THE END OF CLIMATE AUTOCRACY.
The Trump administration this week announced it would repeal the Clean Power Plan, former president Barack Obama’s signature global warming program.
The end of the Clean Power Plan — designed to reduce power plant emissions by one-third and establish the Obama administration’s climate bona fides prior to the opening of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015 — represents more than another nail in the coffin of the climate change mission. More profoundly, it is another sign that the global warming tyranny that has been compromising the rule of law is coming to a close.
The Clean Power Plan and other global warming reforms could have been legitimate, and Obama wanted them to be. But the global warming bill that he pushed in his first term — the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 — couldn’t muster the necessary votes in Congress. Following that failure — and with the public ambivalent at best about global warming representing a meaningful threat — all understood that future attempts at global warming legislation would go nowhere.
Thwarted by the legislative branch of the U. S. government, Obama then decided on one- man rule. Using his administration’s ability to enact regulations, which are meant to refine not replace legislation, he bent the law out of shape in order to do through executive actions and technical regulations what he couldn’t accomplish through legislation. So egregious was the overreach in the Clean Power Plan — the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately stayed it — that 27 states sued to stop it, and even liberal lions such as Harvard’s Laurence Tribe, a constitutional expert and Obama’s mentor, argued against it.
“I have vigorously defended the legality of President Obama’s executive actions with respect to immigration, health care, and gay rights, all of course without being paid by anyone,” Tribe told The Atlantic. “Believing that this time he and his administration unfortunately went outside the bounds of the law, I decided to speak up. It wasn’t something I did eagerly because I share the administration’s attitude toward climate change and the urgency of meaningful action on that front, but I’m not willing to keep silent when I see the rule of law threatened just because the threat comes from quarters with which I am in sympathy.”
Sweeping changes to society — and nothing could be more sweeping than global warming legislation designed to re- engineer the economy along with everyone’s lifestyles — require an unambiguous mandate to be seen as legitimate. Obama clearly did not have one. Yet, so fiercely did he adhere to his beliefs that he chose to rule more as a dictator than as a democrat in imposing a global warming agenda.
The Paris climate agreement was another disingenuous exercise designed to skirt the U. S. Constitution. This “agreement” among the signatory nations took the form of a treaty, and a highly consequential one: It purported to bind the U.S. in perpetuity to comprehensive economic and environmental changes and also required a surrender of U. S. sovereignty. But presidents don’t have the right to unilaterally impose treaties. Under the U. S. Constitution, treaties must be approved by the Senate, where they are subject to scrutiny and debate. Because Obama knew the Senate would never approve the Paris agreement, he did an end run around it and entered into this agreement through fiat.
In this, Obama had a precedent of sorts, albeit a sorry one. The landmark Kyoto Protocol of 1997, which formally bound nations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, was a treaty, not merely an agreement. The United States signed Kyoto in 1998 but it was all for show. President Bill Clinton failed to bring it to the Senate for ratification, knowing that doing so would expose the U. S. signature for the sham it was. The previous year, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution — by a vote of 95 to zero — determining that “the United States should not be a signatory to any protocol to, or other agreement regarding, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change of 1992, at negotiations in Kyoto in December 1997, or thereafter.”
Yet despite the unambiguous will of the branch of government that the Constitution unambiguously charged with the ratification of treaties, White House administrations from Clinton to Obama acted in defiance of the Senate, as if they had a mandate to act on global warming. The result of these administrations’ extravagant exercise of fiat powers was far- reaching: All the parties that depended on government funding — from government departments to corporations to universities to scientific bodies to science journals to NGOs — soon learned that their funding was dependent on toeing the government line. Skeptics were demonized as deniers and drummed out of their professions, even sued and threatened with legal action for their views. It was a tyranny from the start, and easily done, in that it was accomplished administratively with the stroke of a pen, without the laborious process required to enact legislation.
But what’s easily done can also be easily undone. Because Obama didn’t enlist Congress in creating global warming laws, Trump doesn’t need Congress to negate them. This he is doing, restoring the authority of the U.S. Constitution, and of the American people.
THWARTED BY THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH, OBAMA DECIDED ON ONE-MAN RULE.