Exiting the Planet
by Joseph Joyce
Exiting the Planet
The full impact of President Trump’s announcement that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord will not be fully realized for years, and indeed, decades to come. But the withdrawal is part of a series of disavowals of international agreements and commitments that were created after World War II. It represents a fundamental change away from engagement with allies and partners in the global community to a mindset sees every interaction with a foreign partner as a zero-sum situation, with only one country benefitting from the dealing.
The administration’s actions can be analyzed in the framework offered by Albert O. Hirschman’s in Exit, Voice and Loyalty. A member of an organization or an agreement that commits its members to a course of action, who is dissatisfied with the current arrangements, can decide whether to leave (“exit”), or remain and seek to correct the perceived problems. Those with more basic loyalty to the goals or principles of the existing arrangement are more likely to choose the latter option. Clearly the Trump administration does not share the loyalty to the international liberal order.
This position has its roots in U.S. history. The country initially sought to avoid involvement in World War I, and it took years of German offenses (such as the sinking of the Lusitania) before President Wilson could obtain agreement to enter the war. However, the Senate failed to approve U.S. membership in the League of Nations, and during the 1930s there was little interest in opposing German expansion in Europe or Japanese incursion in Asia. Only with the bombing of Pearl Harbor could President Roosevelt receive approval to take up arms against Japan, and Hitler’s declaration of war on the U.S. solved the problem of justifying a European conflict at the same time.
These experiences and the emergence of the U.S. as a global superpower after the war led to a fundamental change in the U.S. position. John Ruggie and others have described the rise of multilateralism, a system of international alliances and intergovernmental organizations formed under U.S. leadership for the purpose of achieving shared objectives. In many cases, these were global public goods. The institutions ranged from the United Nations to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and more recently, the Paris Accord. While the fortunes of these organizations and pacts fluctuated over time, they contributed to international peace despite a half century of “cold war” between the Soviet Union and the U.S. They also facilitated the process of economic globalization that accelerated during the 1990s after the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the entry of China into the global economy.
All these organizations face challenges. The emerging market nations, for example, have sought a larger role within the IMF and the World Bank. NATO has grappled with redefining its mission in the post-Soviet world. But the success of all these efforts depends in large part on the involvement of the U.S. Agreements can be reached without U.S. participation But this country accounts for almost one-quarter of the global economy, and holds a commanding lead in terms of innovation. It will be difficult to organize a response to a global challenge without the involvement of the hegemonic country.
President Trump believes that he can achieve a better deal for the U.S. by negotiating with other countries on a bilateral basis. The results to date do not back this up (see also here). This does not mean that we can not do a better job of minimizing the disruptions that globalization entails. But devising a better safety net is primarily a domestic issue, and revising international accords is easier to achieve when there are gains for both sides.
More importantly, many of the key challenges we face—environmental, economic, defense—are not zero-sum issues. Cleaner air, a stable financial system or security in other nations do not threaten the U.S.; indeed, many of these are public goods that can not be obtained without international cooperation. Walking away from international agreements in a fit of nationalist pique only lowers the prospects of future peace and prosperity.
I see no particular reason for the United States to agree to the Paris Climate Accord. It would have involved sacrifice on our citizens’ part while other parts of the world continued to increase the generation of greenhouse gases. And it would have involved sending more US tax dollars to other countries. (Not really tax dollars since they would be borrowed dollars!)
Similarly I saw no particular reason for the United States to ratify the Kyoto Protocol and for the same reasons.
I see no objection to the other countries of the world implementing the Paris Climate Accord. And if some US states or cities want to pursue the goals of that Climate Accord then it is up to their voters to object.
Over the last decades, it has been time for our Presidents to walk away from very bad agreements. Unfortunately most of them are too timid to do so.
I will end with your appallingly naive statement.
“This does not mean that we can not do a better job of minimizing the disruptions that globalization entails. “
Disruptions will NEVER be truly minimized for the working class, those disruptions were a feature designed into Global Free Trade. Before NAFTA was signed, we were assured that disruptions would be minimized! ‘Minimized’ has meant – to respond as the public’s anger reaches a fever pitch.
And then came President Trump!
These “Climate Treaties” are a huge threat to liberty. Once they are given coercive control of your carbon footprint (in the name of saving the world), they control virtually everything.
The federal government stepping away from these agreements ironically ends up putting coastal liberal states in the driver’s seat, with flyover country not even getting a vote.
“California Emissions” is on it’s way back, and you can bet it will be more aggressive than CAFE standards would have been. Meanwhile the automotive industry would be less interested than ever in making separate models for the coasts and Kansas.
States rights has always been code for moneyed interest rights. In some cases, those moneyed interests are the interests of the Northeast and California, and not the interests of the Kochs. It will be interesting to see just what they can get away with in the absence of a strong central government with a limited number of representatives, in the face of global industry.
I’m betting it won’t go well for the coal and oil investors.
On the contrary, pulling out of the Paris Agreement will have zero effect because it was a toothless agreement with voluntary curtailments set more than a decade in the future that the U.S. had no intention of ever honoring anyway. It was typical Obama snake oil–wallpapering over a problem to make easily deceived liberals feel good about themselves.
And if you don’t agree, would you be willing to give up your car? Or your nice suburban residence? Or stop using your heating and air conditioning? Because if not, you are part of the same hypocrisy as Obama and Trump.
if the climate predictions are correct or near correct, giving up your car and your air conditioning would be the smart thing to do.
i don’t think you have any credible evidence that the climate predictions are not correct. so are you just going to hang onto your car until you have made life hell on earth?
it turns out you don’t have to give up your car. you just have to learn to drive less, or drive a basic electric car. and you don’t have to swelter in the heat. you can find an architect who will design a building that doesn’t need air conditioning…. unless you live in Las Vegas, in which case God Help You.
Trouble is people get married to their ideology and then they can’t think at all, let alone change to meet new situations.
in short, by addressing climate change now, you can minimize the adjustment you will have to make. put it off out of stupidity and greed and the adjustment will be harder and not as nice.
that said, i wish Joyce had not put it in terms of signing on to “the liberal international order.” Not only does that framing scare the hell out of people, but there is some reason to believe the “liberal international order” is not liberal at all but represents a network of big money interests and the governments they own.
this may be my own pet conspiracy theory, but at least it’s my own and not something i bought at the store.
” at least it’s my own and not something i bought at the store.”
However, you bought the AGW theory at the store. Lock, stock, and barrel. Congrats, you have cast your lantern on the last honest man…… You. No amount of contrary data is allowed to invalidate, or cast any doubt on your purchase.
Way, way too many imbeciles in this topic.
Can’t be saved.