Fact checking Donald Trump’s speech — most is simply wrong, some is only misleading

Image credits: Another Believer.

Fact-checking Donald Trump should be a full-time job because the sheer audacity of his claims deserves some extra-explaining. The fact that he decided to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, the international framework meant to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, is bad enough. But the fact that he did that citing fallacies and misleading arguments is even more disturbing. We won’t go into everything that was wrong with his speech because that would make a small novel, just the blatant things. Let’s take it from the top.

Donald Trump: “Before we discuss the Paris Accord, I’d like to begin with an update on our tremendous, absolutely tremendous, economic progress since election day on Nov. 8.

Indeed, the Commerce Department reported that the economy grew at an annual rate of 1.2 percent in the first quarter of 2017. However, that’s actually a decline from the fourth quarter of 2016 when GDP grew by 2.1 percent.

DT: “We’ve added $3.3 trillion in stock market value to our economy and more than a million private sector jobs.”

According to the Labor Department private sector industries added 697,000 jobs between January and April 2017. This is not only significantly lower than 1 million, but it’s also lower than the previous 6 months, when Barack Obama was president.

He went on to say that he will withdraw from the agreement but is still open to re-negotiate the agreement in a form that suits him or go on with a new accord altogether. World leaders were swift to point out that this is not possible. Jointly, France, Germany, and Italy said that this is simply not possible.

“We deem the momentum generated in Paris in December 2015 irreversible and we firmly believe that the Paris Agreement cannot be renegotiated since it is a vital instrument for our planet, societies and economies,” the leaders of the three countries said in an extremely rare joint statement. “We are convinced that the implementation of the Paris Agreement offers substantial economic opportunities for prosperity and growth in our countries and on a global scale,” the three leaders said.

Of course, forcing the whole world to renegotiate something every time a new president gets elected is not the way international diplomacy works. It took decades of international cooperation to finally settle on one accord — you can’t rewrite it just because someone slams their fist onto the table.

Trump went on to say that US compliance with the Paris accord could “cost America as much as 2.7 million lost jobs by 2025, according to the National Economic Research Associates.”

The report he quotes was written by two groups that have long opposed environmental regulation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation. Both groups receive funding from the fossil fuel industry. The report itself analyzes a scenario (40% reduction in greenhouse gas reduction) which was not stipulated under the Paris Agreement and was refuted by several studies, which found that it fails to acknowledge the new jobs brought on by the renewable industry. Several studies of a higher quality have shown that not only it is possible to increase the economy while reducing emissions, but reducing emissions doesn’t have much of an impact on jobs, because lost jobs are offset by new jobs in green technology.

Trump went on to quote another study, but clearly misinterpreted it, as the authors of the study themselves have stated:

“Even if the Paris Agreement were implemented in full, with total compliance from all nations, it is estimated it would only produce a 2/10 of one degree – think of that. This much….Celsius reduction in global temperature by the year 2100. Tiny tiny amount.”

Trump quotes a 2015 MIT report, based on outdated figures, and takes it out of context. More recent estimates put that figure at 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The authors themselves meant to say that if anything, the Paris Agreement isn’t ambitious enough and should be overdrived — not that people should back away from it.

“We certainly do not support the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement,” said Erwan Monier, a lead researcher at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, and one of the study’s authors.

But Trump didn’t even bother to ask them. No one from the White House did, actually.

“If we don’t do anything, we might shoot over 5 degrees or more and that would be catastrophic,” said John Reilly, the co-director of the program, adding that MIT’s scientists had had no contact with the White House and were not offered a chance to explain their work.

To put things into perspective, even 0.2 degrees globally could make a massive difference. A 1 degree Celsius (1.8 Fahrenheit) can be game changing. Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute in Germany, says:

“Every tenth of a degree increases the number of unprecedented extreme weather events considerably.”

Trump went on to say that he loves the environment, which, after trying to abolish the EPA, saying that climate change is a “hoax created by the Chinese” and giving free range to fossil fuel companies regardless of environmental concerns, is a blatant lie. But he added that he also love the coal industry (which appears to be true), and the Paris Agreement “would effectively decapitate our coal industry, which now supplies about one-third of our electric power.”

The truth is, the US coal industry has long been in decline (like pretty much everywhere on the planet). The primary cause is, rather ironically, a competing fossil fuel industry — natural gas. Many utilities have been replacing coal plants with gas-fired facilities which are cheaper and easier to maintain, though in recent years, renewables are also taking a cut.

DT: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Trump said, adding a bit later that “It is time to put Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit, Mich.; and Pittsburgh, Pa.; along with many many other locations in our country, before Paris, France.”

Not technically wrong, this is very ironic. Allegheny County, which encompasses Pittsburgh, overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton in November — 56 percent to 40 percent. According to NPR, Mahoning County, Ohio (which includes Youngstown), narrowly voted for Clinton, 49.8 percent to 46.8 percent. Wayne County, Mich. (Detroit), went heavily for Clinton over Trump, nearly 66.8 percent to 29.5 percent. Furthermore, withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is not something which was demanded by local counties — quite the opposite. 61 U.S. mayors said in a statement on Thursday that they would“adopt, honor, and uphold the commitments to the goals enshrined in the Paris Agreement. We will intensify efforts to meet each of our cities’ current climate goals, push for new action to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius target, and work together to create a 21st century clean energy economy.”

Trump went on to say that China and India should pay, not the US, because they are the biggest polluters. Not only is the US the world’s second largest polluter, the country is responsible for a third of all the greenhouse gases emitted in human history. Furthermore, China and India are transitioning towards a clean economy much faster than the US has. Ground zero is not now, ground zero is the start of the industrial age.

DT: “For example, under the agreement, China will be able to increase the emissions by a staggering number of years – 13. They can do whatever they want for 13 years. Not us. India makes its participation contingent on receiving billions and billions and billions of dollars in foreign aid from developed countries.”

China has pledged to halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, which is 13 years from now. They are well on track and actually, China is on track to beat that target by many years. Also, Trump conveniently failed to mention that under the same agreement, China will generate more energy from renewables than the US will generate in total.

Again, dissecting the speech sentence by sentence and finding everything that was wrong or misleading would take a very long time and effort — and it would prove much else. Trump quoted two studies, one which was refuted several times, and one which he misunderstood and took out of context. He was way off when he presented figures (ie he said that the US contributed $1 billion to the green climate fund when the real figure is $500 million), and willingly ignored the many economic prospects associated with the accord. The entire speech was riddled with errors and fallacies and this decision could prove to be catastrophic.

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