By Andrew Falduto
On the night of August 25, Hurricane Harvey made landfall in eastern Texas as a Category 4 storm, with winds of over 130 mph. Being the first Category 4 storm to hit the United States since Hurricane Charley in 2004, it brought massive devastation to southeast Texas and southern Louisiana, killing at least 23 people and displacing millions. Less than three weeks later, Hurricane Irma struck western Florida as a Category 3, causing similar destruction. Considering it is arguably the most destructive storm in almost 15 years, Harvey has many asking why Hurricanes and Tropical Storms of this magnitude have become so common in the United States. Storms such as Katrina, Floyd, Sandy, and Irene, have terrorized the United States over the past 20 years, just to name a few. When asked about the issue, Gabriel Vecchi, a Princeton University climate scientist, stated, "Even though we expect that the intensity of storms should be fueled by global warming, it's really tough to say that that's already happening." Hurricane Harvey could have easily happened with or without global warming’s effects, thus further complicating the issue. Climate experts have studied and debated the effects of global warming on hurricanes and “hurricane season”, but the question still remains: does climate change, caused by humans, increase the amount and intensity of Earth’s hurricanes?
President Donald J. Trump believes the answer to this question is no, calling global warming “a total, and very expensive, hoax!” Due to his disbelief in climate change and a desire to save taxpayer money, President Trump announced his plan to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, a global effort to prevent climate change through government intervention, on June 1, 2017. This was met with overwhelming backlash from leaders of almost every nation in the European Union, and from Democrats and leftists in the United States. In some of the most left-leaning states, such as California, New York, and Washington, there has been such a strong disapproval of the decision that the three governors of these states, 30 mayors, 80 university presidents, and over 100 businesses have pledged to uphold the conditions of the Paris Agreement. The intentions of these states to essentially enter into the agreement without federal approval leads to three main questions: Can they? Will they? Should they?
First, can states act on their own to be a part of the Paris Climate Accord? The answer to this question lies solely in the U.S. Constitution. In Article 1, Section 10, it states, “No state shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation;…[or] pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of contracts.” Based on this, it would seem that it is not within a state’s rights to enter into any sort of contract, treaty, or agreement without federal consent. However, the Paris Climate Agreement does not qualify as a treaty, alliance, confederation, or contract, as there is virtually nothing legally binding involved in it. Thus, the Constitution gives regards to this issue once again in the Tenth Amendment, which states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.” This is essentially saying that since there is nothing prohibiting the states from entering the Paris Climate Accord, they are fully free to uphold it if their governors and state legislative bodies make such a decision. Therefore, can these states uphold the Paris Climate Agreement? Yes.
The next factor in this issue lies in the question of “will these states actually be a part of the Accord?” Considering that the conditions of the Agreement state that the earliest possible time of withdraw is November of 2020, and the agreement does not call for any financing until 2020, the chances that any immediate action will be taken is very low. In November 2020, when the United States will officially withdraw from the Climate Accord, the United States will be having a presidential election, and President Trump could likely only have a mere two months remaining in office, due to his recent approval rating of on 35%. Therefore, it is probable that, assuming President Trump runs for a second term, he will lose to a Democrat, possibly Cory Booker or Kamala Harris. The probability that this Democrat will support re-entering the Paris Climate Accord is very high, considering that the left is very much in favor of fighting climate change through government intervention. Thus, these governors and mayors will most likely recognize the high chances that the entire nation will re-enter the Agreement under the new democratic president. However, due to Hurricane Harvey’s recent devastation of eastern Texas and southern Louisiana, the nation could easily see a fresh outcry for climate change regulations. Therefore, will these states uphold the Paris Climate Agreement? Possibly, but most likely not.
The final issue in regards to the Accord, lies in whether or not these three states, or any others, should uphold and strive for former President Barack Obama’s commitments to the Paris Climate Accord. These commitments would mainly involve lowering greenhouse gas emissions by over 25% by 2025, contributing a large portion of the financing for the $100 billion goal per year, and attempting to limit the rise in temperature of the globe to 1.5-2 degrees celsius. While the reduction of carbon emissions and the increase in the usage of renewable energy seems like a worthy cause for these states, it is almost an unnecessary cause. The percentage of energy that is renewable produced in these three states, California, New York, and Washington is 24.38%, 44.79%, and 92.25% respectively. These are all significantly higher than the national average of approximately 13%, showing that these states have already gone a long way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, making participation in the Accord harmful to themselves. The other huge factor in the conditions of the agreement is the financing requirements. Due to the Agreement’s pledge to keep global temperature increase from pre industrial era below 2 degrees celsius, the Accord would be in need of financing of $100 billion each year from 2020 to 2025, and then financing needs would increase after that, according to the conditions of the Agreement. Many economists and climate experts have estimated the overwhelming load this would place on the main economic contributors, such as members of the European Union, the United States, and Canada. According to Renee Cho, an educator at Columbia University, “fulfilling all the climate pledges would entail investments of $13.5 trillion in energy efficiency and low-carbon technologies between 2015 and 2030.” While this seems like to much of a burden already, it is also important to remember that there is nothing legally binding about the Paris Climate Accord, hence why President Donald Trump was able to withdraw so easily. Due to this lack of legal obligation, the Accord would have no real effect, as every nation sets its own regulations and funding goals. Therefore, while the United States could hypothetically cut their emissions in half, and contribute $250 million, China, the nation that contributes to most to air pollution, could hypothetically keep their emissions the same and contribute $1. Neither nation would be rewarded, and neither nation would be penalized, making the Paris Climate Accord essentially useless. There is effectively no benefit for being a part of the Agreement, nor is their a real drawback to being a part of it. To conclude, should these states uphold the Paris Climate Agreement? No.
As the Paris Climate Accord is ineffectual, it may very easily prove to be a waste of time, money, and effort, making the re-entering into Agreement on a state level futile. The only real purpose the Accord is guaranteed to achieve is furthering the globalist agenda of many on the left, the European Union, and the United Nations. Even with Hurricane Harvey’s devastation, the outcry against climate change will not be large enough to affect the President’s stubborn administration, nor will it actually cause any states to re-enter the Accord, at least not in the near future. Only time will tell if the Paris Climate Accord will become relevant again in the United States, but it seems America will not be involved in any way, whether on a state or federal level.