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Post image for Is the Paris Climate Agreement a Treaty?

Is the Climate Change Agreement adopted in Paris by the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) a treaty? In other words, is it the type of international agreement to which the United States is a party only if the U.S. Senate ratifies it?

It is indeed, as this post will show.

Are the treaty’s emission-reduction and climate-finance “commitments” binding on the United States as a matter of international law? No.

From day one, Obama administration negotiators pushed to make the treaty’s core elements non-binding to encourage “participation” and “ambition.” That is, nations are more likely to participate, and promise more than they can deliver, if there are no legal consequences for broken promises.

The treaty’s emission-reduction and climate finance “commitments” might be compared to a non-binding Sense of Congress resolution, but for the fact that all Members of Congress can legitimately claim to represent people who elected them. In stark contrast, the 25,000 official delegates at COP21 do not represent peoples but rather “government, intergovernmental organisations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil society” (i.e., environmental pressure groups). Only a small minority of participating governments are full democracies.

Also from day one, the Obama administration envisioned the treaty to be “politically binding.” That’s simply an obfuscatory way of saying that once adopted at COP21, the treaty will put political pressure on governments — first and foremost U.S. leaders after 2016 — to honor the treaty’s non-binding promises.

As President Obama opined in Paris, his successor, regardless of party affiliation, will have to abide by the agreement because COP21 demonstrates that “99% of world leaders think this is really important.”

Nice try. COP21 demonstrates that political elites in developing countries want U.S. and other First World taxpayers to fork over $100 billion to $450 billion annually in wealth transfers, dubbed the “Green Climate Fund.”

COP 21 also demonstrates that political elites everywhere want to expand their power to rig energy markets and control trillions of dollars in energy-infrastructure investments — from now until 2050 and beyond.

Those are not honorable motivations, and Obama’s successor should promptly submit the treaty to the Senate for its advice and consent.

The real reason Obama insists the Paris agreement is not a treaty is obvious. Under the U.S. Constitution, the United States does not become a party to a treaty until “two thirds of Senators present” vote to ratify it (Article II, Section 2, Clause 2). There was no prospect of that happening even when Democrats held a majority of Senate seats.

What should GOP leaders do? They should pass resolutions explaining why the Paris agreement is a treaty, why the President must therefore submit the agreement to the Senate for its advice and consent, and why until ratified the treaty is no more politically-binding on the people and Congress of the United States than the long lists of never-to-be-enacted proposals in presidential state of the union speeches. The concurrent resolution introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Penn.) is exactly the kind of action needed to frame the debate.

House and Senate leaders should also use the power of the purse to block agency expenditures for activities related to the Paris treaty as long as the President works to circumvent the Constitution.

Finally, congressional leaders should continue their efforts to overturn EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan, which constitutes the largest part of the U.S. COP21 emission-reduction pledge (known in bureaucratic parlance as our Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, or INDC).

Let’s now examine why, contrary to President Obama, the Paris climate agreement is a treaty.

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Today rumors picked up speed that parties to the spending bill negotiations have reached some sort of deal, pursuant to which a relaxation of restrictions on oil exports would be traded for an extension of the wind energy industry’s primary subsidy, known as the production tax credit (“PTC”).

As the Brits say, this is a very sticky wicket indeed. For my part, I oppose trade restrictions and subsidies, so I’m pro-oil exports and anti-wind PTC. In a thoughtful post, my colleague Marlo Lewis suggests that the deal isn’t worth it, because the harm wrought by the wind PTC is amplified by its synergy with the Clean Power Plan. In his post, Marlo operated under the assumption that the alternative to the rumored deal is for nothing to happen. In this post, I want only to demonstrate that the alternative could be the worst of all worlds—that is, in the absence of a deal, we could end up with an extension of the wind PTC but without a loosening of oil export restrictions.

Here’s how it could happen. [click to continue…]

Post image for Should GOP Leaders Trade Renewal of the Wind Production Tax Credit for Repeal of the Crude Oil Export Ban?

It is widely reported (New York TimesThe HillWall Street Journal) that GOP leaders in Congress are pushing to include, in must-pass tax and spending legislation, repeal of the more than 40-year-old crude oil export ban, and that Democrat leaders are demanding in return a five- or ten-year renewal of the wind production tax credit (PTC).

I am a staunch advocate of abolishing the crude oil export ban and oppose all restrictions on energy exports.

As Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) rightly points out, banning oil exports is what we do to scofflaw regimes and wartime adversaries. The United Nations banned Iranian oil exports to punish the mullahs for developing illicit nuclear weapons technology. The U.N. also embargoed Iraqi oil exports in 1990 to punish Saddam Hussein for invading Kuwait, and restricted Iraqi oil exports until May 2003 after Saddam’s removal from power.

Why should we sanction ourselves? The crude export ban takes “we have met the enemy and he is us” self-flagellation to absurd extremes.

Nonetheless, renewing the wind PTC carries serious risks for America’s economic and political future — risks GOP leaders may not fully appreciate. [click to continue…]

Post image for House Ds Demand Fossil Energy CEOs Confess Funding “Denial and Disinformation”

Summary: Thirty-two House Democrats this week sent a letter to the CEOs of Chevron, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips, BP, Shell, and Peabody Energy posing 15 questions about the companies’ (alleged) funding of a “massive campaign of [climate] denial and disinformation.” The gist of the letter, which presumes guilt and demands confessions, is captured by the old joke question: “When did you stop beating your wife?”

In a letter sent this week to the CEOs of Chevron, BP, ExxonMobil, Shell, ConocoPhillips, and Peabody Energy, Reps. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and 30 other House Democrats ask numerous questions about the companies’ (alleged) role in funding a “massive campaign of denial and disinformation” to hide the terrible “truth” about global warming from policymakers and the public.

I reproduce the questions below and provide model answers the companies are welcome to use or adapt at their pleasure.

Q1: When did your company first become aware that using fossil fuels could result in climate change and warming of the planet?

A: The question assumes the idea of anthropogenic global warming is of recent vintage. In fact, the potential of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to warm the Earth was first estimated by Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius in 1896. English engineer Guy Callendar made more observationally-constrained estimates in his 1938 study, “The Artificial Production of Carbon Dioxide and its Influence on Temperature.” Unlike many scientists (and non-scientists) today, Callendar did not assume anthropogenic climate change is inherently dangerous:

In conclusion it may be said that the combustion of fossil fuel, whether it be peat from the surface or oil from 10,000 feet below, is likely to prove beneficial to mankind in several ways, besides the provision of heat and power. For instance the above mentioned small increases of mean temperature would be important at the northern margin of cultivation, and the growth of favourably situated plants is directly proportional to the carbon dioxide pressure (Brown and Escombe, 1905): In any case the return of the deadly glaciers should be delayed indefinitely.

Since your letter refers to recent journalistic exposés of “what Exxon knew” about climate change, we assume you’re asking what our scientists knew in the 1970s and 1980s. Our answer (h/t David Middleton) is that some of our scientists knew then what NASA scientist James Hansen knew in 1988 — that CO2 emissions would cause two-to-three times more warming than actually occurred.

Christy Hansen_1988_Predictions through 2014

 

 

 

 

 

Figure explanation. Red: Hansen’s business-as-usual (no climate policy) scenario. Orange: Hansen’s emission freeze at 1980s level scenario. Yellow: Hansen’s drastic emission-reduction scenario. Light blue: Remote Sensing System (RSS) satellite temperature record. Dark blue: University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) satellite temperature record. Although emissions increased as much as in Hansen’s BAU scenario, observed temperatures are lower than in Hansen’s drastic emission-reduction scenario. Source: John Christy

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EPA Region 6 today announced that the agency would take over Texas’s Regional Haze program under the Clean Air Act.

This is the 54th such federal takeover, or “federal implementation plan” (“FIP”), imposed by the Obama Administration. For comparison’s sake, consider that the previous three presidential administrations imposed a total of 5 Clean Air Act federal takeovers. Moreover, the EPA promulgated a final agency action last summer that threatens another 36 state programs with Clean Air Act federal takeovers, if States do not radically alter their air quality strategies to control emissions due to malfunctions and other uncontrollable events.

All told, EPA has threatened or imposed 90 federal implementation plans—or 18 times the sum of the previous three administrations. And Obama still has a year left.

O FIP FOR REAL

EPA’s 54th FIP is typically absurd. The rule was proposed on December 16, 2014, and would affect 14 power plants and cost more than $2 billion. These costs are senseless compared to the “benefits” which are literally invisible. The purpose of the rule, known as Regional Haze, is to improve the view at National Parks. After years and thousands of man hours of work, Texas officials submitted a Regional Haze compliance plan in March 2009. Texas’s plan met all of EPA’s then-current criteria for approval. Despite being required by the Clean Air Act to process Texas’s plan within two years of its submission, EPA Region 6 stalled for years, during which time it changed the criteria for approval. In this fashion, EPA ‘moved the goalposts’ on Texas. The agency sat on Texas’s submittal while it changed the rules of the game. Ultimately, EPA ruled on Texas’s plan almost three and a half years past its Clean Air Act deadline. [click to continue…]

The Sunday morning political talkies are thought to set the agenda for the news week, so it is perhaps enlightening to see what these shows said about the ongoing Paris climate talks to save the world from super-terrifying, catastrophic, runaway global warming.

  • On Meet the Press, there were 7 mentions of “Paris,” but each one was a reference to the awful terrorist attacks.
  • ABC This Week had 2 mentions of the Paris conference, but each one was only a set up to a segment on terrorism.
  • There were 6 mentions of Paris on Fox News Sunday, and all were in reference to the terrorist attacks. Also, coming out of a commercial break, producers showed a shot of Buffalo, over which Chris Wallace noted that the area was free of snow this time of year for the first time since 1899 and said “let the climate debate begin.” Then he started an interview with Ben Carson that omitted any discussion of global warming.
  • CBS Face the Nation featured 10 mentions of Paris, but all of them pertained to the terrorist attacks. Otherwise, host John Dickerson asked Bernie Sanders whether his support for a carbon tax would frighten voters*, and Trump denigrated Obama for treating global warming as America’s foremost national security threat.

Obviously, these Sunday morning talkies—whose business is to react to public opinion—did not give much attention to COP-21 in Paris. Indeed, other than providing a setup to talking about terrorism, the Paris climate confab received zero attention from all four of the network shows. Remember, earlier last week, heads of state from over 150 countries had gathered in Paris (a world record!). And, as I suggested at the outset, the earth supposedly hangs in the balance. So there was much to talk about, if you believe, like the president, that global warming is the most pressing issue of our time. But Paris was ignored. As was climate change in general. The absence of climate change/Paris segments on the Sunday morning talkies seemingly lends credence to all those polls about how Americans lend low priority to climate change. Perhaps the conference will garner attention next Sunday. We’ll see.

Even if other media outlets are ignoring Paris, you can still count on us to keep you up to speed. My colleagues Myron Ebell and Chris Horner are on the scene in the City of Lights, and they have been sending regular updates. Find their previous dispatches here; find their latest missives below.

Big Business and Big Government Hope They’ll Always Have Paris
Chris Horner, Daily Caller, 8 December 2015

Obama’s EPA Chief Dismisses Threats to Clean Power Plan
Myron Ebell, RealClearEnergy, 8 December 2015

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HORNER PARISEditor’s Note: My CEI colleagues Chris Horner and Myron Ebell are at the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris. It is a testament to their effectiveness that they were, on their first day, targeted by a coordinated campaign to silence their participation in the proceedings (see photo to the right). Of course, the campaign failed. Find Chris Horner’s first dispatch here; below I’ve posted his second.

Monday was an eventful day in Paris, site of the ongoing talks to secure a replacement treaty for the Kyoto Protocol that would regulate energy use among richer countries and thereby script a massive, self-renewing wealth transfer.

The first half of my day was occupied by the Heartland Institute, CFACT, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute “Day of Examining the Data” event.  There, one of the less bizarre questioners made an inquiry that distilled to: How can you disagree with the reinsurance industry’s insistence that catastrophic man-made global warming is evidenced by increasingly costly weather events?

You may have noticed that these claims rarely come with the caveats that a more populous world with more dwellings and other property to insure— i.e., if you build more (taxpayer-subsidized) beach houses—you should expect more houses on the beach to be destroyed during storms (See links below for such cautions).

Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace who has since turned against institutional environmentalism on account of its misplaced priorities, responded from the audience that the purpose of the insurance industry’s argument is to obtain approvals for the industry’s rate increases. That is, the insurance industry alarmist position is self-serving. [click to continue…]

Post image for Clean Power Plan Litigation: Stern Tries Some Climate Diplomacy on the Judges

U.S. Climate negotiator Todd Stern has filed a Declaration with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of EPA in State of West Virginia et al. v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Twenty-seven States and three major industry groups have petitioned the Court to stay (suspend) the Clean Power Plan (CPP) while the rule is litigated on the merits. I discussed the coal industry’s petition here.

Petitioners argue the CPP will do irreversible harm to coal producers and coal state economies even if the Court later overturns the rule as unlawful. To implement the CPP, State legislatures and public utility commissions will have to start revising their electricity laws and regulations immediately, and the CPP has already begun to drive capital out of the coal industry. In contrast, delaying the CPP will not harm public health or welfare since the rule’s potential climatological impacts even in 2100 will be too small to detect, and States that want to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from their power sectors will still be free to do so.

Stern argues that because the CPP constitutes the biggest piece of the U.S. emission-reduction pledge (Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, or INDC) in the ongoing climate treaty negotiations in Paris, granting the stay could undermine U.S. climate leadership and, thus, other countries’ climate “ambitions.” Putting the CPP on ice could weaken the trust relationships on which the last best hope of earth allegedly depends:

UNFCCC [UN Framework Convention on Climate Change] Parties have previously noted the need for urgent action to hold the increase in the global average temperature below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, in order to lessen the impacts of climate change. . . .Based on my experience as the lead U.S. climate negotiator, I believe that the ambition and implementation of many other countries’ current and future emission control actions depends significantly on the understanding by their leaders of the seriousness of the U.S. commitment to address emissions. For many countries, willingness to take action depends on collective trust that the major emitters are taking action. If a stay of the Clean Power Plan is granted, there is a real threat that some other countries, including major emitters, might reduce the intensity or pace of their actions or even fail to achieve their commitments.

Melodramatic twaddle. As Manhattan Institute scholar Oren Cass explains in recent testimony, under COP21, nations’ INDCs are unverifiable and unenforceable, and the major developing countries — China, India, and Brazil — have essentially promised to achieve emission reductions that are projected to occur anyway. All INDCs combined would theoretically avert only 0.1ºC-0.2ºC of warming by 2100.

Besides, what the overwhelming majority of delegates at COP21 care about is not the Clean Power Plan but getting commitments from the United States and other industrialized nations to fork over $100 billion to $450 billion annually in foreign aid (renamed “climate finance”).

But it’s the legal theory implicit in Stern’s Declaration that the judges should find most interesting.

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o as leviathanPresident Barack Obama confirmed in a press conference in Paris on 1st December that he intends for the Paris Climate Treaty to bind politically the next President, even if he is succeeded by a Republican who opposes the treaty and even if it’s not ratified by the Senate.

Here is what the President said in response to a question:

But even if somebody from a different party succeeded me, one of the things that you find is when you’re in this job, you think about it differently than when you’re just running for the job.  And what you realize is what I mentioned earlier, that American leadership involves not just playing to a narrow constituency back home, but you now are, in fact, at the center of what happens around the world, and that your credibility and America’s ability to influence events depends on taking seriously what other countries care about.

Now, the fact of the matter is there’s a reason why you have the largest gathering of world leaders probably in human history here in Paris.  Everybody else is taking climate change really seriously.  They think it’s a really big problem.  It spans political parties.  You travel around Europe, and you talk to leaders of governments and the opposition, and they are arguing about a whole bunch of things — one thing they’re not arguing about is whether the science of climate change is real and whether or not we have to do something about it.

So whoever is the next President of the United States, if they come in and they suggest somehow that that global consensus — not just 99.5 percent of scientists and experts, but 99 percent of world leaders — think this is really important, I think the President of the United States is going to need to think this is really important.  And that’s why it’s important for us to not project what’s being said on a campaign trail, but to do what’s right, and make the case. 

In short, President Obama thinks his successor will lead—as he does—from behind.

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism recently published an investigative report alleging some sort of climate cover-up by ExxonMobil. For my part, I knew the report was not to be trusted the moment I understood that one of its underlying assumptions is the silly notion that Exxon was responsible for “manufacturing doubt” on climate change by funding “denier” groups. I know this is a misapprehension because I work for one such group, the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Accordingly, I’m well positioned to know that the claim is without merit, akin to arguing that the New York Times is in the pocket of Chevron for running the company’s ads in its paper, or claiming that Politico is a mouthpiece for the League of Conservation Voters because the LCV “sponsors” Politico Morning Energy. When an “investigative journalist” operates on the assumption that Exxon and the Koch brothers are pulling all the strings, he or she exposes both his/her preconceived ideas and lazy reporting technique.

With all this fresh in the mind, I chortled my cold coffee upon yesterday reading that the School of Journalism’s “Exxon Knew” investigation was funded by the Energy Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Rockefeller Family Fund. These benefactors all are avowed opponents of fossil fuel consumption, and they often cast their opposition in moral terms. They are, as such, extremely partial when it comes to the subject of the investigative report they paid for funded.

Suspiciously, the School of Journalism posted an acknowledgement of the funding only after the first of its stories appeared online. I wonder what led to that?

In a letter to Exxon, School of Journalism Dean Steve Coll addressed the matter, and his missive struck a chord with me. He wrote:

You … understand that the issue is not who provided funding for this or any other Columbia University project, but whether the work done is independent of the funders. In short, did the journalism fellows … follow the information uncovered by the reporting or did they follow the funder’s agenda? The fact is that this reporting was not subject to any influence or control by the funders …

What a sad joke. Coll and his “journalism fellows” take it for granted that think tanks and other policy organizations were mere passive conduits for Exxon’s supposed campaign to fool the American public. Coll et al.’s “evidence” for this allegation is that the funding existed. But when it comes to the anti-fossil fuel zealots that fund his brand of “investigative journalism,” he assures everyone that there is no connection between the money and the end product. He is not, he promises, an anti-fossil fuel shill. [click to continue…]