What does a president do when Congress won’t pass the legislation he wants? Grab a pen and try to cram it through via executive order, apparently—at least if that president’s name is Joe Biden.
Congress just shut down Biden’s hopes of passing major legislation intended to address climate change through massive taxpayer spending, subsidies, and regulations. But the president isn’t giving up.
Rather, the White House is planning on issuing several executive orders taking unilateral action to supposedly halt climate change. And the president is even reportedly considering declaring a “climate emergency” to unlock more emergency powers Biden could use to impose climate policies without actually going through the democratic process of legislation.
These efforts are constitutionally suspect, economically unsound, and politically unwise. But more than that, if he does go through with it, President Biden’s “climate emergency” would be worse than useless, accomplishing next-to-nothing despite its many downsides.
Well, thanks to the same fatal flaw that plagues all the American Left’s big, bold, “green” initiatives, like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Green New Deal.” Proponents act as if we can still save the day if Americans just make big enough sacrifices and give enough money and power to the federal government.
“There is probably nothing more important for our nation and our world than for the United States to drive a bold, energetic transition in its energy economy from fossil fuels to renewable energy,” Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley recently remarked on the need for Biden to take drastic, unilateral climate action.
Yet climate change is a global problem. And the US making tremendous sacrifices to lower its CO2 emissions won’t make almost any difference if we’re acting without other major emitting countries—which we almost certainly would be.
“When I started to follow this area in about 2000, the U.S. and Western Europe together accounted for close to two-thirds of world energy consumption, the large majority of it from fossil fuels,” academic and lawyer Francis Menton recently wrote for the Manhattan Contrarian blog. “Perhaps at that time it was plausible to believe that if only the U.S. and Western Europe could be weaned off the fossil fuels, and could show how that could be done, then the rest of the world would quickly follow along.”
“But that was more than two decades ago,” Menton continues. “In the intervening twenty-plus years, the U.S. and Europe have achieved some small reductions in their emissions, but the emissions from the developing world — mostly but by no means exclusively from China — have soared. And they continue to soar.”
He included the following, deeply-revealing graph:
“Neither China nor any other large-population developing country has agreed to forego using coal or any other fossil fuel to achieve rapid economic growth,” he added. “Today U.S. emissions stand at about 15% of those of the world, and continuing to shrink rapidly as a percentage, even if they remain about steady in absolute terms.”
“In short, the effort to make significant reductions in U.S. carbon emissions is completely pointless,” Menton concludes. “Nothing can be done to make it such that reduction in U.S. carbon emissions can result in a meaningful difference in the overall world picture.”
That’s the same conclusion reached by Heritage Foundation Senior Statistician Kevin D. Dayaratna, Ph.D.
He ran an analysis using mainstream assumptions and climate models to find out what would happen if the US stopped all carbon emissions—yes, literally went to zero—which, if anything, far exceeds the outcome we could expect from Biden, Ocasio-Cortez, and their allies’ best efforts.
“Simulation results indicate that if all carbon dioxide… emissions were to be eliminated from the United States completely, the result in terms of temperature reductions would be less than 0.2 degrees Celsius,” Dayaratna reported.
So, too, the expert statistician estimated that such a sacrifice would only make a “minuscule” reduction in expected sea level rise.
The takeaway here is clear. Unless we can somehow force China, India, and the world’s other major greenhouse gas emitters to stop polluting—and we can’t—then there’s no point in making tremendous sacrifices on our own accord for minuscule impact. We’d thus be better off focusing on how to adapt to the coming changes.
Of course, I do believe that human-caused climate change is a serious issue. We can and should work to reduce our carbon emissions, but free-market responses like embracing nuclear power—which is incredibly safe and produces zero emissions—are the way to go here.
Whether it’s Biden or AOC, those who want to stretch our constitutional system and drastically overhaul our economy all in the name of the “climate emergency” should, at the very least, have to explain how their efforts are going to make any difference at all.