Fact-checkers have been having a field day with Donald Trump’s June 1 statement announcing that he would withdraw the United States from the landmark climate agreement adopted by 195 countries at the United Nations climate conference in Paris in 2015.
The most obvious gaffe in the former reality TV star’s Rose Garden address was his notion that full Paris compliance would only reduce average global warming by 0.2°C, a “tiny, tiny amount”, by 2100. The statement was sourced to a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) study that showed Paris reducing average temperatures by 0.6 to 1.1°C by century’s end—less than it will take to avert the worst effects of climate change, but far more than Trump claimed.
“We certainly do not support the withdrawal of the U.S. from the Paris agreement,” said co-author Erwan Monier, lead researcher at the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change. “If we don’t do anything, we might shoot over 5.0° or more and that would be catastrophic,” added program co-director John Reilly, who said the White House used MIT’s research without contacting the program or inviting scientists to explain their findings.
Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact points to Trump’s claim that Paris will lead to “lost jobs, lower wages, shuttered factories, and vastly diminished economic production”, based on a March 2017 study by NERA Economic Consulting. Reviewers pointed out that the study erred on the side of higher costs, ignored the benefits of greenhouse gas reductions, and assumed that no other countries would keep their Paris promises, thereby prompting U.S. companies to relocate—among other extreme premises that led to an extreme conclusion.
“The NERA model provides useful information, but it is important for it to be taken in context of model results from other models and not cherry-picked as was done here,” said Yale University Professor Kenneth Gillingham.
Trump claimed Paris would permit China to build hundreds of new coal plants, even though the country halted work on more than 100 new coal facilities earlier this year. He said India would be allowed to double its coal production by 2020, when the country had just cancelled nearly 14 GW of new coal capacity, amid the realization that solar is now cheaper than 92% of its installed thermal capacity.
The French government also joined the fact-checking parade, in a 40-second video that trolled and corrected the major claims in Trump’s speech. “We’ve seen the @WhiteHouse video about the #ParisAccord,” France’s Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs tweeted Friday. “We disagree—so we’ve changed it. #MakeThePlanetGreatAgain.”
On Saturday, the Washington Post reported the video had received 14,000 retweets and nearly 20,000 “likes”.