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Lost in Paris

Since all the news channels are full of the discussion of Donald Trump’s removal of the United States from the Paris Accord, I decided to research the economics of this action. Now, I have been researching this and that in the academic world and the courts of major litigation since 1962. I have been up and down the mountain.
At this point I think I may have made a mistake. I have never witnessed a topic that has generated more heat and less light than this one. Everyone in the media seems to have a strong opinion on this issue.
Donald Trump has said that leaving the Paris Accord will increase American jobs and decrease the cost of living for middle class Americans. The Washington Post disagrees with all of the above and much more. Finding Donald Trump and the Washington Post on the opposite sides of an issue is not exactly a stop the presses kind of news. As a trained researcher, I feel that I am dealing with a genuine conflict. I am on familiar ground since that is what major litigation is all about.
But this issue seems to be a little different. When attempting to find the truth in a dispute of this sort, one starts by reviewing the stipulated facts. These are the points of agreement between the parties. One starts there and moves on to examine the facts which are in contention. I just did this.
I would attach the stipulated facts to this report as an exhibit, but the page simply consists of the title Stipulated Facts at the top and the rest of the page is blank. I can not find any areas of agreement.
In fact, I wonder why they call this the Paris Accord when no one writing or speaking on the topic seems to be in accord with anyone else. They should call it the Paris Discord.
I have long ago learned that  the truth in this type of dispute is not likely to be contained in the statements of the adversaries. If attorneys are involved, the prior statement holds up, doubled and re-doubled.
Therefore I decided to go to Paris to have a look for myself. I got out my atlas and discovered that twenty-two states have a town called Paris. Now of course, there is also that place in France with the tall tin tower and lovely river. I know better than to go there looking for information. I speak French with an accent which my last college professor pronounced the most beautiful Spanish he had ever heard. I know from experience that Parisians typically respond poorly to questions asked by someone with a less than perfect accent. My prior attempts were usually met with a blank stare. My oldest sister received all her schooling prior to college in a convent school run by some nuns from Paris. She is no longer with us but all her life her favorite city to visit from her Cape Cod home was Paris. She was totally accepted there.
So I decided to begin my field research in Paris, Texas. I found the majority of the folks that I called  by phone  strongly supported Donald Trump’s position. Some of them were not too clear on the nuances of the issue, but they supported Donald anyway.
When I closely examined the areas of conflict, some reasons for trouble became immediately obvious. The first problem is that we are dealing with forecasts about the future.  At the university, I advised my students to confine themselves to forecasts one year in the future and twenty-five years in the future but nothing in between. My reasoning was that they had a reasonable shot at extrapolating current trends for a year. It would not matter what they did in the twenty-five year forecast because it is likely that it would be lost well before twenty-five years had passed.
The second problem is that we are dealing with statistics. One of my professors taught me there are lies, damn lies and statistics. The book “How to Lie with Statistics” was on all my business reading lists. My goal was not to teach my students to lie but to help them to know when they are being lied to.
So all sides in this dispute are churning out reams of data. It is difficult if not impossible to find the truffles of truth amid all the surrounding muck. Remember, we are dealing with competing visions of the future.
So I decided to back off and just look at the players. This paid off immediately. I found the Koch Brothers entirely too close to Donald Trump’s elbow. The Koch Brothers automatically taint everything they touch. They have a single-minded devotion to their own best interests. If I find myself in the same boat with the Koch Brothers, I immediately dive overboard. The Koch Brothers, in my opinion, totally tarnish Donald Trump’s reasoning on the entire global warming issue. Next I find the President of a major coal company has a key role on the Trump team.
Our national policy should not be formed on the basis of what is best for a coal company. We should not sacrifice our climate to preserve 6,000 coal industry jobs. It would be far better to retrain the coal miners and put them to work on the overhaul of our aging infrastructure.
Donald Trump prides himself as a deal maker. I am certain that he feels he can get a better deal for the United States than Kerry and Obama accomplished with the Paris Accord. Certainly the scientific evidence is overwhelming that the climate is a-changing. Withdrawal from the Paris Accord will take four years. Hopefully Donald Trump will use that time to assemble the best
scientists studying climate to devise a new protocol to deal with climate change. It would be good if  Donald Trump can utilize his great skill at deal making to develop an accord that is more favorable financially for the United States than the Paris Accord.

Perhaps the signing ceremony for the new climate change protocol could take place in Paris, Texas.

Professor Joe Launie is a Professor Emeritus of Risk Management at California State University, Northridge. His latest book is “The Road to the Ox Carts”, where he warns that continued abuse of the middle class by the government may lead to an insurrection.

1 Comment

  • Joe, this is a great article. It shows that someone who is a Conservative (I think you are but certainly not dogmatic) can have a view that rationally meets the Left in the middle. Let’s call it – being an American. Why not create a comprehensive plan to shift coal workers to another industry as coal production diminishes here to support cleaner (natural gas?) alternatives. That would be government supporting a free market change, but helping those caught in the dislocation. I’m okay with that I think. It’s very much like the reasoning behind my switch, once I researched the issues, to support for single payer health coverage. we may get slammed for this, but I like your pragmatic approach!

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About the author

Professor Joe Launie

Professor Joe Launie

In 1951, at the age of 18 I enlisted in an all volunteer military intelligence organization. My Korean war experience differed from most. I obtained a Bachelor's degree in Sociology at Northeastern University on the GI Bill. I obtained a Masters Degree in Economics, at University of Nevada, Reno and my PhD in Financial Economics at UCLA. I retired from CSUN in 2000 as a Full Professor after a 35 year career. I have been a litigation consultant since 1978 and have been a consultant to the California Legislature, Public Utilities Department, and Attorney General's Office. I was principal investigator on a study of Punitive Damages done for the Texas Public Policy Foundation headed by George W. Bush. i have more than 75 publications. My latest book is entitled, "The Road to the Ox Carts".