At the end of this month representatives of some 200 nations will gather in Paris for the opening of a United Nations-sponsored conclave to prevent the cataclysm that President Barack Obama, backed by the moral authority of Pope Francis, believes will befall the world if we do not slow the pace of climate change. There will be no treaty to enshrine the deal, for the very good reason that such a treaty would not receive the consent of the U.S. Senate. Some who would oppose it do not believe the globe is warming; some fear the effect of measures to phase out fossil fuels on an already-slow-growing economy; some do not want to endorse a massive intrusion by the government into still another key sector of the economy, the energy industries; still others are determined to deny Obama a victory that in his mind will require history to treat him kindly—adding to his “legacy,” as his supporters would have it.
Most important to many members of Congress is a desire to put the world on notice that any agreement reached in Paris will be, to borrow from George Gershwin, “a sometime thing,” to be abrogated by an incoming Republican president on day one of his tenure. But such a move by a new president is highly unlikely and, more important, undesirable. It is one thing to promise to wipe the slate clean when campaigning for the nomination or for the office. It is quite another to sit in the Oval Office and announce to 200 countries that they cannot take the word of an American president, especially when it was that president who was the driving force in getting them to sign on to the Paris accord. The next president of the United States will have as one of his or her major tasks restoring the credibility of a country that has made a practice of abandoning its allies. Surely, voiding an agreement with our world partners is not a new president’s sensible first step on the road to renewed U.S. credibility.
There are economic as well as political reasons that any Paris deal, or at least its consequences, cannot simply be willed out of existence. Energy investments have long lives, many 40 years or more. Businessmen, even while cheering the victory of a successor who will have no truck with the Obama version of global warming, know that in four or eight short years he or she will be replaced, perhaps by a greener president—or that more evidence might have established that there is indeed a carbon-caused trend toward a warmer climate. So even if the EPA’s so-called Clean Power Plan does not survive the court challenge being mounted by a variety of business interests and more than two dozen states, it already has changed how many companies do business. Even those executives who doubt that their activities are causing floods, droughts, earthquakes, melting ice, and other unpleasantness are deeming it prudent to put in place compliant measures, rather than continue to invest in capital equipment that has a reasonable probability of becoming valueless before it is fully depreciated. No less a person than Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, has warned of such a possibility, and urged investors and insurers to take it into account. Some companies are doing just that by pricing carbon into capital allocation decisions, even as they continue to voice doubts about the evidence that we are headed towards hotter days. These executives are convinced that the anti-global-warming train has left the station. As they see it, they are faced with a Hobson’s choice: hop aboard or explain to shareholders why they are risking waving goodbye to billions in assets, as some in the utility and coal industries are finding themselves forced to do.
So there is a sense in which the state and corporate litigants—even those who profess confidence that the courts will find that the EPA has exceeded its authority under the Clean Air Act—for all practical purposes have lost their fight. Many states are accepting the EPA’s offer to develop compliance plans suitable to their particular circumstances—subject of course to EPA approval—with some likely to incorporate market-based cap and trade systems or taxes on carbon emissions in their plans. “The initial read is that a market-based approach is more workable,” says John McManus, vice president of American Electric Power, a utility serving 11 states. As for the corporate sector, 81 companies with a combined market capitalization of $5 trillion have pledged to reduce their carbon footprints by signing on to the “American Business Act on Climate Pledge” sponsored by the White House, some out of conviction, others out of fear of the consequences of snubbing the president.
By any objective measure, Russia has made a strategic decision to challenge America for dominance in the Middle East. Despite depressed global oil prices and economic sanctions intended to curb his Ukraine adventurism, Vladimir Putin is pursuing an undisguised effort to expand Moscow’s military power, political heft, and economic influence in a region long under Washington’s sway. Barack Obama has made no effective response, and none seems in prospect. The recent Obama-Putin meeting at the United Nations did not change that underlying reality.
The United States, President Obama said at the U.N. General Assembly last week, “worked with many nations in this assembly to prevent a third world war—by forging alliances with old adversaries.” Presumably, the president was not referring to his deeply flawed Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the recent agreement that the White House has marketed as the only alternative to war with a soon-to-be-nuclear Iran.
Pope Francis spoke at the United Nations Friday morning and his remarks were, more or less, what was expected: a long push for climate change legislation mixed with concern about the world’s unjust economy. So in general, there wasn’t much to see.
In defending the Iran nuclear deal to Congress, President Obama and his staff argued repeatedly that rejection would leave America in dire isolation at the United Nations. Obama can now relax. Having used slash-and-burn executive tactics to roll right over a dissenting majority in Congress and a disapproving American public, he can look forward to celebrating this deal with those more likely to applaud it, when he speaks September 28 at the 70th annual General Assembly in New York.
The Associated Press reports that under the provisions of the deal, the Iranian government will be allowed to use its own inspectors on one site thought to have been used to develop nuclear weapons. Here's more from the AP:
Across the Middle East, there is concern about the nuclear deal with Iran. By releasing frozen assets and removing economic sanctions, the deal seems to facilitate renewed aggression. Won’t that encourage more violence from Iranian terror proxies, like Hezbollah and Hamas? The international community is preparing its response.
President Obama assumes Congress will get in line and follow the United Nations's approval of the Iranian nuclear deal.
"This is by far our strongest approach to ensuring Iran doesn't get a nuclear weapon," Obama said today in response to a question in the Oval Office about the United Nations move.
"There is broad international consensus around this issue. Not just among the international community but also among experts in the nuclear proliferation and my... assumption is that Congress will pay attention to that broad-based consensus."
Immediately after Israel’s March 17 election, Obama administration officials threatened to allow (or even encourage) the U.N. Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state and confine Israel to its pre-1967 borders. Within days, the president himself joined in, publicly criticizing not just Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom Obama has had notoriously bad relations, but sectors of Israeli opinion and even Israel itself.