Myron Ebell

U. S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping will announce that their two countries are officially joining the Paris Climate Treaty when they meet on Saturday, 3rd September, ahead of the G-20 summit meeting in Hangzhou, China.  The South China Morning Post reported on 25th August that the announcement would occur on Friday, 2nd September, but an environmental reporter told me today that Saturday was the day.

President Obama’s action in joining the treaty without ratification by the Senate is clearly an unconstitutional usurpation of the Senate’s authority.  Article Two, Section Two, Clause Two of the U. S. Constitution states: “[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”

The U. S. State Department insisted at COP-21 in Paris last December that calling it the Paris Agreement rather than the Paris Climate Treaty would help President Obama evade the constitutional requirement of Senate ratification.  Obama Administration officials continue to insist that it is an executive agreement that only requires the President’s approval. Marlo Lewis, my CEI colleague, details why it is a treaty and not merely an executive agreement in this analysis, and Steven Groves of the Heritage Foundation makes a similar analysis here.

Negotiators at COP-21 went along with the charade that it’s not really a treaty for the United States.  However, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Secretariat considers it a treaty.  The relevant UNFCCC web page is headlined: “Paris Agreement—Status of Ratification.”  The information note prepared by the UNFCCC Legal Affairs Programme on the Entry into Force of the Paris Agreement: Legal Requirements and Implications begins: “1. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties states that ‘a treaty enters into force in such manner and upon such date as it may provide or as the negotiating States may agree’.”

Moreover, every other country considers it a treaty and is going through its normal procedures for joining a treaty.  Patrick Goodenough in CNS News reported recently that even in China, which is ruled by a Communist Party dictatorship, the government has referred the treaty to the Standing Committee of Parliament for its approval.

The fact that President Obama knows that Paris is a treaty inadvertently slipped out just this week. Valerie Richardson reported in the Washington Times that: “Speaking at a conservation summit in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, Mr. Obama said elected officials in the U.S. must continue to work on policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions after he leaves office in January. ‘It’s not going to happen if we boast about how we’re going to scrap international treaties, or have elected officials who are alone in the world in denying climate change, or put our energy and environmental policies in the hands of big polluters,’ Mr. Obama said.”

It will be a bitter irony if President Obama does indeed unilaterally commit the United States to the Paris Climate Treaty on 3rd September for it was on that day in 1783 that United States negotiators signed the Treaty of Paris officially ending the American Revolutionary War with the United Kingdom.  An official U. S. government web page includes this comment: “The three American negotiators, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay, proved themselves to be masters of the game, outmaneuvering their counterparts and clinging fiercely to the points of national interest that guaranteed a future for the United States.”

Clinging fiercely to the national interest is not really President Obama’s thing. Another difference between then and now is that the Continental Congress meeting in Annapolis ratified the Treaty of Paris on 14th January 1784.



The South China Morning Post reported on Thursday that U. S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping “are set to jointly announce their ratification” of the Paris Climate Treaty when they meet on 2nd September before the G-20 Summit.  This is curious because ratifying treaties in the United States requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate.

Here is the language from Article Two, Section Two, Clause Two of the U. S. Constitution: “[The President] shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.”

The article by Li Jing references this curious requirement: “There are still some uncertainties from the US side due to the complicated US system in ratifying such a treaty, but the announcement is still quite likely to be ready by Sept 2,” said a source, who declined to be named.

In China’s Communist Party dictatorship, ratification merely requires their Maximum Leader to say, “So be it.”

Later in the article, Li Jing again tries to explain the inscrutable U. S. methods for ratifying a treaty: “US law allows the nation to join international agreements in a number of ways, including through the authority of the president.”

Lo and behold, the President of the United States can ratify a treaty in the same way as China’s Maximum Leader.  He merely has to say the magic words, “So be it.”  And it is so.  Who knew that President Barack Obama has become our Maximum Leader, or perhaps I should say our dear Maximum Leader? 


The Democratic Party officially adopted their 2016 platform at their national convention in Philadelphia on July 25th. The energy and environment section is titled “Combat Climate Change, Build a Clean Energy Economy, and Secure Environmental Justice.” It begins with this statement: “Climate change is an urgent threat and the defining challenge of our time.”

The challenge doesn’t actually seem to be much of a challenge, because the platform claims that tackling it by producing “50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade, with half a billion solar panels installed within four years and enough renewable energy to power every home in the country” will create “millions of good-paying middle class jobs” and “save families and businesses money on their energy bills.”

“Democrats believe that carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases should be priced to reflect their negative externalities, and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and help meet our climate goals.” However, putting a price on emissions does not mean a carbon tax, which is not mentioned, although the platform does say that they “support using every tool available to reduce emissions now.” These steps include the so-called Clean Power Plan, fuel efficiency standards for automobiles and heavy-duty trucks, and higher energy efficiency standards in building codes and appliances.

As for environmental justice, Democrats “will work to expand access to cost-saving renewable energy by low-income households, create good-paying jobs in communities that have struggled with energy poverty, and oppose efforts by utilities to limit consumer choice or slow clean energy deployment.”

Although renewable energy apparently saves us money, “Democrats believe the tax code must reflect our commitment to a clean energy future by eliminating special tax breaks and subsidies for fossil fuel companies as well as defending and extending tax incentives for energy efficiency and clean energy.”

Democrats vow to prohibit oil production in the Arctic and off the Atlantic coast and to “phase down extraction of fossil fuels from our public lands,” while working “to expand the amount of renewable energy production on federal lands and waters.”

The platform pointedly mentions twice that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has called climate change a “hoax.” Trump has also promised to stop funding the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Climate Treaty. Democrats, on the other hand, “are committed to a national mobilization, and to leading a global effort to mobilize nations to address this threat on a scale not seen since World War II.” Mobilization will begin in the first 100 days of the next administration when “the President will convene a summit of the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists, and indigenous communities to chart a course to solve the climate crisis.”

In addition to supporting corporate disclosure of climate risk, “Democrats also respectfully request the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies accused of misleading shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.”

Compare and contrast this line in a speech at the Democratic National Convention last night:

“Democrats don’t alienate, isolate, exclude or demonize; and we don’t manufacture fear.”   —California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, in a speech at the Democratic National Convention, 25th July 2016,

With a few quotes from the “Web of Denial” speeches by Senate Democrats on the Senate floor two weeks ago:

“Welcome to the web of denial. Thank you to those who are working to expose it. It is a filthy thing in our democracy.”  —Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), in a speech on the Senate floor, 11th July 2016, Congressional Record, page S4952

“These front groups are paid to spin a web of denial wrapped in ideology with the aim of purposely deceiving the public about the dangers of climate change.”   —Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), in a speech on the Senate floor, 12th July 2016, Congressional Record, page S4987

“So it seems that while CEI has changed its client, it is still in the exact same business of selling lies and selling out the health and the future of ordinary Americans.”  —Senator Jeanne Shaheen, 12th July, Congressional Record, page S4989

“But this past May, William Happer was a signatory on a misleading, full-page ad in the New York Times.  The ad, placed by another thread in the web of deceit, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, attacked the reasonable efforts of New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman and a coalition of other attorneys general united for clean power who are investigating more than 100 businesses, nonprofits, and private individuals to see if they misled the public about climate change.”  —Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.), in speech on the Senate Floor, 12th July 2016, Congressional Record, page S5012


The Republican National Convention on 18th July officially adopted their 2016 party platform.  Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) chaired the platform committee; and the co-chairs were Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

Notably, the GOP platform states that the Paris Climate Treaty cannot bind the United States unless it is ratified by the Senate.  The party also demands immediate defunding of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in accordance with Public Law 103-236.  It opposes a carbon tax and subsidies for politically-favored types of energy.

On regulations, the platform says Republicans will prohibit EPA from regulating carbon dioxide and repeal the “Clean Power” Plan.  It also vows to block the hydraulic fracturing rules, end the misuse of the Endangered Species Act to stop resource production, and reform the National Environmental Policy Act permitting process.

Perhaps most interestingly, the Republican Party now officially supports dismantling the Environmental Protection Agency: “We propose to shift responsibility for environmental regulation to the states and to transform the EPA into an independent bipartisan commission, similar to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, with structural safeguards against politicized science.”  In addition: “ We will strictly limit congressional delegation of rule-making authority, and require that citizens be compensated for regulatory takings.”

On energy production, the platform contrasts its support for more domestic production of all types of energy (that don’t require subsidies) with the Democrats’ call to “keep it in the ground.”  It states that the “Democratic Party’s campaign to smother the U. S. energy industry takes many forms, but the permitting process may be its most dangerous weapon.”  Permitting delays for oil and gas production on federal lands are cited as the prime example.

Further in regard to federal lands, for the first time, the Republican Party supports transferring federal lands (which comprise over 640 million acres or nearly 30% of the country) to the states.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that President Rodrigo Duterte announced on 18th July that the Philippines would not ratify the Paris Climate Treaty.  According to the story by Marlon Ramos, “the president said a foreign ambassador recently reminded him of the country’s commitment to limit its carbon emissions.”  Duterte continued that he was angry and wanted to kick the ambassador.

President Duterte explained why: “We have not reached the age of industrialization. We’re now going into it. But you are trying to stymie [our growth] with an agreement that says you can only go up to here.  That’s stupid. I will not honor that.”

He continued: “Now that we’re developing, you will impose a limit?  That’s absurd.  That’s how very competitive and constricted our lives [are] now.  It’s being controlled by the world, it’s being imposed upon us by the industrialized countries. They think that they can dictate the destiny of the rest of the [world].”

The Philippines’ Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Treaty is to reduce emissions by up to 70% by 2030.  That commitment was made by the previous administration, which also approved building 29 new coal-fired power plants over the next decade.  Duterte was elected president on 9th May 2016 by an overwhelming majority and took office on 30th June.

Fifteen Republican state attorneys general led by West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey sent a letter to House and Senate leadership on 11th July that calls on Congress to eliminate “burdensome and illegal regulations by strengthening the Administrative Procedure Act (APA).”  The letter received very little attention in the press when it was sent, but on 19th July there was an article in the West Virginia Record and another by Michael Bastasch in the Daily Caller.

The first paragraph summarizes the AG’s objections to federal regulatory overreach:

“As the chief legal officers of our States, we are concerned about the mounting costs that unlawful federal regulations—advanced in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act—impose on citizens, businesses, and state and local governments.  With seemingly increasing frequency, federal agencies are: (1) issuing guidance documents as a way to circumvent the notice and comment process; (2) regulating without statutory authority; (3) failing to consider regulatory costs; and (4) failing to fully consider the effect of their regulations on States and state law.”

The letter continues with a summary of their request:

“We are encouraged that the U. S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate recently have considered legislation directed toward resolving some of these concerns.  We write today to urge Congress to go further and take concrete action to ensure that federal agencies are in fact providing opportunity for notice and comment for all binding agency requirements, acting within their delegated authority, and always rigorously assessing the costs of their regulations.”

The letter notes that guidance documents, interpretive rules, and policy statements are not subject to the APA because in theory they are not binding.  But in practice, many of these quasi-rules are binding.  Wayne Crews, my CEI colleague, wrote a significant study, Mapping Washington’s Lawlessness, published last December that catalogues the extent of these binding non-rules.  And here is a recent interview with Wayne on what he has named “regulatory dark matter.”

Breaking news: At a meeting of the Liberal Party’s Members of Parliament today, Malcolm Turnbull was turned out as Leader and replaced by Tony Abbott on a 42 to 41 vote.  Abbott then immediately called for a vote of his colleagues on the Labour Government’s cap-and-trade bill to ration energy and raise energy prices.  The vote was 54 to 29 against.

A number of Liberal Members have risked their careers to stop cap-and-trade, including Cory Bernardi and Nick Minchin as well as Tony Abbott.  They should all be honored for their courageous stand.

Toppling Turnbull was a necessary step, but it isn’t the end of the story.   It is likely that the Senate will now defeat the cap-and-trade bill for the second time.  However, a few disgruntled Turnbullite Liberal Senators could provide the votes needed to pass it.  If it is defeated, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd could then call a general election of both the House and Senate.  So the fight is still to be won or lost.

The Socialist International’s Commission for a Sustainable World Society has sent an interesting account of their recent meeting and release of their report, “From a high carbon economy to a low carbon society.” As revealed by Steve Milloy earlier this year, Carol Browner, former Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Clinton Administration and now President Barack Obama’s “climate czar,” is a long-time member of Socialist International . Here’s what Socialist International said about their meeting held at the UN in September:

“Holding its second yearly meeting in conjunction with the opening of the general debate of the General Assembly at the United Nations, the Presidium of the Socialist International, together with a number of Heads of State and Government, Heads of international institutions, and the members of the SI Commission for a Sustainable World Society and the SI Commission on Global Financial Issues, met at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on September 23 to address two of the major issues on the international agenda today: Climate Change and The Global Financial Crisis.

“Amongst the Heads of State or Government and Ministers joining Presidium members at the meeting were Tarja Halonen, President of Finland; Jalal Talabani, President of Iraq; Toomas H. Ilves, President of Estonia; Alvaro Colom, President of Guatemala; Boris Tadic, President of Serbia; Navim Ramgoolam, Prime Minister of Mauritius; Laurent Gbagbo, President of Cote d’Ivoire; Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Home Affairs Minister of South Africa, Mohamed El Yazghi, Minister of State from Morocco; Maged George, Environment Minister of Egypt; Marco Hausiku, Foreign Minister of Namibia and Abdelwaheb Abdallah, Foreign Minister of Tunisia.

“Also taking part, as guests, were Juan Somavía, Director-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO); Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); José Miguel Insulza, Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and Alicia Bárcena, Director of the UN’s Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC)….

“…[The] Report was introduced by Commission Co-Chair Ricardo Lagos, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Climate Change and former President of Chile. Commission members Sergei Mironov, Chairman of the Council of the Russian Federation and Chair of the Just Russia Party; Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister; Beatriz Paredes, President of the Institutional Revolutionary Party of Mexico, and Mohamed El Yazghi, Moroccan Minister of State, added to the presentation of the Report….”

I guess Browner was too busy implementing many of the report’s recommendations to make it to the meeting.

Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) published a curious op-ed in Sunday’s New York Times titled, “Yes We Can (Pass Climate Legislation).”  The bill that they claim to support and that can pass the Senate is not the 821-page draft bill that Senators Kerry and Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) released two weeks ago.  It is a fantasy designed to get the support of Senator Graham and other fuzzy-minded Senators with visions of lots of new nuclear plants, billions for technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants, less dependence on imported oil, and tariffs to protect American manufacturing jobs in energy-intensive industries.  We can have it all with a few waves of the federal government’s magic wand.

But even a glance at their article shows how little substance there is to any of these promises.   No new nuclear power plants will be built unless there is somewhere to store the waste.  Here’s what Kerry and Graham say about that: “We must also do more to encourage serious investment in research and development to find solutions to our nuclear waste problem.”  In other words, not finish the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada that the federal government has already spent billions on, but which Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Obama oppose.  Carbon capture and storage technology is more than a decade away from being commercially available.  Even if it works and is affordable, environmental pressure groups will sue to block permits for the pipelines and underground storage sites necessary to transport and store the pressurized carbon dioxide.  Here’s what Kerry and Graham say: “…we need to provide new financial incentives for companies to develop carbon capture and sequestration technology. “  Not a word about limiting lawsuits that would block projects.

Kerry and Graham support a border tax to protect American jobs from products produced in countries that don’t commit to reducing their emissions.  That is an admission that energy prices are going to go up and so are the prices of goods and services that are produced with or use energy.  Consumers will be poorer as a result and hence will be able to afford fewer goods and services.  Bye-bye manufacturing jobs.  They also claim that their as-yet-to-be-written bill will reduce our imports of foreign oil.  That’s plausible, but not exactly correct.  As our economy declines, we will need less oil.  But it will reduce U. S. and Canadian production first because the production costs are much higher here than in Saudi Arabia.