Self-Government Not Climate at Issue in Paris Agreement

By | 2017-06-02T18:30:05+00:00 June 2, 2017|
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It’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?

If the Paris accord had been ratified by the Senate, it would be federal law. If it was law, then President Trump would have no power to withdraw the United States from participating in it.

For the sake of argument, let us assume that climate change is caused directly by man’s activity and that it will lead to catastrophic environmental consequences. Within the next century, coastal cities will be inundated by the oceans, widespread crop failures will lead to worldwide famines, and any number of disastrous events will be the result of our failure to enact the provisions of the Paris Agreement.

If all this is true, then it was the duty of President Obama not only to make a personal agreement with other world leaders, but to make the case for the Paris Agreement to the Senate and the American people. It is only through ratification by the Senate that any agreement made by a President of the United States becomes a treaty under U.S. law.

Article 2, section 2 of the United States Constitution reads, “He (the President) shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur.” If the Paris Climate Accord was an issue of primary importance, this should have been done.

If the Paris accord had been ratified by the Senate, it would be federal law. If it was law, then President Trump would have no power to withdraw the United States from participating in it. The primary duty of the President, as stated in section 3 of Article 2 is that, “he shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” If it had been a ratified international treaty, President Trump would be obligated to carry out the Paris Agreement, barring an additional act of Congress to repeal it.

Why then was the Paris agreement not presented to the Senate for their ratification? Doubtless, many Democrats would defend then President Obama’s inaction due to the fact that there was a Republican majority in the Senate that might not have been receptive to the pact. That is hardly an acceptable excuse, and it is emblematic of a much deeper problem with President Obama’s take on governing. If the case for the Paris agreement is as clear as its advocates claim, certainly that case could have been made to the Senators and the the people that they represent.

For all their talk about “democracy” and the “people,” the simple truth is that progressives don’t have much use for democratic institutions. They do not really believe in self-government. What they believe in is government by an expert elite who deem it their fate in life to protect the people from themselves.

A poll conducted by the George Mason University’s Center for Climate Change Communication in November of 2016, cited by the Washington Post, U.S. News & World Report, The Atlantic and many other legacy media outlets, makes the claim that 71% of Americans support the Paris deal, with only 13% opposed. They go on to say that even a majority of Republicans, including Trump voters, support the Paris agreement. If this is to be believed, certainly the pressure of public opinion might have been mustered to pressure the requisite number of Senators to ratify the agreement and make a treaty, right?

For all their talk about “democracy” and the “people,” the simple truth is that progressives don’t have much use for democratic institutions. They do not really believe in self-government. What they believe in is government by an expert elite who deem it their fate in life to protect the people from themselves.

This was the regular course of action during the Obama presidency. Obama did not deign to make the case through our Constitutionally-mandated system of checks and balances, but sought instead to put into place policies that did not enjoy popular support by empowering unelected bureaucrats who shared his preferences to take on roles never envisioned by the lawmakers who created the laws that empowered them. We can see this nowhere more clearly than in “environmental” policy through the overreach of the Obama EPA.

What progressives in the Democratic Party (and, sadly, many wobbly members of the Republican Party) fail to realize, is that this is what brought them the Trump presidency.

Most of the United States still believes in the Constitution, and in the republican form of self-government. The American people remain capable of governing themselves. As Ronald Reagan said in his first inaugural address,

We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed. We not only do not need unelected bureaucrats running our lives, we resent their attempts to do so.

This is the grassroots swell that fueled the Reagan Revolution and that elevated Donald Trump to the Republican nomination and Electoral College victory, despite the best efforts of the progressive/media establishment to preserve the old order.

If progressives want to make a counter-argument within our Constitutional framework, they are most welcome to do so. Unlike the progressive bureaucratic order, our republican system does not stymie opposing viewpoints. The system the Founders created allows us as a people to make important decisions through our representatives in Washington. If they can make the stronger argument Progressives can still win. During his brief time in office, President Trump has worked diligently to restore national sovereignty and the principles of a self-governing republic. That, not climate change, is what really frightens progressives.

About the Author:

Sam Agami
Sam Agami has taught American History, Civics, and Economics in the Virginia Beach Public Schools since 1999. He earned a M.A. in American History and Government from Ashland University in Ohio. A native of New Rochelle, NY, he currently resides in Norfolk, VA with his wife Deanna.


  1. Dan Schwartz June 3, 2017 at 12:09 am

    Angelo Codevilla in The American Spectator, continued)
    The existing protocol is for Americans to pretend that the Europeans are what they once were and that they will do what they should. The Trump administration hastened to follow it. Thus National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, along with Gary Cohn, wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “We came away with new outcomes for the first time in decades: More allies are stepping up to meet their defense commitments. By asking for more buy-in, we have deepened our relationships.” Neither would bet a dime of their own money on it. They know that neither Merkel nor any of her possible successors, nor the German public, nor those of any other NATO member save Poland have the slightest intention of complying. They, as well as the Europeans, must know that the American people are not any likelier to buy that line from them than they did from previous representatives of the U.S. ruling class.

    The second headline from the meeting was newly elected French president Emmanuel Macron’s effort to persuade Trump not to renounce the United States’ unofficial adherence to the 2015 Paris treaty commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Press coverage throughout the world has assumed that the U.S. is a party to that treaty, and that President Trump may personally abrogate it. That, the reverse of the truth, depicts one man as standing in the way of what has become the euro-American ruling class’s environmental religion. Truth is that the U.S. is not party to that treaty because although President Obama signed it, he never submitted it to the U.S. Senate for ratification as required by the U.S. Constitution, and that he did not submit it because of the absolute certainty that the Senate would have rejected it. President Trump could have effectively withdrawn from the treaty simply by submitting it to the Senate. Instead, he effectively ratified Obama’s unconstitutional adherence to it by continuing to abide to its terms during its specified three-year withdrawal process — effectively leaving withdrawal to the next president. Once again, the Trump administration proved far more accommodating to transnational ruling class opinion than the American political system and the American people.

    Nevertheless, ruling class opinion on both sides of the Atlantic indicts the Trump administration for insufficient accommodation. The interesting question is, who are these people that we should accommodate them, and what is their problem with Americans?

    All at the meeting represented various forms of the class that has ruled Europe since roughly 1970 and against which Europeans are revolting in various ways. France’s Emmanuel Macron has the tepid support of a fourth of his electorate and the passionate disdain of over half. Theresa May, in office because the voters rejected Britain’s Establishment, loses popularity as her party doubles down on Establishmentarianism. Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni tries to hold off elections that his ruling class is certain to lose. Angela Merkel, pilloried by Germans for letting in 1.2 million people they don’t like and who don’t like them, is unafraid of elections only because her opponents favor letting in more. Because few outside of functionaries and party wheel-horses follow their lead, “rulers” or “officials” would be more accurate descriptions of them than “leaders.” As they preside over administrative states, democracy is but a bother. They speak bureaucratese resulting from back door deals. They set long range programs relegated to memory holes long before they bear fruit. Passionately, they believe in nothing. And they know that their peoples, contemptuous of them, long for something else.

    Their problem with Americans is that, unlike Europeans we, within living memory, have lived other than as subjects of administrative states. Within living memory, many Americans have lived as self-governing citizens, resent losing that status, and want to return to it. Hence, today’s Americans almost as much as those of times gone by, consider Europeans as less free than we and don’t want to imitate them. Moreover, as Michael Tomasky wrote in the New Republic, “First of all, middle Americans go to church. Not temple. Church. God and Jesus Christ play important roles in their lives.” Not only do Tomasky’s “Liberal Elite” friends consider this to be apostasy from today’s officious secular cult. So do their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic.

    America’s 2016 election struck fear in Europe’s ruling class — fear that something like what is happening in America — which has only begun to happen — is in store for them. That is a reasonable fear and a reasonable explanation for the tensions at the 2017 G7 meeting. (end)

  2. Concettatcelis June 3, 2017 at 10:27 am

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  3. NGM June 3, 2017 at 4:25 pm

    Excellent article!! Well said!!

    • Sam Agami June 5, 2017 at 12:25 pm

      Thank you for the kind words

  4. Dean June 3, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    Doing the job of president is hard work, Obama was far too lazy for that, he preferred trying to be a dictator and ended up without any lasting legacy.

  5. iRickie June 3, 2017 at 7:26 pm

    President Trump accomplished amazing feats in his short time in office! MAGA the best is yet to come! Covfefe

  6. Barry Marsh June 4, 2017 at 11:01 pm

    Absolutely true; President Obama was not about to put this before the Senate; this was simply a huge transfer of wealth!

  7. swek June 5, 2017 at 2:16 am

    wet bullkrap
    if you want to go it alone, fine
    but don’t blame it on American exceptionalism – blame it on sheer ignorance and hatred

  8. Henry Miller June 6, 2017 at 1:13 am

    “They do not really believe in self-government. What they believe in is government by an expert elite…”

    I.e., they believe in dictatorial tyranny. The despise any whiff of individual freedom; they can’t bear the thought of anything other than a huge, overwhelmingly dominant, Hunger-Games-style, Capitol and would like nothing better than to crush any competition.

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