Biden’s manufactured climate emergency

Posted 7/26/22

There is no climate emergency.

The Biden administration knows this, which is why the president has — so far — declined to declare a state of emergency regarding climate change. But he …

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Biden’s manufactured climate emergency

Posted

There is no climate emergency.

The Biden administration knows this, which is why the president has — so far — declined to declare a state of emergency regarding climate change. But he is under pressure to do so and, being very easy to push around, he very well may end up doing so.

That there is no climate emergency is a judgment that can be made irrespective of one’s views about the climate-change issue per se, about which we acknowledge there is good-faith disagreement in addition to a great deal of cynical political opportunism.

But even if the worst climate-change scenarios are what’s in store for us, this is not an emergency in the legal sense, meaning the sense necessary for the legitimate activation of presidential emergency powers. An emergency is an unexpected crisis, not a long-expected development. Climate change is not a sneak attack or a sudden epidemic; we have been having congressional discussions and debate about climate policy for 40 years. Congress has had many opportunities to enact sweeping legislative changes in response to climate-change concerns, and Congress has, so far, declined to do so. Choosing not to act is a choice, one that Congress is empowered to make without being overridden by the president.

Call us quaint, but we remain committed to the principle that if there is to be a large and significant change in federal climate policy, then this requires congressional action.

Contrary to what some people — including some presidents! — seem to think, presidential emergency powers are not open-ended: The president cannot simply declare an emergency and then proceed to rule by decree like Charles de Gaulle.

The president could suspend offshore oil leases — and pay compensation to the lessees. We expect that writing multibillion-dollar checks to oil companies is not precisely what the Green New Dealers have in mind.

We expect that Biden will be inclined to do what so many presidents before him have done and issue rafts of executive orders with no regard for such niceties as whether these are in fact legal.

U.S. national-emergency law could use reforming. Some 79 national emergencies have been declared under the 1976 National Emergency Act — and 42 of them are still in effect, the oldest of them dating from 1979. Mostly these are sanctions targeted at foreign governments, terrorists, and criminal organizations. Some of them, such as the prohibition on trading rough diamonds from Sierra Leone, are not emergencies at all. The Trump administration’s COVID-19 emergency remains in effect. With few exceptions, these speak to concerns that are in many cases legitimate but are hardly emergencies, and the policies involved should be regularized via ordinary legislation if they are to continue.

Once again, Congress has a golden opportunity to do its job.

Democrats behave as though Biden’s climate agenda is dead in Congress because one senator opposes it; in reality, it is dead because 51 senators oppose it. Emergency powers exist to ensure that the national government can act effectively during unexpected crises — not to make an end-run around democracy when democracy doesn’t give the president the outcome his party wants.

We have had many debates about climate policy, and, so far, the activist side has lost the debate in Congress. We can have another debate if the climate activists want. But the place for such debates is in Congress, and the instrument for creating any new policy is law.

— National Review

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