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Conservatives Say Industry Should Lead The Way To Reduce Climate Change


And let's listen to another perspective now on the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Matthew Continetti is the editor of the conservative Washington Free Beacon.

Matthew, thanks for coming in.

MATTHEW CONTINETTI: Thanks for having me.

GREENE: So we just heard there from Richard Branson who, like some other people in the business community, did not want President Trump to withdraw from this deal. Branson said that this was a deal that was the right thing for the planet. Is he wrong?

CONTINETTI: Well, I think both the supporters and many of the critics are overestimating the actual impact of this voluntary and non-binding agreement. And so it's kind of coloring the rhetoric surrounding President Trump's decision to withdraw from it. If he really wanted to reduce carbon emissions, probably the easiest way to do that would be through a carbon tax. Unfortunately, there's not much political support for that. And so people who want to reduce carbon emissions have turned to, usually, regulations not supervised or authorized by Congress to get what they want.

GREENE: You're suggesting that this deal would not have had as big an impact, like, on the world's temperatures as someone suggests because, you know, President Trump said it would have a tiny impact on temperature. But we've had some colleagues from our science desk saying that even, you know, something that looks tiny in terms of temperature in amount of Celsius could actually be a very big deal when you're talking about the entire world.

CONTINETTI: Well, I think it was an MIT study that the president was citing that found that this agreement, if fully implemented, would reduce global temperatures by two tenths of a degree of Celsius by 2100.

GREENE: Yeah, we should say that that study has been has been revamped. And the people who did it have come out and said that maybe that was misinterpreted by the president.

CONTINETTI: Sure. A lot of people (laughter) say he misinterprets things once he cites them. I would say that, you know, it's also unrealistic in the fact that probably the goals were never going to be implemented anyway. Some of the countries laid out goals that they were already effectively doing.

President Obama laid out goals that we've achieved in the electricity sector but that we haven't achieved in the transportation sector and that might be very difficult to achieve actually. So in fact, one of the negotiators of the agreement said, well, you know, that's - but the fact that we might not reach the goals is precisely a reason we should remain in it because we can always define our goals down. That doesn't sound to me like a very effective agreement.

GREENE: Can I just ask you - the president seemed to open the door saying that he would be willing to sit down with Democratic leaders and renegotiate a way back into the Paris Agreement or negotiate something new. If Democrats are willing to do that, if the president's willing to do that, do you see some sort of agreement maybe back into Paris or something else where skeptics, like yourself, would be willing to say, like, OK, this is now an agreement that I can get behind?

CONTINETTI: I really don't because, you know, that more important things than even the withdrawal from the Paris Agreement is President Trump's larger climate policy, which really does favor business and the carbon extraction community over the environmental ones. So I think the course is set, and we've entered a very different era of U.S. foreign policy in which polarization - right? - over issues such as global warming really do add uncertainty into global negotiations.

GREENE: OK. Talking to Matthew Continetti, who is the editor of the Washington Free Beacon, about the president's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement yesterday.

Matthew, thanks so much for the time. We appreciate it.

CONTINETTI: Thanks, David.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE IN GREEN'S "RAINY STREETS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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