It’s a myth Obama wants the U.S. alone to stop climate change?

DNC-logo-on_white-sq-250“Myth: President Obama wants the United States to stop climate change alone.”

—The Democratic National Committee, December 2014 on its “Your Republican Uncle” website

 

Overview

The DNC identifies a myth nobody’s spreading and offers a dubious example of President Obama’s actions to cut carbon emissions

The Facts

The Democratic National Committee bills its “Your Republican Uncle” website as a place that provides the perfect answer for myths spread by Democrats’ Republican relatives. In December 2014, the DNC added a new supposed myth to its section on climate change, saying it’s a myth that President Barack Obama wants the United States, by itself, to stop climate change.

The DNC offers evidence intended to support its claim that Obama does not plan for the United States to stop climate change single-handed:

This summer President Obama announced a plan to reduce U.S. carbon pollution 25% from 2005 levels by 2020. But he also knows that climate change can only be solved if the international community works together. That’s why this November, the President announced a groundbreaking agreement to work with China to reduce carbon pollution and to increase the country’s non-fossil fuel energy to around 20% by 2030.

 

We’ll look for the identity of those spreading the would-be myth and assess the expected impact of the China deal on carbon pollution.

Analysis

Spreaders of the Myth

How on earth did Republican uncles get the idea that Obama wants the United States to go it alone in ending climate change? Who spread that idea around?

We couldn’t find anyone responsible. The idea that the United States can’t stop climate change alone comes up pretty often. And Republicans have criticized arrangements they say would put the U.S. economy at a disadvantage compared to other nations. But we failed to find any Republican or conservative claiming Obama wants the United States alone to stop climate change.

If it’s true no Republican or conservative made that claim, then the DNC is using its Your Republican Uncle site to create a straw man argument. The straw man fallacy consists of changing an opponent’s argument to make it easier to attack.

The Deal with ChinaGuardian graph china usa carbon emissions

The DNC uses the November 2014 agreement Obama struck with China as an example of reducing carbon emissions. Under the deal, the United States reduces its carbon emissions 25 percent from 2005 levels by 2025. China, for its part, must cap its carbon emissions by 2030 and increase to 20 percent the share of its energy generated by means other than fossil fuels such as coal.

The deal with China, assuming both sides meet its terms, does not produce a net decrease in carbon emissions. Instead, it reduces carbon emissions from the levels expected in the absence of the agreement. The accompanying graph from the Guardian helps make that clear.

Summary

Is it a myth that Obama wants the United States to stop global warming by itself? Yes, but it’s a myth that nobody seems to have bothered to spread. To prove that Obama wants other nations to take part in lowering carbon emissions, the DNC uses the president’s deal with China from late 2014. That deal may lower the expected increase in carbon emissions, but it will not create a net decrease from current levels of carbon emissions.

“Myth: President Obama wants the United States to stop climate change alone.”

True Statement icon Straw Man

Yes it’s a myth, but it’s not likely anyone, including Republican uncles, is spreading it.

“(T)he President announced a groundbreaking agreement to work with China to reduce carbon pollution and to increase the country’s non-fossil fuel energy to around 20% by 2030.”

True Statement icon Minimal Charitable Interpretation icon FallacyIcon Ambiguity

The agreement with China may slow the increase in carbon pollution, but it will not reduce carbon pollution. At best, it reduces carbon pollution relative to the increases expected without the agreement. The latter view represents a charitable interpretation, allowing us to rule the statement true given the caveat that a fallacy of ambiguity results. The DNC’s wording may easily mislead people into wrongly thinking the agreement with China will do more than slow the increase in carbon emissions.

The real debate between Republicans and Democrats centers around the wisdom of the United States taking the lead in acting to cut carbon emissions. Republicans argue such actions place the United States at a competitive disadvantage.

 

References

The Democrat’s Guide to Talking Politics with Your Republican Uncle.” Your Republican Uncle. Democratic National Committee, Dec. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.

The Democrat’s Guide to Talking Politics with Your Republican Uncle.” Your Republican Uncle. Democratic National Committee, Dec. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.

Nuccitelli, Dana. “Fact Check: China Pledged Bigger Climate Action than the USA; Republican Leaders Wrong.” Guardian.com. Guardian News and Media Limited, 14 Nov. 2014. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.

Weissmann, Jordan. “Why the U.S. Alone Can’t Stop Climate Change (in 2 Graphs).” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 20 Nov. 2012. Web. 18 Mar. 2015.

Yip, Arthur. “US-China Climate Deal Underscores Need for Substantial Energy Innovation.” The Breakthrough Institute. The Breakthrough Institute, 09 Dec. 2014. Web. 19 Mar. 2015.

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