PBS Gives Ex-Obama Official Forum to Bash Trump on Paris Accord

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On Tuesday's PBS NewsHour, the show gave a forum to former Barack Obama administration official Todd Stern of the Brookings Institution to complain about President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Accord on climate change.

Stern called the decision "crazy" and suggested the country needs a "new President," all without any balance offered by fill-in host William Brangham.

 

 

The PBS host assumed that regulating carbon dioxide emissions would have a significant effect on the climate as he set up the segment:

The timing is lost on no one. The President notified the rest of the world again yesterday that, a year from now, the day after the 2020 elections, the U.S. will formally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. That's the voluntary global accord signed in 2015 by nearly 200 nations to cut greenhouse gases to slow the warming of our planet. The U.S. is the second largest carbon emitter in the world behind China. In fact, it was American diplomacy negotiated during President Barack Obama's tenure that was crucial to getting China and India to reduce their emissions.

Brangham then added: "But President Trump, who has mocked the idea of climate change, has long maintained the agreement was a bad one -- that would stunt America's economic growth. So let's look at the consequences of this decision."

After introducing his guest as a figure who helped the Obama administration negotiate the Paris agreement, Brangham started the interview by posing:

President Trump said a year ago that he was going to do this standing in front of the White House. He has spent much of his presidency defanging President Obama's rules that curbed emissions from U.S. sources, so how big of a deal is it that President Trump made this next formal step yesterday and said we're really out?

The show's liberal guest not surprisingly responded by condemning President Trump's decision:

Well, look, I think it's a big deal. Maybe I just give you one backward-looking comment which is that it was crazy for the President to do -- for President Trump to do this, right? This was the agreement that we negotiated -- was an excellent agreement for everybody, particularly for the United States. We got just about everything we wanted in this agreement.

The PBS host suggested that nations that plan to adhere to the agreement are "enlightened" as he followed up:

China and India separate -- even the other so-called enlightened nations who say that they are still in the Paris Accord - they are not even meeting their agreements necessarily -- their commitments to cut emissions -- so given that, where do you get this sense of optimism that I do hear in your voice that we will rise to this challenge?

Stern soon gave the latest version of a time limit by which time the U.S. must achieve a reduction in emissions to avoid future disaster:

The U.S. and the world can do what we need to do. We have a huge task to get to essentially something like net zero carbon by 2050....Right now, the world gets 80 percent of its primary energy from fossil fuels. ... It's a huge task which has to get under way. It is under way to some extent now, but it's got to move much more quickly. The thing about climate change now is directional progress is not enough. Speed and scale is everything -- that's just the reality.

Nearing the end of the segment, Stern pined for a new president: "There's one ingredient that's missing, and that's the adequate political will around the world, and that's the most important thing. I think if we got a new President committed to this issue in the job, that would make a big difference, but, I mean, it's a complicated problem."

Below is a transcript of relevant portions of the Tuesday, November 5, PBS NewsHour:

PBS NewsHour
November 5, 2019
7:22 p.m. Eastern

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: The timing is lost on no one. The President notified the rest of the world again yesterday that, a year from now, the day after the 2020 elections, the U.S. will formally withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. That's the voluntary global accord signed in 2015 by nearly 200 nations to cut greenhouse gases to slow the warming of our planet. The U.S. is the second largest carbon emitter in the world behind China. In fact, it was American diplomacy negotiated during President Barack Obama's tenure that was crucial to getting China and India to reduce their emissions. But President Trump, who has mocked the idea of climate change, has long maintained the agreement was a bad one -- that would stunt America's economic growth. So let's look at the consequences of this decision. Todd Stern was the chief climate negotiator for President Obama. He's now a senior fellow at the World Resources Institute and the Brookings Institution. … President Trump said a year ago that he was going to do this standing in front of the White House. He has spent much of his presidency defanging President Obama's rules that curbed emissions from U.S. sources, so how big of a deal is it that President Trump made this next formal step yesterday and said we're really out?

TODD STERN: Well, look, I think it's a big deal. Maybe I just give you one backward-looking comment which is that it was crazy for the President to do -- for President Trump to do this, right? This was the agreement that we negotiated -- was an excellent agreement for everybody, particularly for the United States. We got just about everything we wanted in this agreement.

(....)

BRANGHAM: China and India separate -- even the other so-called enlightened nations who say that they are still in the Paris Accord - they are not even meeting their agreements necessarily -- their commitments to cut emissions -- so given that, where do you get this sense of optimism that I do hear in your voice that we will rise to this challenge?

(....)

STERN: The U.S. and the world can do what we need to do. We have a huge task to get to essentially something like net zero carbon by 2050. ... Right now, the world gets 80 percent of its primary energy from fossil fuels. ... It's a huge task which has to get under way. It is under way to some extent now, but it's got to move much more quickly. The thing about climate change now is directional progress is not enough. Speed and scale is everything -- that's just the reality.

(....)

STERN: There's one ingredient that's missing, and that's the adequate political will around the world, and that's the most important thing. I think if we got a new President committed to this issue in the job, that would make a big difference, but, I mean, it's a complicated problem.

BRANGHAM: Todd Stern, former U.S. climate negotiator, thank you very much.

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