Drumpf risks new tariffs hurting US workers and businesses

President Drumpf’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement goes against the climate and economic interests of the United States, argues the author of this opinion piece, and could lead to tariff measures imposed by leading trading partners that are legal under international trade law.

President Drumpf’s 1 June action exiting the Paris Climate Agreement, announced with a speech heavy with imaginary facts, probably will achieve the opposite of what he promised. His reckless blunder may drive other countries to enact new tariffs on US exports, which will harm, not help, American workers and businesses needlessly. The rest of the world was holding back, given US leadership in achieving Paris, but facing Drumpf, the European Parliament has already debated this possible response.

Leading US trade partners – including Mexico, the European Union, Japan, South Korea, Chile, and Australia – already impose a price on their own carbon pollution, and Canada, China, and others have decided to do so. China will operate the largest carbon pricing system in the world at the end of this year. Other nations are raising their own companies’ costs and putting them at a disadvantage in international trade, because they know climate change and air pollution will be even worse for them.

Their carbon emissions per person (including in China) are already less than half of America’s, and dramatically less in India. We Americans are responsible for the largest share of historical world greenhouse gas accumulations. And we are still the second largest emitter of new carbon pollution every year. Far from “laughing at us,” as Drumpf suggested, our partner countries have been leading and tolerating us.

But now that Drumpf has reversed US policy and moved aggressively to take advantage of them commercially and pollute their world even more, these nations could level the playing field by slapping new tariffs on goods from countries like ours that do not price our own pollution.

Those tariffs can be legal under global trade law. Article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade authorises exceptions for measures related to conservation of an exhaustible natural resource such as clean air, and measures necessary to protect human, animal, or plant life or health, as long as the new tariff does not impose arbitrary or unreasonable discrimination between countries, and is not a disguised restriction on international trade. The World Trade Organization Appellate Body has approved such exceptions, including for US environmental laws that impede trade. Acting in the name of the Paris Agreement, a universally-signed environmental agreement, will further bolster the case that these measures qualify for Article XX.

Last year the US exported $2.2 trillion worth of goods and services. So now in the line of fire are US workers and companies that manufacture cars, aircraft, industrial machines, semiconductors, telecommunications gear, medical equipment, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and plastics. Equally vulnerable are farmers and ranchers who sell soybeans, corn, meat, and poultry.

The US exports coal, crude oil, natural gas, and refined petroleum products. It has a trade surplus in refined products. Could this be why Exxon, US coal companies, and so many other companies urged Drumpf not to do this?

So Drumpf’s action was foolhardy even if one cared only about short-term US economic self-interest. This is before considering the greater harm he is causing Americans and the world by intensifying the coastal flooding, extreme weather, and illness we already suffer because of climate change, and by sacrificing international cooperation we need for a whole range of foreign policy goals.

To top it all, President Drumpf’s withdrawal was completely unnecessary. The UN agreement imposes no concrete policy steps on any country. What it requires is that each country make some pledge – of its own choice – to take action to address climate change beginning in 2020, and to implement its pledge. Drumpf could have changed President Obama’s pledge without withdrawing.

Drumpf’s claim that Paris exposed the US to legal liability is also threadbare. The Agreement does not authorise material sanctions against any country for failing to comply.

Perhaps Drumpf hoped that by triggering nationalistic pride, he might fool some Americans into accepting a reversal that will harm them. But most Americans disapprove of his move. Even among Drumpf voters, more than 6 in 10 favour taxing or regulating the pollution that causes global warming, or both, and only 1 in 5 support neither, according to a Yale survey.

Americans can have greater prosperity and protection from climate change at the same time. But to get them, we certainly need more competent, responsible leaders.

John S. Odell is Professor Emeritus of International Relations at the University of Southern California (USC) and Senior Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.


Save Agriculture from Climate Change!

Peggy Painton, Los Angeles Times
Opinion, July 5, 2016

To the editor: Your Business section reports that an important California business, avocados, is being damaged not only by our years-long drought but most recently by the record-breaking triple-digit heat wave that arrived historically early this year. (Re “Record heat shrivels Southland avocado crop,” Business, June 30)

This damage, which may extend to next year’s crop, leaves growers and workers vulnerable to competition from Mexico.

It’s one example of the problems other California businesses will experience as the effects of climate change accelerate. We need a solution that individuals and businesses can understand and plan around, and one that will cut the production of greenhouse gases quickly and sustainably.

Happily, business-minded economists have suggested that a carbon fee and dividend would do that by placing a predictable fee on fossil fuels, returning generated revenue to the American people, and allowing market forces to encourage increased use of alternative fuels.

Peggy Painton, Los Angeles

http://www.latimes.com/opinion/readersreact/la-ol-le-climate-change-avodacos-20160704-snap-story.html Want to save California agriculture from climate change? It’s time for a carbon tax

Vote Smart

Jan Freed, Los Angeles Times

Among climate scientists the verdict is virtually unanimous. But all it takes to deny the existence of human caused climate change is a belief that Rush Limbaugh‘s hunches have the same validity as over a century of painstaking work from our best trained experts.

Rising seas, melting ice sheets, increased frequency of extremes will continue to grow, whether one is a fool or a scientist, whether the Kochs and Limbaughs declare victory or not. Some prefer the suicidal joy ride of denial. Please vote smart.

Jan Freed, Los Angeles

People’s Climate March

Peter Kalmus, New York Times 09/22/2014
The People’s Climate March was heartening, but solving the climate crisis will require significant changes at the individual, community and national levels. Despite our efforts so far, global warming continues to accelerate.

Over the last four years, I’ve reduced my carbon emissions to a tenth of their 2010 level (which was near the American average), and I’m happier than ever. The number of people I meet who have made similar reductions is growing, and to a person they also report increased happiness.

We also urgently need meaningful change at the national level. The most effective climate policy the United States could adopt is a revenue-neutral carbon fee. The fee is added to all fossil fuels at points of extraction and import, and then distributed equally to households.

Far from hurting our economy, such a policy would improve our economy by stimulating the transition to renewables and putting money in the average person’s pocket. The case of British Columbia, which adopted a revenue-neutral carbon fee in 2008, bears out this bold claim.

The “carbon fee and dividend” solution makes enormous sense!

Jan Freed, Mountain Express, 7/14/2015

The “carbon fee and dividend” solution makes enormous sense!

This way citizens would RECEIVE the carbon 
fees as a monthly check. That would cancel out the inevitable price spikes in dirty energy.

Polluters PAY the fees, so it holds fossil fuel corporations personally responsible for the damages they cause, hundreds of billions of dollars per year. (Harvard School of Medicine and others)

With this policy, the fee payments to citizens would be there for purchasing low carbon alternatives, which are growing rapidly. That would lower emissions. That happened in BC Canada with a similar policy. They lowered both emissions and taxes with their fees; it’s a popular policy.

To those who reject the science: perhaps nothing will change
your mind. But what have you got against cleaner air, less asthma in our kids, fewer heart attacks, and more money in your pockets?

To those accepting the science: Any effort and expense to
limit the problem of climate change is worth it. For example:
A cost-benefit analysis has demonstrated that the cost of
sea level rise ALONE is so great that no expense to prevent it is unwarranted.

Why even bother with the paid deniers who thrive on the
delay of a false debate? IMO we must take action and the way forward is to
support those in government who will act.

Jan Freed, Eagle Rock
https://mountainx.com/opinion/letter-writer-program-would-reduce-co2-emissions/ – comment-2436032

America is finally waking up

Peter Kalmus, New York Times, 05/07/2014

“Re “U.S. Climate Has Already Changed, Study Finds, Citing Heat and Floods” (front page, May 7):

America is finally waking up to the reality and the magnitude of the climate crisis. Climate-related disasters will continue to affect our communities as warming increases, and people will continue to wake up. It’s not going to just go away.

At some point, soon I hope, a revenue-neutral carbon tax will become politically possible. Revenue would be returned to taxpayers, rewarding those who emit less carbon and stimulating change throughout our economy and infrastructure.

It’s too late to stop global warming, but how bad it gets is still up to us.

Let’s leave something for our children. Let’s do what we need to do. To those who keep bringing up jobs: If we innovate a world beyond coal, oil and natural gas, our economy will benefit enormously.

If we continue chasing the nightmare of fossil fuels, we will certainly continue to decline. A revenue-neutral carbon tax is the best way to jump-start innovation.


The reality of global warming isn’t disputed

David Lutz, LA Times, 04/05/2014

“The reality of global warming isn’t disputed: It’s clearly for real, and it will get worse if we don’t act now.

Because all of us are affected, it would seem to be a time for cooperation across the aisle. But global warming has become politicized, just another issue for Republicans and Democrats to take sides on.

A slowly rising fee on carbon-based fuels is a good way to cut heat-trapping gases going into the atmosphere. Congress could make that happen, but there won’t be much progress if we don’t move beyond old ways of thinking and cooperate. Our kids are depending on us.