Climate Change

Obama Resorts to "Political Magic" to Carry Out His Stealthy Global Climate Change Strategy

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Obama Wind Turbines
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In Paris next year, the nations of the world are supposed to hammer out an global regime to control energy production as a way to prevent possible catastrophic climate change. Having covered United Nations climate negotiations for more than two decades, I can confidently predict that there is no way that countries will adopt a comprehensive treaty that somehow legally binds them to make specific cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions. As evidence, consider that when the Kyoto Protocol emissions limits chafed, many countries, e.g., Canada and Japan, simply ignored them and dropped out of the treaty.

Now the New York Times is reporting that President Barack Obama is working on a "politcally binding" international agreement to limit the emissions of greenhouse gases produced largely by burning fossil fuels. Such an agreement would be an end run around the pesky constitutional requirement that treaties must be ratified by two-thirds vote of the Senate. As the Times explains:

In seeking to go around Congress to push his international climate change agenda, Mr. Obama is echoing his domestic climate strategy. In June, he bypassed Congress and used his executive authority to order a far-reaching regulation forcing American coal-fired power plants to curb their carbon emissions….

American negotiators are instead homing in on a hybrid agreement — a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges. The mix would create a deal that would update the treaty, and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification.

Countries would be legally required to enact domestic climate change policies — but would voluntarily pledge to specific levels of emissions cuts and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change. Countries might then be legally obligated to report their progress toward meeting those pledges at meetings held to identify those nations that did not meet their cuts.

"There's some legal and political magic to this," said Jake Schmidt, an expert in global climate negotiations with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. "They're trying to move this as far as possible without having to reach the 67-vote threshold" in the Senate.

President Obama seems to be following a script laid out in May, 2014 by former Undersecretary for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth, who was the Clinton Administration's lead negotiator for the Kyoto Protocol, and former South Dakota Senator Thomas Daschle who astutely asserted that "the international community should stop chasing the chimera of a binding treaty to limit CO2 emissions." They further noted that more than two decades of U.N. climate negotiations have failed because "nations could not agree on who is to blame, on how to allocate emissions, or on projections for the future."

Wirth and Daschle are advocating that the climate negotiators adopt a system of "pledge and review" at the 2015 Paris conference of the parties to the UNFCCC. In such a scheme nations would make specific pledges to cut their carbon emissions, to adopt clean energy technologies, and to wring more GDP out of each ton of carbon emitted. The parties would review their progress toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions every three years and make further pledges as necessary to achieve the goal of keeping the increase in average global temperature under 2°C. Since there would be no legally binding targets, there would be no treaty that would require politically difficult ratification. If insufficient progress is being made by 2020 they argue that countries should consider adopting globally coordinated price on carbon.

Wirth and Daschle have joined the emerging consensus that schemes to prevent climate change by rationing carbon – e.g., imposing a cap-and-trade scheme or taxation—are doomed to failure. Why failure? Because of the "iron law of climate policy" argues University of Colorado political scientist Roger Pielke, Jr.  Pielke's iron law declares that "when policies focused on economic growth confront policies focused on emissions reductions, it is economic growth that will win out every time." People and their governments are very reluctant to give up the immediate benefits of economic growth – more goods and services, jobs, better education and improved health—that access to modern fuels make possible in order to avert the distant harms of climate change.

In any case, President Obama evidently believes that addressing the climate "crisis" is far more important than observing constitiutional niceties like senatorial "advice and consent" to treaties.

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  1. This guy is a bumbling idiot. No way does he get this done. He’s just leaking this to give any kind of bump to the lefts base for the midterms. This is how desperate they’ve become, touting promises and secret meetings that probably will never happen or if they do will amount to nothing.

    1. They can’t even get the senate who is still majority dem to get behind this guy on this issue, that should tell you everything right there.

    2. It’s funny. He has to know that this is impossible. He has to know that this is just another oppotunity to chalk up a failure before he leaves office. Is the man a glutton for punishment or is he lost in his own ego?

  2. Yeah Obama, you keep up that steady slide from representative democracy to bureaucratic authoritarianism! If he weren’t so goddamn incompetent Augustus would be proud.

    1. ^This. Nothing substantive will come of this but progressives should be careful about what they wish for.

      Republicans are going to let O go ahead and take executive action on immigration and possible this. They can’t afford to look like a bunch of crazy obstructionists before November. They won’t try to impeach him under almost any circumstances. They will let him either overreach with executive actions or disappoint his base (if he fails to take executive actions after over promising) because its a winning strategy for November (backlash) and a powerful precedent for a future Republican president.

      “Of course President Perry can take executive action on (blank). Obama did it!!!!! FYTW!!!!”

      1. I’m sure the GOP wants him to extend the reach of the Executive as far as possible so they can take advantage of his gains once they stomp Hillary in ’16. Both TEAMS always win, even when one loses.

  3. Obama is going to “pledge to do this” and they will meet again in 2015 and if we haven’t done it, well we will pledge again.

    Even if you believe in this crap, you have to admit that by allowing themselves to be co-opted by the socialists, the Greens have failed miserably on this issue. It doesn’t matter if it is true or not. Since the Greens are only offering completely unacceptable socialist solutions, there isn’t any feasible way to stop it from happening.

    1. Yep. Traveling lite again. Make a promise, play a round, repeat.

      Actually doing it would require phone calls, meetings, and compromises. Yuck – who wants that?

      1. Teleprompters don’t work well with phone calls and meetings. And compromises made by politicians are always lose-lose for the rest of us.

  4. In any case, President Obama evidently believes that addressing the climate “crisis” is far more important than observing constitutional niceties like senatorial “advice and consent” to treaties.

    Mr. Bailey, when did you graduate from Harvard Law? How long were you a Constitutional Law lecturer at the University of Chicago? Where are you magic glasses that see into the “penumbras” of the Living Constitution?

    1. Watch those penumbras – you might get some emanations on yourself if you are not careful!

      1. And you know even dry cleaning can’t get emanation stains out.

        1. Especially if it’s blue fabric.

  5. Who needs Congress when you’ve got regulatory agencies that can make rules with the power of law?

  6. Obama Resorts to “Political Magic” to Carry Out His Stealthy Global Climate Change Strategy

    He has been resorting to political magic for almost every other measure that he cared to carry out, so why would this case be cause for surprise?

    I can confidently predict that there is no way that countries will adopt a comprehensive treaty that somehow legally binds them to make specific cuts in their greenhouse gas emissions.

    Of course not, especially when nuestro grand?simo y querid?simo se?or presidente pretends to act alone in promoting this treaty without the consent from Congress. How can anybody expect other governments to take the U.S. lead seriously, especially when nuestro se?or presidente‘s term is about to end in two years and Congress will not be too happy to disavow such a treaty?

    1. He is just setting himself up to completely implode in 2015. If he loses the Senate he is totally fucked. The reason is that as long as the Dems control the Senate, Harry Reid can keep popular bills from ever coming to a vote. This allows the media to portray any effort out of the House to oppose Obama as just the usual partisan politics. Well, if those measures, like say taking away the EPA’s ability to regulate CO2, ever come for a vote in the Senate, they are going to be more than a few Democratic Senators who will vote for them out of political necessity. Once that happens, the media can no longer portray the fight as “partisan” and Obama is faced with the prospect of going to war with his own party. Oh sure he can veto the bills and then force Democrats in the Senate to vote for the bills again when the issue of overriding the veto comes up. That ought to go over well.

  7. Obama will screw up this climate change deal.
    Obama has screwed up health care.
    Obama has sat on his hands while Putin reassembles the Soviet Empire.
    Obama’s Arab Spring is still spiraling out of control with the ISIS Caliphate, Hamas rocket attacks on Israel, Boko Harum selling school girls as sex slaves, Iran building atomic bombs with Obama lifting sanctions.

    Obama has crippled the US economy. Everybody I know is either out of work or under-employed. I haven’t had a raise in years despite all my expenses increasing from year to year. My health insurance is now up to $400/month. Before the government touched it, it was $250/month! My auto insurance, which the government has yet to ruin, is thankfully only $25/month (from Insurance Panda). Please, Obama! Don’t try to socialize auto insurance!

    With everything Obama touched in shambles, Barry needs a new hobby.
    I wish the Environmental Wackos well, Obama will likely screw that up too!

    1. Obama has sat on his hands while Putin reassembles the Soviet Empire.

      Oh please fuck the right off.

      It is NATO who is building bases in Eastern Europe. Quit pretending that the US has any treaty or obligation to the Ukraine in anyway.

      Idiots like you and warmongers like Obama are just using it as a pretext to restart the cold war for no good reason but to justify 100s of billions in unnecessary military spending.

      1. …to justify 100s of billions in unnecessary military spending.

        Wait, they have to justify that now? Sounds like we are actually making progress.

  8. They further noted that more than two decades of U.N. climate negotiations have failed because “nations could not agree on who is to blame, on how to allocate emissions, or on projections for the future.”

    “Which is why we need a one-world government that can get things done without the bickering and back-stabbing from all these governments. Especially if this government is backed up by an army of atomic supermen!”

    [If George Soros was in an Ed Wood movie]

  9. Forgot to mention that because of US adoption of fracking and cheap natural gas over coal US CO2 emissions have dropped from their 2005 highs down to 1990’s levels.

    A scheme to lower CO2 emissions is redundant. The market has already lowered them and likely to lower them still more.

    1. It isn’t real or official until the government mandates it and spends $billions to enforce.

    2. But fracking causes earthquakes, and pollutes the water, and I’m sure there are other things.

      In fact, the greenies hate wind mills too, because they kill birds, and now I’ve heard about the solar panels that fry birds in flight.

      We could do water power, but that kills fish.

      We could burn wood, but that pollutes the air and we’d run out of trees.

      We’re fucked

      1. Not necessarily:
        http://wattsupwiththat.com/201…..gy-source/

        1. Nucular power! Didn’t you see what happened at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Fukushima and Springfield?! Do you want three-eyed fish? Because that’s how you get three-eyed fish!

    3. Also 20% of energy worldwide comes from renewable sources now. And that number is growing rapidly. It’s almost as if we don’t need a big international agreement to do the thing Obama says he wants to do.

  10. On the other hand Political Magic might be just the solution for Science Magic.

  11. Two thoughts:

    (1) And so we enter the most dangerous phase of any Presidency: the desperate search for a “legacy”.

    (2) I guess Obama is just willing to kiss all those Dem Reps and Sens from coal-mining states good-bye.

  12. many countries, e.g., Canada and Japan, simply ignored them and dropped out of the treaty.

    Australia has also cut its carbon tax and Germany has been making moves to go big with Coal and England is making a push to start fracking.

    It makes me wonder who is even left in the Koyoto coalition to push this.

    Ron did not emphasis that the NYTs article did not mention at all how the international community has totally shifted in the past year away from cutting CO2 emissions….which makes Obama’s push kind of pointless.

    1. Unless he wants to control US energy production.

  13. And did you know that “Surface melt water rushes along the Greenland Ice Sheet. Its loss could raise the sea level by 23 feet.”
    http://www.sfgate.com/default/…..714521.php

    Uh:
    “On the timescale of centuries to millennia, the melting of ice sheets could result in even higher sea level rise. Partial deglaciation of the Greenland ice sheet, and possibly the West Antarctic ice sheet, could contribute 4 to 6 m (13 to 20 ft) or more to sea level rise”
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C…..level_rise
    Pretty sure mankind can adapt to a 20″ difference in a thousand years.

    1. Oop: 20′, not inches.

      1. More to the point, 1000 year climate predictions are less trustworthy than politicians’ 1000 year promises.

    2. Large scale coastal settlement is a pretty recent phenomena of the last 100 years and a large part of their development can be attributed to government subsidy. (think flood insurance and all those dikes built in New Orleans)

      Looking at times scales of even 50 to 100 years (much less then a millennia) should we really be looking for ways to prevent coastal flooding when the trend could very well reverse the government policies that subsidize it and/or the very governments that support it even still be around?

      1. …”the very governments that support it even still be around?”

        You know who else promised a thousand-year Reich!

    3. You know who else had A Thousand Year Plan?

    4. There are a fuck ton of “could’s” in those quotes.

      Something tells me they don’t really know for sure.

      1. “Something tells me they don’t really know for sure.”

        I’m sure it’s propaganda.

    5. A WUWT commenter wrote and quoted:

      The rate of sea-level rise, Cazenave, et al. March 2014? “Present-day sea-level rise is a major indicator of climate change1. Since the early 1990s, sea level rose at a mean rate of ~3.1 mm yr?1 (refs 2, 3). However, over the last decade a slowdown of this rate, of about 30%, has been recorded4, 5, 6, 7, 8. It coincides with a plateau in Earth’s mean surface temperature evolution, known as the recent pause in warming

      http://www.nature.com/nclimate…..e2159.html

  14. HOCUS

    and

    POCUS

  15. They won’t try to impeach him under almost any circumstances.

    He could rape and murder one of his daughters’ classmates and put it on youtube and nobody would have the guts to start impeachment proceedings.

    1. I wish congress would just start impeachment proceedings 100 days after the election of any president.

  16. politically binding…

    IOW, meaningless.

  17. People and their governments are very reluctant to give up the immediate benefits of economic growth ? more goods and services, jobs, better education and improved health – that access to modern fuels make possible in order to avert the distant imaginary harms of climate change.

  18. “…and to channel money to poor countries to help them adapt to climate change.”

    There it is.

  19. What a big brouhaha about nothing.

    In the first place, nothing has come from the White House yet about this, its just the NY Times reporting it might (and who knew that Reason took the NY Times as the source of record).

    Secondly, even the article talks about the non-binding nature of such an effort. It won’t be able to force Congress to do any spending of money, nor to set limits on CO2. It will all end being suggestions at the end, with the largest result being shame on those nations who don’t live up to the goals…and we all know the GOP and Libertarians are not ashamed of the US role in AGW. God forbid we do anything to address this problem.

    But forget my take, here is legal expert who also worked in the Bush administration.

    http://www.lawfareblog.com/201…..ord-story/

    “In short, the biggest domestic impact of the President’s international emissions reduction initiative is likely to be in the mid-term elections.”

    1. I might also add this from Jack Goldsmith, cited above:

      “I am no expert at all on climate change. With that large caveat, I think the Coral Davenport’s New York Times story about President Obama’s international climate accord ambitions overstates the domestic significance of what the President is up to?probably to the delight of the White House.”

      Congrats for the outrage, and the fact that it is exactly what the White House wanted.

  20. What crisis Bailey? Global temperature has absolutely flat line for 14 years and no statistically significant warming for 17+ years. And it looks like we are headed for a little ice age.

    This “treaty” hs nothing to do with climate.

    1. But here is your problem…global temperatures have risen for the past 100 years, regardless of the past 17.

      When you look at this global temperature graph, notice anything about pauses, and flat lines?

      http://www.giss.nasa.gov/resea…..malies.gif

      That is right…they have happened in the past, and for even longer periods than 17 years (1942 to 1970, for example.

      What you have done has been to pick 1998 as your starting point, because that happened to be the year of the El Nino of the century. So tell me, if 17 years is the be all for you as to real temperature measurements, are you going to drop 1998 as your starting point next year? Of course not, because that would not give you the answer you want.

  21. Could it be that Obama is actually a Republican…masquerading as a Liberal Dem? Could his plan be to drive the left wing of the Democratic party into the ditch?

    I mean, its that or he’s stupid…

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