Much ado over Biden ‘climate emergency’ declaration

Last of a series



The Manila Times

Opinion The M˜ Anila Times

THE climate movement suffered a major setback in July 2022, when US President Joe Biden hemmed and hawed about declaring a climate emergency in America, and then retreated sheepishly without explanation. This development upset what was projected to be a signal stage in the climate agenda, preparatory to other events slated this year. Had Biden delivered, the shift in terminology from “climate change” to “climate emergency” might have taken off and spread globally. Americans see themselves as the center of the world, even the universe, which other countries generally follow. Demand for a US declaration of a climate emergency has been rife since the Supreme Court ruled in West Virginia v. EPA on June 30, 2022 that the bureaucracies have no power to fundamentally transform the use of energy in the economy without a clear direction from Congress, which on the climate issue cannot be found in existing statutes. It became clear that no such statutory direction is likely to emerge from Congress before the midterm elections in November. The calls for President Biden to make such a declaration have come from everywhere since the Supreme Court’s decision at the end of June. In the politician category, a collection of Democratic senators sent a strong letter to Biden on July 20 making the demand: “Declaring the climate crisis a national emergency under the NEA would unlock powers to rebuild a better economy with significant, concrete actions . . . . Under the NEA, you could redirect spending to build out renewable energy systems on military bases, implement largescale clean transportation solutions and finance distributed energy projects to boost climate resiliency. All of these actions would employ Americans in new and emerging industries while securing American leadership in global markets.” Indeed, there was plenty of talk that Biden was going to make the big declaration on July 20 when he went to Massachusetts to give a speech at a closed coal-fired power plant. But he stopped just short of issuing a formal “emergency” declaration, and only took the occasion to emit the usual clichés about the impending climate apocalypse, including liberal use of the term “emergency” itself. He said: “Climate change is literally an existential threat to our nation and to the world . . . This is an emergency, an emergency, and I will look at it that way.” What would declaration of an “emergency” mean? The idea is that there are plenty of existing statutes out there granting the executive powers of various sorts in the event of such an “emergency,” provided that there had been a formal declaration of it. Thus arguably there would be a way around the lack of clear statutory authority that sank the EPA’s power plant regulations in the West Virginia case. Here’s the problem. There is no sense in which the climate is an “emergency” within the ordinary meaning of that word in the English language. Predictions by climate models of a few degrees of temperature rise over the next century are the opposite of an “emergency.” Indeed, the statutes granting various “emergency” powers to the executive all deal with the question of time periods too short to give the Congress time to enact legislation appropriate to the situation at hand. Emergency declaration The declaration of a climate emergency has been promoted by climate activists and pro-climate action politicians to add a sense of urgency and assign priority to the problem. In declaring a climate emergency, Wikipedia says, a government admits that climate change (or global warming) exists and that the measures that have so far been taken have not been enough. The decision stresses the need for the government to devise measures that would stop humancaused global warming. The declaration is supposed to justify and focus the governing body toward climate action. The Welsh government declared a climate emergency on May 1, 2019, becoming the first in the world to officially declare a climate emergency. As of December 2020, five years after the Paris Agreement, at least 15 countries have already declared a state of climate emergency, including Japan and New Zealand. On Nov. 28, 2019, the European Parliament declared a climate emergency. The European Union represented at that date 28 member states. The United States was envisioned to join the parade with President Biden’s declaration of a climate emergency in July 2022. Media opposition He was apparently dissuaded from the initiative by strong opposition in the media to the idea of a climate emergency declaration. At the same time, he was presented with a pair of public opinion polls that clearly showed the majority of the American people opposed to his climate policies, and clamoring for a return to their fossilfuel economy with plenty of energy. The Wall Street Journal was blunt and straightforward in its editorial on July 19. It said: “For Biden to declare a ‘climate emergency’ would be a serious abuse of power. “While a president may sometimes need to act with dispatch during an emergency, climate change isn’t close to such an event. “Climate change is neither sudden nor unexpected. The world has warmed by 1.1 degree Celsius since the late 19th century, and the pace of future warming is uncertain and depends on multiple variables. “In any case, nothing progressives want Mr. Biden to do will affect the climate or even reduce global CO2 emissions. China and India will continue to build coal plants that offset all of the West’s climate sacrifices. “But that isn’t stopping progressives from demanding that Mr. Biden roll over the Constitution’s separation of powers. “The most serious harm with all this would be to the rule of law. Declaring a climate emergency would flagrantly circumvent Congress.” A New York Times/Siena College poll reports that a mere 1 percent of voters prioritize climate. Climate scored zero percent among Latinos, Republicans and the 45 to 64 age group. All this is occurring against a backdrop where the Supreme Court has ruled that the EPA doesn’t have the authority to regulate greenhouse gases from coal plants; and the world is in the worst energy and inflation crises in 40 years. If Joe Biden declares a climate emergency and acts upon it, he will only make things worse. No public recognition Joe Biden was cognitive enough to see the writing on the wall. He did not declare a state of climate emergency in the United States. International opinion is just as divided. There is plainly no international consensus behind a climate emergency declaration. Most countries do not care one way or the other about the issue. In the Philippines, there is barely any public recognition of a climate alarm, regardless of what some politicians say. Some politicians may see political advantage in standing for aggressive climate action by the government. But Congress is far from ready to march in lockstep with climate alarmists in calling on the president to declare a state of climate emergency, The Congress and the public will want proof of a real climate emergency. Suppose its continued existence and budget will depend on it, can the Philippine Climate Commission provide incontrovertible proof or a persuasive brief on a climate emergency?