Secure in the knowledge that he cannot get the two thirds majority in the Senate it would take to ratify a climate change treaty that would mandate America reducing carbon emissions, President Obama is concocting a scheme to in effect make such a treaty anyway, according to a Tuesday story in the New York Times. The constitutionally suspect maneuver is certain to enrage congressional Republicans. Red state Democrats are beside themselves, wondering if the president wants them to lose in the 2014 midterms.
Essentially the agreement, which would be signed at a meeting in Paris next year, would reinterpret some provisions of a 1992 treaty and would seek to “shame” countries into cutting carbon emissions. This would be an agreement to enact laws to curb the use of fossil fuels. However there are a number of problems with this approach.
First, only Congress can enact laws in the United States. It has thus far proven reluctant to pass legislation that would significantly hurt the production of fossil fuels, even coal which many regard as a major culprit of greenhouse gases. If Obama starts to issue executive orders, citing the agreement which he signed without the advice and consent of the Senate, he would further erode his power, ensuring that a likely Republican dominated Congress will push back at him.
As Charles Krauthammer points out, such an agreement is likely to be ignored by major carbon producing nations like China. China, after all, is a country that mows down dissidents in the streets and is conducting an imperialist campaign to grab large swaths of the South and East China Seas. It tends to ignore actual treaties that it has solemnly signed and ratified. The idea that it can be “shamed” into doing anything, especially cut carbon emissions, if it finds it too inconvenient, is laughable.