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A Stake Through the Heart – Trump’s View of Existing Climate Change Activities

By:
Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
Jun 20, 2017  at  at 6:25 AM
Category
Climate Change

The Trump Administration has raised a number of questions regarding the US and global efforts to limit climate change. Each of these questions must be addressed calmly, carefully, and comprehensively. The Administration must be extremely aware of potential legal challenges to its actions, even when those actions are clearly within the scope of its constitutional authority, as has been the case with the travel ban and sanctuary cities actions.

The key issues with regard to climate change are:

  • the Paris Accords, which were ratified by the previous administration without the advice and consent of the US Senate;
  • the EPA Clean Power Plan, which was issued based on a ruling by the US Supreme Court that EPA was authorized to regulate CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act;
  • the EPA Endangerment Finding which asserted that CO2 emissions represented a threat to public safety and health;
  • the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) analysis prepared by the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases;
  • the future EPA and DOE budgets in support of climate change action;
  • future US involvement in the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and,
  • future participation in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The US participation in the UNFCCC essentially underlies all of the other climate change issues. The Heritage Foundation recommended that the US withdraw from the UNFCCC in 2016. This action is within the authority of the Executive Branch. The withdrawal would become effective one year after the Administration provided notice. Withdrawal would terminate any US financial and performance obligations under the Convention.

The second obvious step was to withdraw the US from the Paris Accords. The previous Administration assured that the obligations to which it agreed in the Paris accords were non-binding, since otherwise the Paris Accords would have required the advice and consent of the US Senate, which would have been extremely unlikely to ratify the Accords as a treaty. Again, the withdrawal will become effective one year after the Administration provided notice. The withdrawal will terminate any non-binding US financial and performance obligations under the Accords.

The Administration has already issued an Executive Order to the participating agencies to disband the Interagency Working Group on Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases. One of the most crucial issues with the current SCC is that there is no recognition of the benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, although these benefits are real and might well exceed the costs, now and for the foreseeable future. The other crucial issue is that the SCC is based on modeled scenarios produced by unverified models; and, thus, the actual SCC is unknown and arguably unknowable.

The US Supreme Court has stayed the enforcement of the EPA Clean Power Plan to allow several lawsuits filed by the Attorneys General of several states (including the current EPA Administrator) to move through the courts. The Administration has determined that it will not act to defend the CPP in the ongoing proceedings.

Finally, there are a series of issues with the 2009 EPA Endangerment Finding. The Administration has not yet taken any action to rescind the Endangerment Finding, but such steps might well be crucial to achieving its overall objectives.