Trump can’t decide whether the Paris agreement is binding

And claims bogus coal job growth while he’s at it.

President Donald Trump told a crowd at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on June 21, 2017, that he kept his promise to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

President Donald Trump once again asserted that the Paris climate agreement would have cost the United States millions of lost jobs and put the country at a permanent economic disadvantage, claims that have been rebutted several times since the agreement became a major target of his presidential campaign.

“When I campaigned for president, I promised to renegotiate or leave any deal which fails to serve America’s interests. And I’m not going to allow other countries to take advantage of the United States any longer,” Trump told a crowd gathered at the U.S. Cellular Center in Cedar Rapids, Iowa on Wednesday.

Experts point out that in his arguments against the Paris agreement, Trump completely omits the severe economic toll posed by failure to act on climate change, a cost far greater than that of action. Trump also ignored the economic benefits of clean energy — a sector that is growing much faster than the economy as a whole.

Trump also stated the Paris agreement would have been a “catastrophe” for the United States in part because the goals set for each country were binding. “They all say it’s nonbinding. Like hell it’s nonbinding,” Trump said.

But once again, experts have rebutted claims that the Paris agreement would have bound the United States to particular climate goals and to take particular domestic actions — the agreement is nonbinding and each nation sets its own targets.

In fact, Trump contradicted himself on whether the Paris agreement is binding. Three weeks earlier, Trump announced the nation’s withdrawal from Paris and described the agreement as nonbinding. “As of today, the United States will cease all implementation of the nonbinding Paris Accord and the draconian financial and economic burdens the agreement imposes on our country,” Trump said June 1.

Trump emphasized that his administration will not let “foreign bureaucrats plan our economy or tell Americans how to run their country.” He recalled his campaign promise to renegotiate or leave any international agreement that fails to service America’s interests. “And I’m not going to allow other countries to take advantage of the United States any longer. And for that reason, I totally cut off negotiations” on the Paris agreement,” he said.

This time, Trump’s claims were rebutted by a member of his own administration. Last week, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told the House Appropriations Committee that withdrawal from Paris “was not a sign of disengagement… The president made that clear.” Pruitt told the lawmakers that while he was in Italy earlier this month for the G7 environment meeting, he started bilateral discussions with his environmental ministry counterparts “with respect to our continued leadership” on carbon dioxide reduction.

Over the past month, the Trump administration has consistently exaggerated the growth in coal mining jobs since the inauguration. CREDIT: AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar

Restoring the former glory of the coal industry dominated the president’s rhetoric during the presidential campaign and remains a prominent talking point for his administration. In his speech, Trump declared “we’ve ended the war on clean, beautiful coal and we’re putting our miners back to work.” He claimed “33,000 mining jobs have been added since my inauguration,” a clear reference to coal mining jobs.

Trump followed the lead of his EPA chief in overstating the growth of coal mining jobs since the start of 2017. In multiple television interviews earlier this month, Pruitt stated the coal industry has grown by 50,000 job since Trump took office.

No data exists from government or industry sources to back up the claim that the industry has seen such a dramatic surge in coal mining jobs over this time period. The coal sector reportedly has added about 1,000 jobs since October 2016. Coal could not have added 50,000 jobs in the last eight months, since that is essentially the size of the entire coal industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Atlantic reported.

An EPA spokeswoman later explained that Pruitt was referring to the mining sector, which includes more than coal jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics defines the mining sector as any business involved in the extraction of minerals like ores, coal, petroleum, and natural gas.

Trump also made a case for putting solar panels on the wall that he wants to build on the border between the United States and Mexico. “We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall so it creates energy and pays for itself,” he told the audience. “That’s one of the places that solar really does work, tremendous sun and heat… and I think we could make it look beautiful, too.”

The Financial Times looked at the economics of a solar-paneled wall on the U.S. side of the border earlier this year. The newspaper concluded it’s a “non-starter,” noting, for instance, that “less than 2 percent of the U.S. population lives within 40 miles of the Mexico border.” That means you’d need a multibillion-dollar power line, too.