The Profound Political Illegitimacy of Obama’s Climate “Deal” with China

by William Yeatman on November 14, 2014

in Blog

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Three days ago, the President reached a much ballyhooed “deal” with China to mitigate climate change. In a recent post, my colleague Myron Ebell explained that the agreement is non-binding and therefore empty. Another colleague of mine, Chris Horner, had a more pessimistic take: He argues that the President is trying to establish precedential “customary international law.” Regardless whether the agreement has teeth, it enjoys zero political legitimacy, as is demonstrated by the brief timeline below:

  • 2012: President Obama ran to the right of Mitt Romney on energy policy during the 2012 election. In so doing, the President took great pains to avoid mentioning climate change.
  • November 2014: Environmentalists spend an unprecedented sum to make climate change a major issue in the midterm elections. However, upon realizing that voters simply don’t care about climate change, the greens shifted tactics and instead spent their money on run of the mill attack ads. They still lost.

To recap: Polling data and election results demonstrate clearly that American voters give ultra-low priority to climate change. This explains why opposition to cap-and-trade in the Congress is healthily bipartisan. It also explains why Obama dodged the issue of climate change in 2012. And it explains why environmental special interest had to shelve climate change as an issue in the 2014 midterm elections, even though they desperately wanted to harp about it. Finally, the absence of a popular mandate explains why the President’s climate “deal” with China is flavored so authoritarian: According to the White House, the “deal”—which, as described by various editorial boards is “landmark” international diplomacy—does not require congressional approval, because it is based on executive actions that he’s taking without congressional approval. It’s a closed loop of executive power!

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