With the justification, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” President Trump kept another campaign promise last week as he withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, adding jobs to the economy and saving billions of taxpayer dollars promised to third world nations. Immediately, the establishment media histrionics began in earnest, and throat-rending screeching could be heard emanating from globalists all over the planet. One positive development arose from all this angst. As it was imagined over two hundred years ago by our founders, local governments and private interests are taking action on their own. And so long as these local governments don’t overstep, this is exactly how our founders would have wanted it.
Shortly after President Trump’s announcement, the governors of California, New York, and Washington formed the United States Climate Alliance (USCA), and six other governors have joined since. Eleven other U.S. governors and the Mayor of D.C. have also pledged their support for the Paris Accord goals. 187 members of Mayors National Climate Action Agenda (MNCAA) have committed to uphold the standards of the Paris agreement. And NPR reports that Michael Bloomberg recently announced that he would replace some of the funding that the U.S. has withdrawn.
Despite the grandstanding, nothing of substance has changed. The states involved have all had longstanding commitments to climate change policy, and many have had environmental regulations exceeding those of the federal government for years. So, what can these groups of local authorities do exactly?
What they can’t do is enter treaties with foreign governments or amongst themselves. The U.S. Constitution forbids any state to join any “Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign power” without Congress’s consent. There are several ways to get the consent of Congress, including making agreements in advance which are contingent on Congressional approval. While many examples of interstate compacts already exist, with Republican majorities in the House and Senate, this consent is unlikely.
Then again, if the USCA and MNCAA are merely non-binding feel good coffee clutches of eco-justice warriors, then Constitutional issues are unlikely to arise. They surely can get together and compare notes so they may learn from each other’s successes and failures. And this is a good thing.
Ultimately, this is precisely the kind of scenario our founders imagined when they created the vertical separation of powers outlined in our Constitution. The founders specifically intended that state governments experiment with different local policies, so long as they do not interfere with areas of federal authority, for two reasons. First, what works in Florida in many cases won’t ever work in Washington State and vice versa. Second, for those policies that might work everywhere, there is a huge advantage in having a few states experiment with a new idea. After all, if the entire nation were to commit to, say, single payer healthcare, and that is a solution that will not work for the US as a whole, we will have scrapped the healthcare system of the entire nation on a false theory. On the other hand, if California is successful in implementing and funding single payer healthcare and it proves to have many unforeseen advantages, other states can then apply the policy with much less risk.
It is all about having a national marketplace of ideas. Bad ideas wither and die. Good ideas end up getting adopted globally. Lose small. Win big.
All this is why President Trump was correct to withdraw from the Paris Accord. If climate change is truly a risk, there are plenty of state and local governments willing to bear the burden of experimenting with carbon reduction goals. There is no reason for the U.S. to burden places like Wyoming, North Dakota and Texas with these policies until there is a clear and convincing universal advantage, not just for those areas that are overcrowded and lack their own fossil fuel resources. If it turns out that anthropomorphic climate change is real, and we can do something about it by cutting carbon emissions, then the California will have shown us the way. If California and her friends are wrong, only they will have suffered economic hardship for nothing.