US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defends President Trump's move to pull US from Paris Climate Accord, says decision was in best interests of American people

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has defended President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the US from the Paris Climate Accord, saying the global agreement was not in the best interests of the American people.

He sought to play down fears the US would not play a role reducing greenhouse gas emissions, raising an “extraordinary” track record which he claimed included US emissions having already fallen to 1990s levels. “We have every expectation that record of performance is going to continue.”

Tillerson made the comments while in Wellington during a quick fly-in-fly-out meeting with Prime Minister Bill English. Talking about their discussions, English said he had raised New Zealand’s opposition to the US Paris decision.

Tillerson was then asked by media about moves by Trump to pull out of the Climate Accord and Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, and how countries like New Zealand could continue to trust the US to lead on such issues without embarking on a protectionist and isolationist direction.

The Secretary of State disagreed with the assertion that Trump’s moves to withdraw from both were unpredictable. Indeed, Trump had run for office on these two policies, he said. “I think he did take time and make very deliberative decisions to finally take action on both of those fronts.”

The moves “clearly” represented the will of the American people, Tillerson claimed, citing “very little” Congressional support for them. “I think in both cases the President was quite clear that he took these actions because he viewed they were not in the best interest of the American people and our own future prosperity.”

Having said that, “on both issues the President and the United States has every intention of being directly engaged on trade relationships and indeed the process of discussions on a bilateral basis is already underway with some countries in the region and that will continue in the days and years ahead,” Tillerson said.

On Paris, Tillerson said he thought Trump “felt this was just simply not an agreement that served the American peoples’ interest well. Having said that, as he made that decision I think he made clear that he welcomes the opportunity to talk about a subsequent agreement.”

The United States had “an extraordinary record of reducing greenhouse gas emissions” that was “possibly unparalleled by anyone else,” Tillerson said. “Our greenhouse gas emissions are at levels that were last seen in the 1990s. That’s been done with 50 million more energy consumers than we had in the 90s, with an economy that’s twice as large,” he said.

“We’re very proud of the record of reducing our own greenhouse gas emissions, and that’s been done without a Paris Climate Accord. It’s been done without heavy-handed regulation; it’s been built on technology and innovation and entrepreneurship.

“We have every expectation that record of performance is going to continue. There’s no reason it would stop just because we withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord. So we do believe that engagement globally continues to be important on the issue of climate change, and we will be seeking ways to remain engaged,” Tillerson said.

There were many ways the US could remain engaged, including through the UN-intergovernmental panel on change as well as through economic and trade forms. “I don’t think anyone should interpret that the US has somehow stepped away from these issues, or is seeking to isolate itself,” Tillerson said.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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49 Comments

.... I'm picking that Donald Trump's solution to Greenhouse Gas Emissions would be to ban the growing of tomatoes in heated tunnel houses ...

Only if the gardeners are hi-tech, innovative entrepreneurs.

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I think it was a good move by Trump. The Paris agreement is less about climate change than it is about global governance. Technology is advancing we will soon have more electric cars cheaper solar energy etc, we don't need more regulations.

Electric cars to do what exactly? Go for joy rides. The media confuse people with the idea this is some sort of energy solution post fossil fuel ...
See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubic_mile_of_oil
"The CMO is a powerful means of understanding the difficulty of replacing oil energy by other sources. ...

Allowing fifty years to develop the requisite capacity, 1 CMO of energy per year could be produced by any one of these developments:

4 Three Gorges Dams,[14] developed each year for 50 years, or
52 nuclear power plants,[15] developed each year for 50 years, or
104 coal-fired power plants,[16] developed each year for 50 years, or
32,850 wind turbines,[17][18] developed each year for 50 years, or
91,250,000 rooftop solar photovoltaic panels[19] developed each year for 50 years

Let's put this in perspective. Oil use is about 5TW constant output going by your Wikipedia article. To replace that with 250W solar panels you'd need 2x10^10 panels, multiplied by 4 to get the average output of the sun due to cloud and night time. So 8x10^10. Then divide by 3 because combustion engines only get about 30% efficiency from the oil they burn compared to 90% for the whole supply chain and electric usage efficiency. That leaves you with about 30 billion solar panels required to replace ALL oil usage. That's only 5 solar panels per person on the planet.

AND if you look at solar growth, we're already nearing half a TW with exponential growth.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Growth_of_photovoltaics

Looking at wind power growth, we've already got half a TW of that too. So between only wind and solar we've got about 20% the equivalent of oil use, only the efficiency of conversion is close to 100% compared to oil burning efficiency of about 20-30% in most combustion engines.

I did the Mongol Rally a few years ago, and I saw thousands of km of either sunflowers, solar panels, or wind turbines. Just because it's not prevalent here doesn't mean that the rest of the world isn't well ahead of us.

In conclusion, we're on track to replace oil in very short order. Time to sell your Oil and Gas shares ham n eggs.

Back on electric cars. Let's say you do 50km a day. You use about 200Wh to do a km. So you need about 10kWh a day to run an electric car for commuting. That's 2 hours of charge from a 5kW roof array. That's 20 solar panels on your roof to charge a car for only 2 hours a day.

Promises are all dandy .. but heres what actually happens when you take away fossil fuels.. Its too expensive energy wise
http://euanmearns.com/el-hierro-may-2017-performance-update/
"Providing the island with 100% renewable energy was always an ambitious goal, and it still hasn’t been reached. Last year the facility generated only 40% of the power consumed on El Hierro. That disappointed many of the island’s residents. They hoped electricity bills would fall. Instead, just like in the rest of the country, costs for power have actually gone up. Lots of people now say the project was all wind and no substance."
https://dothemath.ucsd.edu/2011/10/the-energy-trap/
"But here’s the rub. The construction of that shiny new infrastructure requires not just money, but…energy. And that’s the very commodity in short supply. Will we really be willing to sacrifice additional energy in the short term—effectively steepening the decline—for a long-term energy plan? It’s a trap!"

I don't think you checked any of my analysis. I did all the numbers for you. So you're saying that it takes too much energy to install new energy infrastructure, while at the same time, we're expanding our energy infrastructure significantly? Don't you see your logical inconsistency?

Each 250W solar panel generates about 350kWh per year approximately. I don't think you realise just how much energy that is. That's the same amount of energy as a car gets out of 180litres of petrol... and it lasts 20-50 years. So in effect a single solar panel is likely to offset 3,500 litres of petrol at the very least. That's a $7000 saving on fuel for a $750 investment including panel, inverters and installation.

How much energy does it take to create a solar panel and install it with its share of inverters, controllers and cabling? By this document that was linked to from your source, it's as little as a 2 year energy payback. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy04osti/35489.pdf Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. "PV systems can repay their energy investment in about
2 years. During its 28 remaining years of assumed operation,
a PV system that meets half of an average household’s
electrical use would eliminate half a ton of sulfur dioxide
and one-third of a ton of nitrogen-oxides pollution. The
carbon-dioxide emissions avoided would offset the operation
of two cars for those 28 years."

I'm the only one here doing the math.

This isnt a logical inconsistency as its actually rather complex. The actual answer is we are using cheap fossil fuels as an energy source to install renewable energy sources. This works fine as long as we have that cheap fossil fuel to do it with.

What you are missing here amongst other things is a) converting that static energy to transport fuels. It can be done eg EV cars but try doing that with 100,000tonne ships that currently use 3500sec bunker fuel. It also takes time, there are millions of cars all using petrol which is cheap swapping these out for EVs will take time. On top of that large mining catapillar type lorries etc can probably never be converted to EV so the entire mine has to be re-jigged to use electical power which means a large capital investment which may well be non-economic.

In terms of payback indeed some of the contracts are now being let for renewables at very good prices, but again this is not the whole solution for our energy problem.

You don't need to displace all fossil fuel use, to cause a collapse in the oil market, just like we've had in the coal market. We haven't stopped using coal, but the bottom has dropped out of the price.

And I don't expect solar to be able to offset all oil use. But it's ramping up and it's going to displace a lot more than it is right now. And electric cars will be powered largely with renewables in the future. The smart grid will incentivise car charging when the price is low, and the cars themselves will be able to help peak shifting etc. So the electric cars are part of the reason why solar will be so feasible. There will be a huge amount of battery potential that will be tapped into through electric cars. And the computers onboard will shift charging to when the spot price is cheaper, and sell it back if the spot price hikes.

"So you're saying that it takes too much energy to install new energy infrastructure, while at the same time, we're expanding our energy infrastructure significantly? Don't you see your logical inconsistency?"

No. It needs to make sense system wide.
And electricity isnt the initial probem ...
"solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, wind, and nuclear, are all ways to make electricity, but these do not help us very much as a direct replacement of the first-to-fail fossil fuel: oil. This is a very serious point. As Bob Hirsch pointed out in the 2005 report commissioned by the Department of Energy, we face a liquid fuels problem in peak oil"

I'm sure you're aware that "Oil Sands Mining Uses Up Almost as Much Energy as It Produces". That means that photovoltaics are about 5x better than that, but they still do it?
https://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130219/oil-sands-mining-tar-sands-a...

I agree - everyones pension funds are being "invested" into Oil plays that cant pay their way .. its a can kicking exercise only ...
"when our oil based economy kicked off, back in the 30s, we used the energy contained in 1 barrel of oil to get hold of every 100 barrels of oil - that single barrel of energy sucked it out of the ground, refined it, distributed it out to the point of use— That was our ”industrial economy” .. We are now at the point where the best oilwells return about 1:20. Tight oil returns only about 1:6.
The surplus part of our energy system is in a tailspin to oblivion.
We could sustain a civilised infrastructure on the 1:20 ratio, but not on the 1:6.
Simple reasoning says then that the 1:20 oilfields are subsidising the tarsands and the oilshales delivering 1:6. It also explains the nonsense of “Saudi America."

The problems you are over-looking are there are some rather critical parts of our economy/society that it would be rather hard to swap to electricity and not very cheap to do so. The problem then becomes one of as we have seen with the oil price, demand collapses as ppl cannot afford the output that costsso much due to the inputs. Back a decade ago this was a huge error, ie many economists assumed that oilat $200, $300 even $500 a barrel was perfectly plausible, what we found instead was oil at $148US causes a GFC, oopsie.

ham n eggs,

You are right about the efficiency of fossil fuels,but after that,we part company.You may not be aware that Germany is now building a lithium-ion battery gigafactory to rival Tesla's. Globally,battery making capacity will more than double by 2021 to 278 gigawatt hours. According to the research arm of Bloomberg's, "As battery costs fall and their energy density increases,we could see cheaper battery-electric cars than their fuel-burning equivalents by 2030".
Currently,I am taking a course from The University of Grenoble's School of Management on New Energy Technologies and What you don't seem to comprehend is the speed of technological change.
Furthermore,although we are not about to run out of oil and gas anytime soon,the sooner we begin to make the transition,the smoother it will be.There is also the small matter of reducing carbon emissions.

Going to be a slow transition. "Despite record sales of new cars, just 219 of the 1.2 million new vehicles sold in Australia in 2016 were electric, even that was a 90 per cent drop from the previous year. Battery powered cars represented only 0.0018 per cent of the total market.

Mr Ghosn argued the market wouldn't grow without a public policy that said: "We favour zero emissions cars - usually electric and plug in hybrids - and a subsidy to consumers to encourage them to buy these cars".

http://www.smh.com.au/business/electric-car-market-wont-spark-without-su...

the future will be cheaper .... its the standard refrain.
Technological advances happen purely within the windows set by physical laws. A battery is NOT a primary energy source - it takes energy (!) to convert primary energy into this "source". And lots of it. Let alone the cost of converting all the infrastructure ...
But the proof is in the pudding ... look at any number of stats on ACTUAL usage ...
http://www.bp.com/content/dam/bp/images/energy-economics/freesize/primar...

You always conveniently forget about the fact that once fossil fuels were a new technology that had to be adopted.
Funny how all those infrastructural issues got sorted out, eh.

As for your overused graph - what's the point?
Have you actually looked at the reserves for natural gas and coal? They are phenominal - more than enough to give time for transition.

Your logic is faulty on several levels. Mainly, you look at the past and assume the future is just an extension of an ever expanding society on a finite planet. Lets look at coal for a moment, back before WW1 (working from memory here) the British could see that they had to move from Steam Coal to fuel oil for their Navy as coal production had peaked (about 1913). So OK oil was the new coal. What is out there today that is a) cheap? b) highly energy dense? c) plentiful? d) doesnt cause climate change?

The answer is from what I can see, nothing, nada, zilch.

Oil conventional production peaked in about 2004~2011 time frame. At the moment the USA has an extra buffer from shale oil and shale gas of about 5mbpd. To move to a new as yet unknown energy source that meets those 4 points we need e) time in the region of 10 and probably 20 years, we are not doing that migration on an economy wide scale.

Coal reserves? you are ignoring the expotential function even if you ignore CC effects of it. Example Bush claimed the US had 250years of coal, but when you look at the actual data it was more like 80 years. Shale gas? again 20 to 30 years, maybe 40 years but that is only for the USA.

It isnt "funny" at all, its actually rather frightening.

Agreed. The big mistake is to overlook that all historical shifts were into higher density energy sources

The British didn't move to coal because of peak coal production - they moved to it because of the thermal and logistical efficiencies associated with raising steam from oil versus coal.
The US designed Enterprise and Nautilus for the same reasons.

Nuclear energy is pretty clean and plentiful.
Renewable sources are much the same.

Nymad - maybe I should rephrase.
We all know increasing our burning of fossil fuels will totally screw the environment. We have known this for ages.. Sitting ready to go are all these new technologies (apparently) just screaming to replace them.
So WHY pray tell aren't we transitioning NOW?
Its a no brainer right? Unless something doesn't stack up.

But we are transitioning now.
Just look at the growth of renewable energy generated from renewable sources.
Battery technology has increased drastically.

I guess its just one of those climate science debates. Each party sees what they want to see.

transitioning on Scale ... the new tech needs to be able to scale up. This isnt what we are seeing.

The problem is making sure you see the holistic picture ie everything relevant is considered. You seem to be only considering segments of the full story, this gives a false impression all is well it isnt. Example, we see a lot about EV cars and light trucks. When we start to look at heavy; long distance transport, haulage, mining, agricultural, sea transport then right now there are no real, available off the shelf alternatives.

I guess what I am trying to point you at is a) the scale and depth of the problem and b) the time and energy it will take to solve them. c) human, lack of will or wish to give up our present lifestyle to re-direct the resources at a and b.

This is cars only and LVs only and actually the suggestion is around 2024~2026. So the challenge will be equipping our our heavy industrial transport and agricultural systems with alternatives that can do the job and at a cost that the industrial economy we have can afford. Can this be done? I am hopeful but some things, no so we'll need to work around it.

In terms of not run out of oil and gas soon, well a) this isnt the argument that matters 9and is a false one that has been put up for years), what matters is the peak production per day. So sure we are not going to run out until around 2050, but the output per day to reach that eventual zero means less and less per day starting about now, that will have a profound effect on our global economy. or maybe you have not noticed how lack luster the global economy has been for almost a decade now?

What you are in effect doing is assuming because there is a snippet of good news in one sector that this will be just as easy in other areas/aspects to achieve.

In terms of CC, yes and that effect is going to be as big as Peak oil. Someone(s) likened the process we have to go through as big as the changes that had to occur for WW2, huge.

Well, he's not wrong - they are indeed doing better than us based on a 1990 start point;

We're getting worse;
http://climateactiontracker.org/countries/newzealand.html

And they are staying much the same;
http://climateactiontracker.org/countries/usa.html

The EU is the clear leader;
http://climateactiontracker.org/countries/eu.html

And China's pledge is to keep growing, but more slowly to 2030;
http://climateactiontracker.org/countries/china.html

I think they mainly pulled out of Paris - not because of the non-binding commitment - but because of the money in aid and R&D they had agreed to send offshore to least developed countries. Trump's winding down US aid dollars - simple as that.

So I think we can clearly see between the China graph and the NZ graph who had the better negotiator on the day.

The point is that in UN classifications, China is a Least Developed Country (LDC) as is India - and they (LDCs) are allowed to grow their emissions profiles as there is this global ideology that accepts/thinks that LDCs cannot raise their populations out of poverty without increased fossil fuel use.

Developed economies (i.e., all those in the OECD) were expected to pledge to reduce their emissions. Bearing in mind - a pledge is just that - non-binding, no direct costs for missing your target.

The whole thing was a bit of a non-event from the get-go and, if we are to believe the climate scientists - even if everyone meets their pledges, it isn't enough to send us back under the 'tipping point' of temperature change (i.e., that 2degC figure).

At least that's my understanding.

Sure, I quite see it Kate.

I believed Al Gore, that we drove passed the point of no return back in 2016. So let's just take all that money they are wasting and give it directly to the poor starving in the world? At least make their last days a bit more comfortable.

Imagine how much it costs to run that massive bureaucracy down at the IPCC alone.

Yes, a bureaucratic behemoth unlike the world has ever seen before.

"this global ideology that accepts/thinks that LDCs cannot raise their populations out of poverty without increased fossil fuel use."

It hasnt been done any other way.

Seriously? The ex CEO of Exxon Mobil is now in a position to issue statesman like defenses of a climate change denying administration. And it isn't April first. Is this what is referred to as 'fake news'?

Only if the facts on the links Kate posted above are not true.

Not deniers - just can't afford the R&D spend and the subsidies to Least Developed Countries as were promised by the Obama administration;

Climate change spending won't slow any time soon…not so long as current Obama policies prevail. A proposed $1,328 million FY 2012 budget for its Global Climate Change Initiative (GCCI) aimed at helping developing countries address man-made global warming problems that we've allegedly caused represents a 557% increase since FY 2008 (then $202 million). Implemented through programs sponsored by the Department of State, Treasury, and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), it is funded by the administration's executive budget. As stated, "The President's FY2012 budget request follows on the December 2010 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, which formulated a package of 'nationally appropriate' measures toward the goal of avoiding dangerous climate change." This is part of "…a commitment to near-term and long-term climate financing for the least developed countries amounting to near $30 billion for the period 2010-2012, and $100 billion annually by 2020."

https://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2011/08/23/the-alarming-cost-of-c...

Note the last line - Trump's administration just wants to reverse out of those pledges - i.e., up to $100 billion annually by 2020. Why they don't just come out and say it in plain language - I'm not sure. It was a similar message given to NATO members - we can't afford to be the cornerstone shareholder in this club. The US doesn't really need austerity at home - when it can simply apply austerity policies abroad. And that's what they're doing.

Diplomats are paid large sums of money not to speak in plain language.

Fun link Andrew, made me laugh. The whole idea that taxation could save a planet, lol, is there any limit to the gullibility of people?

The Saker is no fool, he is highly respected by many for his prescient military and geopolitical analyses, like this one: http://thesaker.is/making-sense-of-the-super-fuse-scare/

He's an ex-military analyst incidentally.

I agree that the easier message for Trump would have been that they are saving $100b's a year in foreign aid and redirecting that to domestic spending. Heck, they could even have pledge a token fund to domestic green energy to keep people happy.

BTW this is not an endorsement of them pulling out. When you're 2nd in rank for current emissions, and have historically contributed by far the most, you are obliged to help clean up the mess.
Total emissions:
1. US: 339,174 MT or 28.8%
2. China: 105,915 MT or 9.0%
3. Russia: 94,679 MT or 8.0%
4. Germany: 81,194.5 MT or 6.9%

The world is going down an unhappy path and therefore I support almost any initiative that helps take us in the right direction. There is not going to be a perfect solution and even those among us, myself included, who dislike the idea of global institutions and loss of sovereignty may have to compromise to achieve pragmatic solution re climate change

You can do better than that . Coal is a competitor to oil so anything that is good for Coal is bad for oil and that is why they are complaining

The main reasons that the USA appears to have reduced its emissions to 1990 levels are;
Natural gas has largely replaced coal as the primary base load electricity generation feed stock. The methane leakages inherent in gas production (shale gas particularly) are undocumented in these assessments.
2nd reason; much of the heavy industry like steel making has now been off shored to China, and manufacturing to Mexico. Canada books the emissions from the Tar sands mining which USA burns as fuel.
Sure it looks good at first glance but it isn't what it seems.

All true - low milk prices and a corresponding reduction in cows numbers would be great for NZ's account. I'm guessing the US might move to electric vehicles faster than many other economies as well. I have a nephew (an electrical engineer) that works solely on grid planning with respect to that sort of transition.

The US offshoring pollution is a myth Ando - they have made massive gains in cleaner production - and pollution shouldn't be confused with CO2.

"Between 1990 and 2008, US manufacturing output grew by one-third. Yet air pollution from US factories fell by about two-thirds.

How did this happen? One possibility is that by cracking down on air pollution, we simply pushed our dirtiest factories overseas to countries like China. If so, that would be bad news — it would mean we're offloading pollution elsewhere rather than cleaning it up.

But this gloomy story doesn't appear to hold up. In a recent NBER working paper, Georgetown economist Arik Levinson estimated that more than 90 percent of the drop in US factory pollution since 1990 was due to companies adopting cleaner production techniques — things like switching fuels, becoming more efficient, recycling, or adopting pollution-capture technology."

https://www.vox.com/2015/2/8/7999417/US-factory-pollution-offshoring

When people like Lloyd Blankfein, Elon Musk and Bloomberg et al. give up their Gulfstream V and Falcon 500 private jets and start riding bicycles then I might take their calls for 'climate change' action by the plebs (i.e. we're going to tax you) more seriously. But that's not going to happen is it.

Yeah it will happen when Obama, Rudd, Key, Gillard, Flannery etc. sell their beach front homes...

The anti Trump hysteria just strangles any debate. The upset ones need to figure out last weeks announcement was not about Trump. Nor did it negatively affect climate. It did stop the USA send hundreds of billions to overseas bureaucrats. New Zealand should do the same. We should not send money away. We should use it to work on our own issues.

The US have made the right decision pulling out of the Paris agreement.

One day historians will say Trump was the best President in US history or maybe 2nd best as its difficult to surpass Ronald Reagan.

Delboy,

He was a spiv in Only Fools and Horses and among his many failings,Trump is a property spiv. He has been in office for just a few months,so on what possible grounds could you make the assessment that he will be the greatest ever President? He certainly stands out as a blatant and inveterate liar,a racist and misogynist and what else? Oh yes,he cares nothing for environmental issues and believes climate change to be a hoax.

Have you ever heard of Thomas Jefferson,whose boots Trump would not be fit to clean.How about James Madison? No,I'm not surprised.I won't bother going on,because your ignorance of American history would appear to be total.