If Biden declares climate emergency, experts worry how wide the scope of his powers would be
A senior research fellow told Just the News why he thinks now would be "prime time" excuse for Biden to activate his emergency powers. Legal and Policy experts -- on the left and right -- are concerned that such powers may be "undermining democracy."
Last week, President Joe Biden said during an interview that his administration "already" declared a national emergency over climate change, before starting to clarify that he practically—not actually—had.
CNN called the statement "incorrect" but there is widespread speculation he will declare one soon. Citing anonymous White House sources, The Washington Post reported in July that Biden is considering whether to declare a national climate emergency in the coming weeks.
The deadly Maui wildfires have been the latest tragedy raised by climate activists as a justification for emergency powers to be authorized in America and across the globe.
"We saw him say, he’d done it… [or] virtually did it," Dr. H. Sterling Burnett, senior fellow at the Heartland Institute with a focus on climate issues, told Just the News. "Well, virtually isn't doing it, but that doesn't mean he won't do it in the future because he is talking about it."
Burnett added that there’s a "constant drumbeat from environmentalists in the progressive wing of the party to do this." But this loud outcry, he opined, comes from a tiny fraction of people.
"The people really pushing for a climate emergency are the fringe in the party. Everyone thinks that people want them to do something big about climate change, but poll after poll shows" people are not willing to make sacrifices commensurate with crisis claims.
In 2019, a recorded 35% of voters weren’t willing to spend any of their own money fighting climate change, and only 15% said they’d spend a maximum of $10 per month on it, per a Competitive Enterprise Institute poll.
Fast forward to 2023, and Pew Research indicates that overall, while a slight "majority (54%) of U.S. adults describe climate change as a major threat to the country’s well-being," that number "is down slightly from 2020." More importantly, the Pew Report notes that "while a majority of adults view climate change as a major threat, it is a lower priority than issues such as strengthening the economy and reducing health care costs" adding that 68% of those polled want fossil fuels to remain in America’s energy mix.
Burnett conjectured that though people's hesitance to jump off the climate change train may be rooted in the institutional narrative promoted in the mainstream media, Burnett also suggested there is concern because many understand the degree of power an emergency declaration would give to the federal government.
The U.S. Oil and Gas Association’s Tim Steward warned about the scope of such a declaration, telling Just The News that "If you grant the president's emergency powers to declare a climate emergency, it's just like COVID.” Steward added that "such a declaration would give the president “vast and unchecked authority to shut down everything from communications to infrastructure."
One legal outline advocating Biden’s emergency powers claimed he would be able to do things like end all crude oil exports and offshore oil and gas leasing, as well as dramatically accelerate the green energy transition.
Others have constitutional concerns about these type of declarations in general. The left-leaning Brennan Center for Justice points out that "overbroad emergency powers provide a ready mechanism for undermining democracy and entrenching political power." During the Trump administration, The Atlantic magazine called the scope of power granted by declaration "alarming."
Biden would be "basically declaring himself a dictator" for environmentalism, Burnett said. "It gives him tremendous powers, that whole range of authority to dictate things in the economy and people's actions."
Due to the likely pushback that would come from this, Burnett is slightly optimistic that Biden would back down from an emergency authorization.
"He wants the Democratic Party to be reelected," Burnett said, when asked why Biden has stayed on the fence about exercising his emergency powers. "So, were he to take this step and actually start imposing things before the next election, there's going to be problems with the polls come voting day."
However, he concluded, if Biden were to declare it, now would be a "prime time" due to the ongoing heat wave and "in response to the Maui fires."
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