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John C.
Republican TX

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  • Paris Climate Change Agreement

    by Senator John Cornyn

    Posted on 2015-12-16

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    CORNYN. Now, Mr. President, I want to spend a few minutes talking about some of the things on which I don't think we are going to be able to find political consensus. That has to do with the President's moving up his list of priorities. Among all the other things that are going on in the world, he seems to be saying that climate change is the most urgent challenge facing the United States and the world. I worry a little bit any time I hear a politician--or anybody, for that matter-- making sort of messianic claims. The President characterized the agreement in Paris--and I will talk more about the nature of that agreement--``a turning point for the world.'' It strikes me that it takes quite a bit of hubris and really arrogance to be claiming that yes, this is going to be a turning point for the world. As a matter of fact, the Wall Street Journal said that it pays to be skeptical of a politician who claims to be saving the planet.

    I don't share the President's priorities when it comes to climate change because I think there are actually more urgent priorities, such as fighting terrorism both abroad and here at home. That would be a more urgent priority. Some of the other more prosaic work we do here is pretty important to the quality of lives of the American people and to the economy, our ability to create an environment where they can find work and provide for their families. I think those needs are more urgent.

    Nevertheless, the President seems to be once again exaggerating what his authority is under our Constitution. Of course, the President has no legal authority to bind his successor. What he seems to be saying is ``This is an agreement between me and the 140-some-odd nations,'' and it won't last beyond his Presidency. Last time I checked, the President will be leaving the White House sometime in January 2017. What he has purported to do is enter into an agreement that would somehow bind his successor and would somehow bind the Congress and the American people. But under our Constitution, this President--no President has any authority to do anything like that.

    So it is clear that this agreement has been crafted in a way that gives some of the countries that are parties to the agreement more leeway than others. Some major economies don't have to play by the same rules that the United States would.

    This agreement represents the President once again trying to claim authority he simply does not have. We don't have a king. In America, we made that decision a long time ago. I think it was 1787 when we decided we would not have a king, but the President seems to act like a monarch and claim authorities from some source other than the Constitution. It seems unbelievable that after the Obama administration has failed to find support for so many of the President's overreaching regulations here at home--not in the Congress, not in the State houses, not in the courts--his response was to sign on to an agreement with the United Nations that seeks to tax our use of energy. It is another attempt to do an end run around the Constitution and around the American people.

    What really frustrates me is the President's willingness to sacrifice our economy--job creation and the ability of people to find work and to provide for their family--to promote a cause that offers no guarantee of a more resilient climate or a clean environment.

    The President and some of his supporters frequently like to say: Well, people who don't regard climate change as a priority are anti- science. I actually think people who think agreements such as this are going to provide the answer are anti-science.

    First, if you start looking at some of the models that are used to predict temperatures decades and perhaps centuries out, this is not what you would call science, this is more like an economic projection or model, and we know how reliable they have been in the past.

    I couldn't help but think about growing up and a book that I remember reading called ``The Population Bomb,'' which was written by a Stanford professor named Paul R. Ehrlich. The thesis of ``The Population Bomb'' was that unless we did something to control population, millions of people were going to starve to death because we were going to outstrip our food supply.

    Well, obviously that didn't happen. One of the reasons it didn't happen is because of a man by the name of Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Prize winner, and now considered the father of the Green Revolution. By the way, he did spend a little bit of time at Texas A&M in Bryan College Station. But he was a very heroic figure who used science to help figure out how to increase production of the food supply in a way that made Paul Ehrlich's prediction a pipe dream. It just didn't happen.

    I think that by predicting all these dire consequences, it is the predictors--it is the people who are embracing this sort of climate change theology--who don't have any confidence in our ability to innovate our way out of these problems.

    I will use one more anecdote to try to make the point. At the start of the 20th century, horses in New York City were producing about 5 million pounds of manure a day. Can you imagine what an environmental hazard this would be with manure piled on vacant lots with rats? I will not go into all the details; it is pretty repulsive to think about. But there is a book called ``SuperFreakanomics,'' which uses this great example. They said: Well, what happened to that? Instead of some grandiose government policy or instead of some new tax or regulation that government issued, what happened to that and the environmental hazard that presented was the internal combustion engine. So not overnight, but apparently in short order, that manure was disposed of. Horses were replaced by cars.

    Again, it is just another example of how American innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurialism can take care of many of these problems that some of our friends worry so much about and think should be such an important priority for us. America's entrepreneurs have shown time and again that they are simply more adaptive and genius than government regulators and bureaucrats.

    By bypassing the American people and signing our country up for a bad international agreement that doesn't put our country first, we should instead focus on finding innovative solutions that fit the diverse needs of consumers, businesses, and a growing economy alike.

    I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Colorado.


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