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Trump Should Adopt These Climate-Related Reforms to Make America Great Again

December 21, 2016

Trump recognizes that to fully reverse Barack Obama’s harmful climate policies, the U.S. must withdraw from international climate agreements.

In President-elect Donald Trump’s “Contract with the American Voter,” a “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again,” Trump outlines several measures he says he will undertake to create jobs and economic growth. While much of the agenda Trump proposes will help to improve the economy while also leaving reasonable environmental protections in place, I believe there are two additional environment-related policy changes Trump should take to jump-start the economy.

In a September 21, 2015, appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Trump said, “I’m not a believer in man-made global warming. I mean, Obama thinks it’s the number-one problem of the world today. And I think it’s very low on the list. ... We have much bigger problems.”

If these comments accurately reflect Trump’s views, one important step he could take to undo the damage done by the Obama administration’s vainglorious attempt to control the weather would be to reverse the Environmental Protection Agency’s determination carbon dioxide is a pollutant endangering public and environmental health, a decision known as the “endangerment finding.”

The endangerment finding came about in response to a narrow 5­–4 Supreme Court decision in the 2007 case Massachusetts v. EPA. In that case, a majority of the justices ruled if the EPA determines carbon-dioxide emissions are causing global warming and global warming may reasonably be expected to endanger public health or welfare, the EPA has the authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. In fact, the justices ruled the EPA would be required to regulate carbon dioxide under such a finding, unless it can provide a reasonable basis for not choosing to regulate CO2.

Relying on unsubstantiated projections produced by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the EPA determined carbon-dioxide emissions from cars and industry threaten human welfare, which led directly to the EPA’s decision to limit such emissions. For instance, the endangerment finding was the basis for the ratchetting up of automobile fuel-economy standards, which could soon reach levels that will effectively rob consumers of the ability to choose the vehicles they drive, 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 others to cut their greenhouse-gas emissions. If these draconian rules are not overturned by Trump, Americans will pay much more for energy and their energy supplies will be less reliable.

Trump can’t undo the endangerment finding with the stroke of a pen. Instead, to reverse it, he must charge the EPA to demonstrate through independent, validated research, that carbon-dioxide emissions are toxic — they aren’t at any levels realistic to occur in the foreseeable future — or that global warming is causing measurable amounts of sea level rise, increased hurricane numbers or intensity, the spread of disease, or other harms attributable directly to carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. If the EPA can’t 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 — again, it can’t — the 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.

Trump recognizes that to fully reverse Barack Obama’s harmful climate policies, the U.S. must withdraw from international climate agreements that drive many domestic climate actions and cease diverting billions of dollars of taxpayers’ money from important domestic concerns to U.N. climate programs. In his Contract with the American Voter, 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 directed by Congress for use in other diplomatic programs — to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund.

The easiest way for 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, signed by President George H.W. Bush in 1992. Article 25 of the UNFCCC allows any state party to that convention to withdraw without further obligation upon giving one year’s notice. Withdrawing from the UNFCCC would cancel the United States’ obligations to all other U.N.-brokered climate agreements subsequent to it, because all subsequent agreements were built upon UNFCCC.

These two actions would be a great first step toward putting America first during Trump’s first 100 days in office.

[Originally Published at the Orange County Register]

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org