Self-Government Not Climate At Issue In Paris Agreement

t’s time for a serious discussion about what just happened with the Paris Climate agreement. President Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. participation was not only a fulfillment of his campaign promise and utterly predictable, it was his clear legal prerogative to do it. The Paris agreement was not a treaty; it was not law. It was a personal agreement between Barack Obama and a number of other world leaders. Their agreement not only lacked hard enforcement provisions, they were not binding on the home nations of any of the signators that did not then decide to make it the law of their lands.

For our purposes here, it is less interesting to debate whether or not climate change is natural or man-made, or whether the worst-case scenarios offered about its supposed effects are realistic. Those are questions of judgment and they are not the issue at hand. Instead, we want to focus on the legitimacy of these kinds of international agreements and how they are made under the United States Constitution. In other words, who gets to make the judgments discussed above? And who decides what the United States should do in response to potential climate change?

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