipulate that the Parties, in accordance with the provisions of the Convention, shall formulate and implement programs and measures to reduce or limit greenhouse gas emissions for the period 2020-2030 and promote international cooperation on mitigation. Developed countries shall, in accordance with their historical responsibilities, undertake ambitious economy- wide absolute quantified emissions reduction targets by 2030. Developing countries shall, in the context of sustainable development and supported and enabled by the provision of finance, technology and capacity building by developed countries, undertake diversifying enhanced mitigation actions.

    (LINK – see p.17.)

    It’s a huge difference. And it’s almost precisely what Article 4.4 of the Agreement says.

    • Broadlands permalink
      April 20, 2017 3:45 pm

      But, isn’t all this moot? We cannot do anything realistic about it anyway. It’s all “window dressing”? What does “reducing” emissions accomplish if those still emitting keep adding to the atmospheric burden? Are we running down an escalator moving up? Isn’t that why emphasis has been placed on negative emission technologies? Another unrealistic plan?

      • Robin Guenier permalink
        April 20, 2017 4:09 pm

        Maybe. But the issue here is that China (helped by India) has manoeuvred the West (essentially the US and EU28) into taking pointless and economy damaging action while it and the rest of the world are free to do as they please. The key question is this: will Trump be able to reverse this – or will the likes of WAPO, and those in his own team who don’t understand what happened in Paris, be able to thwart him?

        Matters are not helped by the fact that those who, like Pruitt, want to end this nonsense seem not to really understand Paris either.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      April 20, 2017 5:29 pm

      Pruitt could also have added some comment to the effect that “China still considers itself to be a developing nation, as does India”.

      I wonder how many people are aware of that fact.

  6. Les Johnson permalink
    April 20, 2017 4:21 pm

    Two other things should be mentioned;

    India has hinted, in its INDC no less, that it will increase emissions 6 fold.

    The other is that China’s population is expected to DECLINE, starting in 2030. Of course emissions will follow, So in effect, they have promised to do nothing.

  7. Reasonable Skeptic permalink
    April 20, 2017 4:45 pm

    This is a great example of how bias can turn a reasonable comment into a “blatant” lie.

    If you want to fact check, you must first go to the source and get a detained explanation because what they are quoted as saying was taken in the context of the conversation and the level of detail provided.

    When Trump said that Obama ordered him to be “wiretapped” He didn’t really mean “ordered” nor “wiretapped”. What he meant was much more nuanced, but most people understand it while journalists are trying to play word games to prove Trump is a buffoon.

  8. tom0mason permalink
    April 20, 2017 7:45 pm

    Scott Pruitt is just too nice a guy to just come out with the truth.
    What he should have said —

    “This administration is about America first, and the Paris ‘Agreement’ is Marxist bµllshit and we ain’t doing it. F*ck the UN, and their agreements, they’re as useful as chocolate rocking-horse sh|t!”

    He should have then explained when they will start defunding the UN, and making all areas around UN buildings into National Park area thus subject to onerous and expensive parking restrictions.

    But as I said Scott Pruitt is too polite.

    • Henning Nielsen permalink
      April 27, 2017 10:53 am

      Why not just the leave the UN area as it is, and declare it a zoo? Could be a nice attraction.

      • tom0mason permalink
        April 27, 2017 5:03 pm


  9. Anders Valland permalink
    April 21, 2017 7:29 am

    If our climate is very sensitive to increases in CO2, then the “per capita” figures mean nothing. Climate cares nothing about the number of people on this planet. If it cares about CO2, it does so on a total emission basis. The Paris accord is playing to the tune of “how many tons can you cut” and uses the current societal drive on how virtuous you are to keep people counting tons for show-off. “Everyone must do something…”

  10. Gerry, England permalink
    April 21, 2017 12:51 pm

    It was a shame that Scott Pruitt seemed to be a bit underprepared for the interview. Myron Ebell should give him some coaching based on his excellent GWPF session.

  11. April 23, 2017 9:56 am

    Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

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