A response to comments about the Executive Branch and Climate Change

My last post on the Department of Interior’s proposed actions with respect to climate change seemed to get many readers hot under the collar.  Much of the commentary referred to a government power grab and also the fact that actions were unwarranted because climate change was not happening.  This brings me to an important point in my blog.  As I tell my students, the issue is not whether or not you believe in human induced climate change because the powers that be do (including the Bush White House and the EPA).  Therefore, the issue is how you are going to deal with and/or influence the government response to that.

In the case of climate change in the USA, we basically have two choices.  We can issue new laws to deal with the problem, or we cannot.  But these two choices don’t mean that there is a possibility that there will not be a response to climate change (at least not in this administration).  That is because, as has become obvious, the current administration will regulate greenhouse gases under existing law, whether or not a new law comes into play.  One may or may not believe the government has too much power to note that the power it does wield over how things happen in this country is immense.  The Supreme Court has recognized for almost 80 years that Congress has far reaching powers under the Commerce Clause, and to the extent that the federaol government owns about 1/5th of the country, over its lands through the property clause.

It seems that some members of Congress in the minority are starting to understand this.  Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has proposed that the EPA be stripped of its authority to regulate stationary sources of greenhouse gases in a budget reconcilitation bill.  A clever ploy, but one that won’t work.  Obama would never sign such a bill and there are nowehere near enough votes to over-ride that veto.  Moreover, it is a dangerous game.  The budget reconciliation process is a tempting target for the dems on both climate change and health care.

What to do?  Well, rather than putting their head in the sand and hoping that comprehensive climate change legislation doesn’t come up for a vote or pass, all of our Congresspersons need to stop playing the “its not happening game” and instead focus on where they can have influence, i.e. what are we going to do legislatively that will be better than letting the administration regulate climate change under an older, very broad clean air act, that though applicable, is not necessarily the best vehicle for dealing with such change.