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While The World Loses Its Mind Over Trump Dumping Paris Agreement, Everybody Forgets What W. Did Back in ’01

Reportedly, President Trump is considering pulling out of the Paris Accord – an international agreement by 195 countries to ease up on carbon emissions to combat climate change – and the left is losing it.

This isn’t entirely unprecedented though.

In 1997, the Clinton administration brokered the Kyoto Protocol, a similar climate deal that required nations involved to commit to binding CO2 reduction targets. The U.S. signed the treaty, though the Senate refused to ratify it, namely because big-pollution developing nations like China and India were given a pass.

Nevertheless, it was considered a major step towards combating climate change.

When George W. Bush became president in 2001, he shocked the world by announcing he was withdrawing the United States from the Kyoto Protocol. He received harsh criticism abroad for failing to lead on climate change. Per a New York Times article from June 12, 2001:

Mr. Bush’s outright rejection of the treaty two months ago led to an uproar in Europe…Mr. Bush remained firm in rejecting the 1997 Kyoto accord, noting that it set no standards for major emitters of greenhouse gases, like China and India, while creating mandates for the United States that could prove economically crippling.

Bush acknowledged the problem with global warming, but preferred for the free market to fight climate change as opposed to relying on artificial government commitments.

While he may have been a few years ahead of his time, he wasn’t wrong – technological advancements in natural gas fracking at the end of the last decade and in this one have, at least compared to one study, reduced carbon emissions in the United States by more than twice as much as what the rest of the world was able to do under the Kyoto Protocol:

David Victor, an energy expert at UC-San Diego, estimates that the shift from coal to natural gas has reduced U.S. emissions by 400 to 500 megatons CO2 per year. To put that number in perspective, it is about twice the total effect of the Kyoto Protocol on carbon emissions in the rest of the world, including the European Union.

The Paris Accord shares differences from the Kyoto one, namely because it includes developing nations like China and India (though these nations’ reduction “targets” are seemingly negligible). It’s also non-binding, which means that the commitments are voluntary and unenforceable.

Even under the strictest regulatory regime proposed by the Obama administration, the U.S. was unlikely to meet its commitments anyway. Withdrawing from the treaty doesn’t actually change much in terms of U.S. policy – it’s definitely not akin to killing the planet either.

While it is true that President Trump doesn’t have to do much or change any policy while being a part of the Paris Accord, some people believe his actions are more about sending a symbolic signal that the Trump administration does not consider climate change and regulatory actions as urgent of a priority as his predecessor did, which really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone.