It’s climate regulations that threaten us
By H. Sterling Burnett
In President-Elect Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter, a “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again,” Mr. Trump outlines several measures he says he will undertake to create jobs and spur economic growth.
While much of his proposed agenda will help to improve the economy while also leaving reasonable environmental protections in place, I believe there are two additional environment-related policy changes that he could take to jump-start the economy.
In a September 21, 2015, appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Mr. Trump said, “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. I mean, Obama thinks it’s the number-one problem in the world today. I think it’s very low on the list.… We have much bigger problems.”
If these comments accurately reflect Trump’s views, a first important step he could take to undo the damage done by the Obama administration’s vainglorious attempt to control climate and weather would be to reverse the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) determination that carbon dioxide (CO2) is a pollutant endangering public and environmental health.
This “endangerment finding” came about in response to EPA following a narrow 5-4 Supreme Court decision in the 2007 case Massachusetts v. EPA. In that case, a majority of the justices ruled that, if EPA determines carbon-dioxide emissions are causing global warming – and global warming may reasonably be expected to endanger public health or welfare – then EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant.
In fact, the justices ruled, EPA would be required to regulate carbon dioxide under such a finding, unless it can provide a reasonable basis for not choosing to regulate this vitally important, plant-fertilizing gas.
Relying on unsubstantiated projections produced by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, EPA did determine that CO2 emissions from cars and industry do threaten human welfare. That led directly to the agency’s decision to limit those emissions.
For instance, the endangerment finding was the basis for ratcheting up automobile fuel-economy standards to 54.5 mpg by 2025. That could soon mean consumers no longer have the right or ability to choose the vehicles they drive – based on safety, passenger or cargo considerations, for example – by either forcing all but the smallest cars off the roads or, at the very least, making larger cars and trucks too expensive for all but the relatively wealthy to drive.
Additionally, the endangerment finding serves as the foundation for various Obama administration regulations requiring utilities, oil and gas producers, and other entities to cut their greenhouse gas emissions. If these draconian rules are not overturned by the Trump Administration, Americans will pay much more for energy and their energy supplies will be less reliable.
Mr. Trump cannot undo the endangerment finding with the stroke of a pen. To reverse it, he must instead charge EPA to demonstrate, through independent, validated research, that carbon-dioxide emissions are “toxic” (which they are not at any levels that might occur in Earth’s atmosphere) – or that global warming is causing measurable amounts of sea-level rise, increased hurricane numbers or intensity, the spread of diseases, or other harms directly attributable to carbon-dioxide emissions in the United States.
If EPA cannot directly link such problems to U.S. carbon-dioxide emissions – and it can’t – or cannot show such problems can be dramatically reduced by cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions – and again it can’t – then EPA should withdraw the endangerment finding.
Withdrawing the endangerment finding would end the legal justification for a range of burdensome climate regulations. In the process, it would also end radical environmental activists’ ability to use courts to impose climate policies on an unwilling public whose elected representatives have repeatedly rejected climate policies.
Second, President-Elect Trump also recognizes that, to fully reverse Barack Obama’s harmful climate policies, the United States must withdraw from international climate agreements that drive and justify many domestic climate actions – and must stop diverting billions of dollars of taxpayer money from important domestic and defense concerns to U.N. climate programs.
In his Contract with the American Voter, Mr. Trump pledges to “cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs, and use the money to fix America’s water and environmental infrastructure.”
Trump can accomplish this unilaterally by halting the Obama administration’s illegal shift of State Department funds – funds that Congress directed would be used in other diplomatic programs, such as combating virulent diseases – to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund.
The easiest way for President Trump to end the United States’ participation in all international climate agreements would be for him, on day one, to remove America’s signature from the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992.
Article 25 of the UNFCCC allows any state party to that convention to withdraw upon giving one year’s notice, without incurring any further obligation
In fact, withdrawing from the UNFCCC would cancel United States obligations to all other U.N.-brokered climate agreements subsequent to it, including the Paris “agreement” that President Obama signed, because all subsequent agreements were built upon UNFCCC.
Our nation is not threatened by manmade climate change. It is threatened by regulations implemented in the name of protecting us from dangerous manmade climate and weather.
These two actions would be a great first step toward “putting America first” during President Trump’s first 100 days in office.
H. Sterling Burnett, PhD is a research fellow on energy and the environment at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois.