The Backlash Against Obama’s Committing US to International Climate Agreement

COMMENTARY Energy Economics

The Backlash Against Obama’s Committing US to International Climate Agreement

Apr 2nd, 2015 4 min read

Commentary By

Katie Tubb

Policy Analyst

David W. Kreutzer, Ph.D. @dwkreutzer

Senior Research Fellow, Labor Markets and Trade

Perhaps President Obama is frustrated he couldn’t pass climate legislation when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the White House, and perhaps this frustration was compounded by the historic losses his party suffered in the off-year elections. But whatever the cause, the president is working unilaterally to commit the U.S. to international climate agreements.

This week the president promised the U.N. he would lock the U.S. into a set of energy-crushing carbon restrictions over ensuing decades. With a December, all-eyes-on-me Paris climate conference in the balance, the Obama administration seems to expect Congress, the judiciary, and the states to go along with the Clean Power Plan, the central piece of Obama’s pledge to the U.N.

The Obama administration plan calls for emissions cuts of 26 percent-28 percent (from 2005 levels) by 2025. Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change for the State Department, said he has assured other nations Obama’s offer will stand even with Republican opposition: “Undoing the kind of regulation we are putting in place is very tough to do.”

His confidence is shared by others in the Obama administration. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the Clean Power Plan “will be legally solid. I don’t need a Plan B if I’m solid on my Plan A.” John Podesta, former White House advisor on climate before leaving in February, said of congressional efforts to block the Clean Power Plan through legislation: “Those have zero percent chance of working. We’re committed. … There are no takers at this end of Pennsylvania Avenue.”

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others in Congress criticized the Obama administration’s overconfident power grab. McConnell warned other nations that Obama’s actions should not be depended on: “Considering that two-thirds of the U.S. federal government hasn’t even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it, our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal.”

McConnell’s response joins a groundswell of opposition around the country to the EPA’s Clean Power Plan—and for good reason. The Clean Power Plan to cut state CO2 emissions isn’t some esoteric policy debate to tickle the ears of D.C. bureaucrats. Although the plan is complicated and will require massive state and federal bureaucracies to manage, the aim of the Clean Power Plan is to fundamentally change how all Americans—from businesses to individuals—receive and use electricity.

Or as Harvard professor Laurence Tribe eloquently put it, “The Affordable Care Act may not compel health insurance consumers to eat or buy broccoli, but EPA seeks to interpret the Clean Air Act to allow it to regulate every watt used in growing broccoli and moving it to the market—as well as every watt used for any other activity within a State.”

The consequences for such a fundamental change would have serious consequences. Using the models employed by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, The Heritage Foundation analyzed the impacts of what a 28.5 percent cut of CO2 emissions (from 2005 levels) by 2025 would do to the American economy—only a half-point above the range set by Obama in his proposal to the U.N. this week. The impact is significant, not only in the big picture but also for individual Americans:

  • An average employment shortfall of nearly 300,000 jobs
  • A peak employment shortfall of more than 1 million jobs
  • 500,000 jobs lost in manufacturing
  • Destruction of more than 45 percent of coal-mining jobs

To cap it off, the Clean Power Plan would have no noticeable impact on global temperatures—the purported reason for the U.N. climate treaty. Using the EPA’s climate model, climatologists Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger created an online calculator for estimating the impact on global warming of various CO2 cuts. They find that even if the U.S. entirely eliminated CO2 emissions (no breathing, now) the moderation of any temperature increase would be less than 0.15 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. Throw all industrialized nations into this energy-suicide pact and still the warming is moderated by less than a third of a degree.

The science isn’t settled, but apparently the dogma is: Costly CO2 restrictions need not have any climate impact. It seems they are their own virtue.

This piece originally appeared in The Daily Signal