A Biden climate “emergency” would jettison democracy


U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer just urged President Biden to declare a state of emergency and impose climate policies on the country unilaterally, without Congress.

Every four years on January 20th in the United States of America a president is sworn into office. Inauguration Day is special because it displays something special about our nation, that is, the peaceful transfer of power in our democratic system, even following an acrimonious election, of which there have been many.

“Democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed,” said President Joseph Biden in his inaugural speech.

That hour was last week. Democracy may not prevail this week or much longer if some members of Congress get their way.

“It might be a good idea for President Biden to call a climate emergency,” Sen. Schumer said. He’s not the first lawmaker to propose such action, but he is the most prominent.

Sen. Schumer has been an elected legislator since not long after he began shaving, fresh out of graduating Harvard Law School with honors. Nearly five decades later, he has reached the pinnacle of the legislative profession by becoming Majority Leader of the Senate on the same day Mr. Biden became president. Chuck Schumer was born to be a legislator and is now one of the two most powerful in the country, yet he supports removing himself and 534 congressional colleagues on climate issues?

Democracy is indeed, “fragile.”

To remove the legislative branch from legislating, one should be air-tight certain there is a genuine “emergency.” There is not. Regardless, there is no justifying such power in one branch of government.

The planet has been in a modest warming period since the “Little Ice Age” ended in the mid-1800s. Warming has fluctuated such that some scientists in the 1970s believed we were headed for a new ice age. By some measures, the average global temperature has since warmed by approximately one degree Celsius.

In another 40 years it may get a warmer, but no bureaucracy or university science department really knows since there are so many variables and natural influences on the planet’s climate beyond levels of atmospheric gas of which carbon dioxide comprises a small fraction, with mankind’s contribution tinier, still.

There also is nothing unique or intense about present-day storms and floods compared to the past, no matter how many vapid Twitter statements are made by politicians, government-funded scientists, or media figures uncritically parroting either group.

Climate change is occurring. It has always. This is not a reason to make President Biden a dictator in an attempt to thwart an ever-changing climate; nor is it a reason for the Senate Majority Leader to relinquish his role after a week on the job.

The United States has had many national emergencies, including the Covid-19 pandemic. President Trump did not become a dictator; Congress remained involved as a co-equal branch to fight the pandemic, which included appropriating trillions of dollars to support Americans and sustain the economy.

The fact that state legislatures handed emergency powers to governors to respond to the pandemic is further reason the president should have none over climate policy. Time and again, several governors made capricious orders to lockdown their state economies and destroy millions of livelihoods—still without thwarting the virus—which are stark examples against unchecked executive power.

Looking further back in history, the U.S. was attacked on September 11, 2001 and on December 7, 1941. I’d characterize each event a national emergency. Yet, it was Congress, not the president, which authorized a military response, in the latter example by declaring war. Even the Vietnam and Iraq wars, increasingly viewed as tragic foreign policy blunders, were authorized and funded by Congress.

Presidents Roosevelt, Johnson and Bush did not usurp “emergency” powers when America was attacked nor when they believed our national security was at risk (though FDR went around Congress to aid Britain prior to America entering World War II). Neither should President Biden declare emergency powers to deal with climate.

As a candidate, Biden did not run on issuing a “climate emergency.” Rather, he promised to use the “authority of the executive branch” and propose a “legislative agenda on climate change” (emphasis mine). By contrast, his main rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, did promise to “declare a national emergency on climate change” and lost the Democratic presidential primary.

We elect presidents and lawmakers to enact laws. Let them debate climate measures that cost trillions of taxpayer dollars after one degree of warming in the last 40 years.

Let lawmakers argue over eliminating tens of thousands of jobs in the fossil fuel and transportation sectors, rather than a single politician eliminating 10,000 jobs by canceling a project like the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Let’s hear our elected representatives say whether low-income and middle class Americans should have imposed on them skyrocketing energy costs even as “renewable” alternatives are decades away from replacing traditional, low-cost energy sources, if ever.

Democracy must prevail.

  • Peter Murphy is Senior Fellow at CFACT. He has researched and advocated for a variety of policy issues, including education reform and fiscal policy, both in the non-profit sector and in government in the administration of former New York Governor George Pataki. He previously wrote and edited The Chalkboard weblog for the NY Charter Schools Association, and has been published in numerous media outlets, including The Hill, New York Post, Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal. Twitter: @PeterMurphy26 Website: https://www.petermurphylgs.com/

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