Commentary Magazine


Topic: carbon emissions

Obama’s Lawless, Heartless Climate Treaty

Can President Obama force through a new international climate change treaty without a vote in the Senate, as the Constitution requires? The administration thinks it can. But while conservatives will correctly cry foul about this deceit, liberals should be just as angry about the way the terms of this lawless proposed pact hurts poor Third World nations.

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Can President Obama force through a new international climate change treaty without a vote in the Senate, as the Constitution requires? The administration thinks it can. But while conservatives will correctly cry foul about this deceit, liberals should be just as angry about the way the terms of this lawless proposed pact hurts poor Third World nations.

As the New York Times reports, the administration is so determined to forge a new deal with other countries to limit carbon emissions that it is prepared to ignore the Senate, even though the Constitution clearly states that any treaty must be approved by a two-thirds vote in the U.S. Senate. Their solution is to sign what they are calling a “politically binding” rather than “legally binding” pact whose purpose will be to strong-arm countries into curbing economic development to conform with the belief that this is harming the planet. Nations will be required to enact climate change laws while pledging to observe “voluntary” emissions cuts while also funneling money to compensate poor nations whose attempts to create economic development will be halted by the climate change craze.

Both the administration and some of its European partners in this scheme believe they can get away with this sleight of hand by concocting a document that combines a restatement of existing U.S. treaty commitments dating from 1992 with new, supposedly voluntary pledges. This will, they think, allow them to evade U.S. law and commit the U.S. to an international accord without the benefit of congressional approval.

As one advocate of the plan told the Times, this is a tactic involving “legal and political magic.” A more honest way of evaluating it would be to say that it is a barefaced attempt to circumvent the Constitution and allow the president to govern by fiat rather than benefit of law.

While Republicans have been rightly grousing about the way the president used his power to act via executive orders on domestic issues, when it comes to climate change he had the authority to do so because of court rulings that allowed the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate carbon emissions without congressional oversight. But this is something very different and far more dangerous. By seeking to negotiate and sign a treaty with foreign powers without submitting these agreements for Senate approval, President Obama is deliberately flouting the law. The talk about the “voluntary” nature of the provisions of the treaty—a dubious description due to the economic leverage that the great powers would have over small countries under this international emissions regime—is nothing more than a transparent legal evasion.

While initiating a lawsuit to stop this treaty may be tricky because it won’t be clear who will have legal standing to challenge the deal, it is to be hoped that the courts will take a dim view of this sort of one-man rule. While the president may say he has no choice but to act on his own because of congressional opposition, this is exactly the sort of reasoning used by dictators to justify their doing away with democratic norms. Whether you agree with Obama on environmental issues or not, all Americans should be worried about an administration that believes that its belief in the urgency of an issue ought to allow it to trample the law in such a shameless manner.

The threat posed to the Constitution and the rule of law by the president’s tactics ought to be enough to generate bipartisan opposition to his power grab. But that isn’t the only reason to cry foul about this treaty. The treatment of poor Third World nations by this treaty is atrocious and its remedy for the devastating impact the emission cuts will have on these nations is as bad if not worse than the problem it claims to be solving.

On the one hand, some of the poorer nations are complaining that a treaty that is not legally binding will not force richer countries to send them aid to build dams and levees to protect against the coastal flooding that warming activists claim will happen sooner or later. But they also worry about the willingness of the wealthy West to enact international treaties that may ultimately prevent them from using carbon to develop their own economies.

Even worse is the fact that the money funneled to the Third World by Obama’s plan will be simply transferred to the nations rather than being targeted to solve particular problems with safeguards to prevent corruption. Suffice it to say that this more or less guarantees that any money that does get transferred to these poor nations will go straight into the pockets and the Swiss bank accounts of public officials there rather than helping the poor deal with the impact of climate change.

In short, this treaty combines all the evils of Obama’s international outlook in one neat package. It both violates American law and seeks to subordinate the interests and the economy of the United States while at the same time pursuing a liberal aid agenda that will worsen the problems of the Third World rather than improving them.

While some of the rhetoric from the right about Obama’s attempt to govern by executive orders may seem over the top at times, this is one instance in which the talk of monarchical instincts is not overblown. Treaties must be ratified by the Senate, not forced down the throat of the nation via “legal magic.” Anyone who sees Senator Mitch McConnell’s threats to obstruct this one-man presidency should he become majority leader next year as evidence of extremism need only consider Obama’s methods on this issue to realize how high the stakes involved in this issue may be. Those liberals who excuse this lawbreaking on grounds of necessity should ask themselves whether they could stomach a conservative president playing the same game.

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Sacrifices on the Altar of Obama’s Vanity

By ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to enact sweeping new regulations that will transform the U.S. economy by essentially putting hundreds of coal-fired power plants on the road to extinction, President Obama is finally making good on his famous campaign promise that his election would signal “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” The goal of the new regulations that bypass Congress is to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. But in order to do that, hundreds of the more than 600 coal-burning plants will have to close. Though it is impossible to say with any certainty how much damage this will do to the U.S. economy, what Obama is doing with a stroke of a pen will turn the energy industry upside down, send energy prices skyrocketing, and likely send those regions of the country that are dependent on either the coal industry or the plants that use the stuff into crisis.

Though EPA chief Gina McCarthy claimed that the move would actually help the economy and emphasized the plan’s flexibility, that’s the sort of usual empty “green jobs” rhetoric that no one, even on the left, believes anymore. While the more the president wraps himself and his party in the environmentalist flag the better his liberal base and young voters–who have been indoctrinated in the catechism of global warming throughout their education–will feel, Democrats will pay a price for this piece of ideological governance. Embattled red state incumbents may seek to distance themselves from the president, as will Democrat Senate challengers like Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes. But the White House clearly regards Grimes and others like her as falling into the same category as the large numbers of jobs that will be lost by this decision. They are acceptable collateral damage that can be lived with because the main goal here is to burnish the president’s legacy as a leader who took serious steps to stop the warming of the planet.

Liberals are celebrating the decision both for its supposed benefits on climate change and for the sheer exercise of executive power to achieve liberal ends, but even one of the president’s leading cheerleaders admitted that what happened today won’t really do much to fix the environment. As the New York Times reports:

On Monday, Mr. Obama is bypassing Congress and taking one of the biggest steps any American president has ever taken on climate change, proposing new rules to cut emissions at power plants. Yet, by itself, the president’s plan will barely nudge the global emissions that scientists say are threatening the welfare of future generations.

In other words, all the pain that the EPA will cause won’t actually save a single cute polar bear, keep an Arctic ice flow from melting or those pesky oceans from rising, assuming you believe all of the alarmist claims at the heart of the new warming orthodoxy. What, then, is this all about? The answer lies in the gargantuan conceit of the man in the Oval Office.

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By ordering the Environmental Protection Agency to enact sweeping new regulations that will transform the U.S. economy by essentially putting hundreds of coal-fired power plants on the road to extinction, President Obama is finally making good on his famous campaign promise that his election would signal “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal.” The goal of the new regulations that bypass Congress is to reduce power plant carbon emissions by 30 percent by the year 2030. But in order to do that, hundreds of the more than 600 coal-burning plants will have to close. Though it is impossible to say with any certainty how much damage this will do to the U.S. economy, what Obama is doing with a stroke of a pen will turn the energy industry upside down, send energy prices skyrocketing, and likely send those regions of the country that are dependent on either the coal industry or the plants that use the stuff into crisis.

Though EPA chief Gina McCarthy claimed that the move would actually help the economy and emphasized the plan’s flexibility, that’s the sort of usual empty “green jobs” rhetoric that no one, even on the left, believes anymore. While the more the president wraps himself and his party in the environmentalist flag the better his liberal base and young voters–who have been indoctrinated in the catechism of global warming throughout their education–will feel, Democrats will pay a price for this piece of ideological governance. Embattled red state incumbents may seek to distance themselves from the president, as will Democrat Senate challengers like Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes. But the White House clearly regards Grimes and others like her as falling into the same category as the large numbers of jobs that will be lost by this decision. They are acceptable collateral damage that can be lived with because the main goal here is to burnish the president’s legacy as a leader who took serious steps to stop the warming of the planet.

Liberals are celebrating the decision both for its supposed benefits on climate change and for the sheer exercise of executive power to achieve liberal ends, but even one of the president’s leading cheerleaders admitted that what happened today won’t really do much to fix the environment. As the New York Times reports:

On Monday, Mr. Obama is bypassing Congress and taking one of the biggest steps any American president has ever taken on climate change, proposing new rules to cut emissions at power plants. Yet, by itself, the president’s plan will barely nudge the global emissions that scientists say are threatening the welfare of future generations.

In other words, all the pain that the EPA will cause won’t actually save a single cute polar bear, keep an Arctic ice flow from melting or those pesky oceans from rising, assuming you believe all of the alarmist claims at the heart of the new warming orthodoxy. What, then, is this all about? The answer lies in the gargantuan conceit of the man in the Oval Office.

The official explanation for the gap between the president’s rhetoric and the actual impact of the EPA’s dictates is that what the president wants is to start moving the country in “the right direction.” That’s a sobering thought if you consider that what is happening here is a massive government intervention in the private sector to achieve an ideological rather than an economic goal. Anyone inclined to accept the EPA’s new role riding roughshod over both Congress and the economic interests of the country should think long and hard about the prospect that this is merely the first of a new series of rulings from Washington that could hamstring any hopes of a real recovery in the coming years.

More than that, though, is the fact that what Obama really wants here is to show the international community that he means business about restricting the ability of America to do business. The real audience for this spectacle isn’t so much in blue states where any bow in the direction of environmentalism is applauded as it is abroad where other nations are watching to see if the U.S. is really going to walk the walk on climate change rules that could do damage to the American economy. The president wants the Chinese to see that the U.S. will handicap its own industries in order to set a good example for the Communist nation that almost certainly will do little if anything to cap their own growing carbon emissions.

Why would the U.S. hurt itself merely to take the high ground in negotiations with the Chinese and other developing countries even when the move will do very little to solve the climate problem?

President Obama has sorely missed the international adulation that greeted his election in 2008 but which quickly evaporated when most of his foreign fans began to rightly perceive him as nothing more than a left-leaning garden variety U.S. politician rather than the revolutionary figure they applauded. Obama’s various foreign-policy initiatives have largely failed to garner much interest, let alone cheers, abroad. But by recapturing that moment when perhaps many on the left actually believed his boast about turning back the oceans, he hopes to reestablish himself as the prince of hope and change.

Seen in that light, the large numbers of Americans who will be the losers in this exchange are nothing more than human offerings on the altar of Obama’s vanity. He may not heal the planet or even save his party’s chances in the midterm elections as he slides inevitably into lame-duck status. But as long as he can pose as a new messiah, there is no limit to the number of friends, foes, and innocent bystanders that he will sacrifice.

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The Casualties of Obama’s War on Coal

This week President Obama is expected to announce new regulations on carbon emissions that will have a potentially devastating impact on America’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants. The move was made possible by Supreme Court decisions that ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had the right to regulate such emissions, giving the president virtual carte blanche to remake this sector of our economy without requiring congressional consent. As the New York Times reports today, this decision is being closely watched abroad as governments look to see whether the U.S. is setting a good example for other nations, such as China, whose economies are driven by coal and which do far more polluting of the atmosphere than America does.

Yet the Chinese aren’t the only ones following this issue. The president has already signaled that addressing climate change was one of the priorities of his second term as well as making it clear that he was eager to move ahead and govern by executive order rather than via the normal constitutional process that involves the legislative branch. As such, the White House rightly anticipates that this broadside aimed at the coal industry will be intensely popular with Obama’s core constituencies on the left as well as the liberal mainstream media. But while leading Democratic donors such as Tom Steyer will be cheering a measure that fits his ideological agenda, not everybody in the Democratic Party is going to be happy with what amounts to a new Obama war on coal. In particular, the Democrats’ brightest hope for stealing a Republican-controlled Senate seat this fall—Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes—may wind up paying a fearful price for Obama’s decision.

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This week President Obama is expected to announce new regulations on carbon emissions that will have a potentially devastating impact on America’s more than 600 coal-fired power plants. The move was made possible by Supreme Court decisions that ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency had the right to regulate such emissions, giving the president virtual carte blanche to remake this sector of our economy without requiring congressional consent. As the New York Times reports today, this decision is being closely watched abroad as governments look to see whether the U.S. is setting a good example for other nations, such as China, whose economies are driven by coal and which do far more polluting of the atmosphere than America does.

Yet the Chinese aren’t the only ones following this issue. The president has already signaled that addressing climate change was one of the priorities of his second term as well as making it clear that he was eager to move ahead and govern by executive order rather than via the normal constitutional process that involves the legislative branch. As such, the White House rightly anticipates that this broadside aimed at the coal industry will be intensely popular with Obama’s core constituencies on the left as well as the liberal mainstream media. But while leading Democratic donors such as Tom Steyer will be cheering a measure that fits his ideological agenda, not everybody in the Democratic Party is going to be happy with what amounts to a new Obama war on coal. In particular, the Democrats’ brightest hope for stealing a Republican-controlled Senate seat this fall—Kentucky’s Alison Lundergan Grimes—may wind up paying a fearful price for Obama’s decision.

As the Times notes, the conundrum of America’s extremist environmentalist lobby lies in the fact that the U.S. is actually doing relatively little of the carbon damage that they believe is fueling global warming. The vast majority of the increase in emissions comes from developing economies around the globe, especially in places like China. While resistance to the sort of tough restrictions on carbon that environmentalists lust for is strong in nations that produce fossil-based fuels, the Chinese believe that the West should pay the steep economic price involved in such schemes while they and other developing nations are allowed to burn all the coal they want. By making his ruling, Obama won’t just be harming the U.S. economy. By setting a good example, Washington thinks their going first will somehow persuade the Chinese to follow suit.

This is highly unlikely. Though it pays lip service to global warming theories, China’s top priority is building their economy. Meanwhile, nations such as Russia are not shy about stating their unwillingness to stop burning coal. But by taking what he believes is the high road with respect to the environment, the president will be fulfilling not only the promises made to his domestic liberal constituencies but also behaving in a manner that is consistent with his belief in multilateral foreign policy.

But back at home this high-minded environmentalism may not play as well as he thinks. Many Americans fear that Obama will damage their economy while doing nothing to alter the warming equation that is being decided elsewhere. Though the media has followed the White House playbook in emphasizing any report that hypes the threat from global warming while downplaying any development that undermines this thesis, the public has demonstrated repeatedly that this issue is not a priority, especially when compared to their concerns about the economy and jobs. And this is exactly what the president’s orders will affect most grievously.

Among the biggest losers will be regions where the coal industry is a mainstay of the economy. Unfortunately for the Democrats, the best example of such a state is Kentucky, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell remains the country’s most endangered Republican in an election cycle that should otherwise be quite favorable to the GOP. McConnell has been working hard to tie Grimes to Obama, a charge that she has steadfastly rejected. But the president’s regulatory war on coal will be a body blow to Grimes’s attempt to argue that it will be her and not Obama who will be on the ballot this November. Grimes smartly opposes the administration’s environmentalist stands with respect to coal, but the new orders will escalate the struggle to a point where it could play a crucial role in the midterms. Grimes has sought to make McConnell the main issue in the contest, something that is not to the advantage of the dour minority leader and longtime incumbent. But if the key issue is defense of Kentucky’s coal industry against the White House, it will be difficult for the Democrat to assert that she will be in a better position to resist this assault than the man who may be the majority leader of the upper body next January. In a contest to see who can be most hostile to Obama, the GOP has the edge over even the most independent Democrat.

The war on coal is exactly the ticket to fire up the president’s coastal elite base as well as very much what the international community wants. But it could be the death knell for Grimes’s Senate hopes. If that race makes the difference in deciding control of the Senate, it could be that global warming will be the issue that pushes Obama from a weak-second term incumbent to dead-in-the-water lame duck.

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RE: The Free Market is Crushing CO2 Emissions

As an addendum to Abe’s excellent post, it would be interesting  to see a poll that asked people where American CO2 emissions are today relative to where they were when Bill Clinton was elected president. I’m confident that most people would think they are higher or much higher, when in fact they are about the same, thanks to a steep fall beginning in 2007. Good environmental news, especially if it’s due to the free market instead of bureaucrats, just doesn’t fit the narrative. The New York Times, for instance, did not see fit to print this story.

But as John Hinderaker over at Powerline points out,  at least as big a problem is lousy data and the dishonest used of it by climateers and politicians.  Governor Jerry Brown of California recently said that, “Global warming’s impact on Lake Tahoe is well documented.” But it turns out that the data supporting that claim comes from just one weather station, which has measured an increase beginning about 1980. No other weather station in the area shows any increase in average temperatures, so why does this one? Because a local janitor was for years burning refuse in a barrel located only a few feet from the station and a tennis court was built not much further away in about 1980. The tennis court, of course, absorbs heat all day long and then slowly emits it all night. You can find pictures and charts here.

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As an addendum to Abe’s excellent post, it would be interesting  to see a poll that asked people where American CO2 emissions are today relative to where they were when Bill Clinton was elected president. I’m confident that most people would think they are higher or much higher, when in fact they are about the same, thanks to a steep fall beginning in 2007. Good environmental news, especially if it’s due to the free market instead of bureaucrats, just doesn’t fit the narrative. The New York Times, for instance, did not see fit to print this story.

But as John Hinderaker over at Powerline points out,  at least as big a problem is lousy data and the dishonest used of it by climateers and politicians.  Governor Jerry Brown of California recently said that, “Global warming’s impact on Lake Tahoe is well documented.” But it turns out that the data supporting that claim comes from just one weather station, which has measured an increase beginning about 1980. No other weather station in the area shows any increase in average temperatures, so why does this one? Because a local janitor was for years burning refuse in a barrel located only a few feet from the station and a tennis court was built not much further away in about 1980. The tennis court, of course, absorbs heat all day long and then slowly emits it all night. You can find pictures and charts here.

As American cities have grown, they have often engulfed weather stations, subjecting them in the urban heat island effect in the process. What was a potato field in 1925 is today a parking lot outside a strip mall. This is not taken into account. Also, hundreds of the weather stations no longer conform to NOAA standards, such as avoiding local conditions that might affect the data they collect, such as nearby asphalt surfaces and air conditioning exhaust fans.

If the Republicans win in November, they would do the country a big favor by requiring NOAA to bring its vast network of weather stations into conformity with its own standards for collecting good data.

 

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