President Biden has issued a flurry of executive orders related to climate change, including one designating climate change a national security threat, one rejoining the Paris Accord, another halting the Keystone XL pipeline and yet another freezing petroleum leases and permits on federal land for 60 days.
The primary security threat by this new climate-change name looks the same as the leading national security threat in traditional terminology: China. The totalitarian Communist dictatorship is responsible for almost 30% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Instead of trying to cajole China to “cooperate” on climate change, the Administration should confront China and “out” it as a climate destroyer.
China’s emissions are not only the world’s most, but they are increasing every year. U.S. emissions are about half as much and have been decreasing for over a decade. No other nation accounts for more than 5% of emissions, except India, the world’s second most populous nation, whose gradually increasing emissions account for 7% now. The Administration should raise an international outcry about China’s renegade behavior.
Domestically and overseas, China continues to build noxious coal-fueled power plants. Meanwhile, fracking in the U.S. has generated increased supplies of natural gas, enabling the replacement of coal with natural gas plants which emit half the GHGs.
Our public posture should be that we Americans are the good guys, the Chinese Communists the bad guys.
In its 2015 Nationally Determined Commitment (NDC) under the Paris Accord, China committed to stop increasing its GHG emissions by 2030. Yes, China committed to worsen global climate conditions for fifteen years — now for a decade more.
By accepting China’s NDC, the Paris Accord ignores the biggest, the worst and a worsening dimension of the climate crisis. Hardly the way to solve the problem.
If fracking is driving the U.S. transition from coal to natural gas and the decline is U.S. emissions, it would seem only reasonable to continue fracking. Indeed, fracking and natural gas have made the U.S. energy-independent with big foreign policy benefits.
The benefits could go much further. If natural gas can replace coal plants here in the U.S., it can do so abroad. The U.S. is beginning to export natural gas. We could export on a preferential basis to India, which is now building coal plants, thereby enabling that critical ally to pursue economic development without following China’s disastrous path of massive GHG emissions.
In the purely economic sphere, too rapid an abandonment of fossil fuels via bans on fracking and similar actions has significant costs. China illustrates this point in the opposite case: China is continuing – and increasing – its use of cheap coal, precisely because of the economic benefits of low-cost energy.
Many Americans supported withdrawal from the Paris Accord. They are not climate change deniers, but rather they are clear-eyed in their view of legitimate national interest.
Why has most of the international community embraced the Accord. Because most nations under the Accord are classified as “developing,” a category entitled to donations from “developed” countries – to the tune of $100 billion per year — to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Marvelously, China, with the world’s second largest economy, is classified as “developing,” and, thus, theoretically entitled to receive donations.
Meanwhile, of course, the U.S. is expected to contribute the lion’s share of the $100 billion each year. Could there be a more dramatic example of the kind of “bad deal” that Donald Trump railed about? The Administration should adopt this Trumpian view. It is not an isolationist position.
Why does the world community overlook China’s disastrous behavior and indulge its designation as “developing?”
Simple. China and its apologists construe climate change on a per-capita issue, saying China’s emissions are half of U.S. emissions because China has four times the population.
The fallacy here is obvious: mother earth does not care how many people damage the environment. For example, does it matter whether one person gives you a lethal dose of arsenic or four people each give you one-quarter of the lethal dose? You still die, right?
The Paris Accord is at an important inflection point, with revised NDCs now due from all signers at this first of the 5-year intervals at which they are required. Only eight have been submitted, not including China’s.
If Biden is serious about climate change and national security, he should announce preconditions before actually rejoining the Accord. First, all nations should commit in their revised NDCs to immediate and continuing reductions in GHG emissions, with no exceptions and no excuses. Second, enforcement provisions should be added to the Accord, committing all signatories to collective action against violators.
These provisions would add meaning and teeth to what is now just diplomatic talky-talk. Then, the Accord might actually save the world from climate change, while, at the same time, serve as a soft power instrument to save the world from the traditional national security threat posed by the totalitarian Chinese Communist regime.
Red Jahncke is a nationally recognized columnist, who writes about politics and policy. His columns appear in numerous national publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, USA Today, The Hill, Issues & Insights and National Review as well as many Connecticut newspapers.