Friday, June 2, 2017

Notations on Our World (Friday Edition): On the Aftermath of @POTUS #ParisAgreement & Other Thoughts

Our team has been busy curating the Twitter Channel to assess the aftermath of the announcement by President Trump.    The EPA Administrator, Scott Pruitt, was before reporters at the White House defending President Trump's decision by underscoring how it was "undermining America".   He also cited the New York Times' Brett Stephens and James Hansen as proof of why Paris was not in the best interests of the United States.

Our team decided to feature the entire article we released by The Hindu of India that directly refuted what President Trump noted (published by AP) that was also reitrated by Mashable and others: 

Fact check: Trump’s claims on climate change


Donald Trump said on Thursday that US will withdraw from the Paris climate accord. A look at some of the claims in his speech and an accompanying fact sheet about the deal to curtail emissions responsible for global warming

WASHINGTON - Announcing that the U.S. will withdraw from the Paris climate accord, President Donald Trump misplaced the blame for what ails the coal industry and laid a shaky factual foundation for his decision. A look at some of the claims in a Rose Garden speech and an accompanying fact sheet about the deal to curtail emissions responsible for global warming:
White House: The Paris climate accord “would effectively decapitate our coal industry, which now supplies about one-third of our electric power.”
The facts: The U.S. coal industry was in decline long before the Paris accord was signed in 2015. The primary cause has been competition from cleaner-burning natural gas, which has been made cheaper and more abundant by hydraulic fracturing. Electric utilities have been replacing coal plants with gas-fired facilities because they are more efficient and less expensive to operate.
Trump: Claims “absolutely tremendous economic progress since Election Day,” adding “more than a million private-sector jobs.”
The facts: That’s basically right, but he earns no credit for jobs created in the months before he became President. To rack up that number, the president had to reach back to October. Even then, private sector job creation from October through April (171,000 private sector jobs a month) lags just slightly behind the pace of job creation for the previous six months (172,000), entirely under President Barack Obama.
Trump: “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.”
The facts: That may be so, but Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, is not Trump country. It voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton in November, favouring her by a margin of 56% to Trump’s 40%. The city has a climate action plan committing to boost the use of renewable energy. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, a Democrat, has been an outspoken supporter of the Paris accord, and tweeted after Trump’s announcement that “as the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future.”
White House: “According to a study by NERA Consulting, meeting the Obama administration’s requirements in the Paris Accord would cost the U.S. economy nearly $3 trillion over the next several decades. By 2040, our economy would lose 6.5 million industrial sector jobs including 3.1 million manufacturing sector jobs.”
The facts: This study was paid for by two groups that have long opposed environmental regulation, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the American Council for Capital Formation. Both get financial backing from those who profit from the continued burning of fossil fuels. The latter group has received money from foundations controlled by the Koch brothers, whose company owns refineries and more than 4,000 miles of oil and gas pipelines.
The study makes worst-case assumptions that may inflate the cost of meeting U.S. targets under the Paris accord while largely ignoring the economic benefits to U.S. businesses from building and operating renewable energy projects.
Academic studies have found that increased environmental regulation doesn’t actually have much impact on employment. Jobs lost at polluting companies tend to be offset by new jobs in green technology.
White House: Cites a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology- “If all member nations met their obligations, the impact on the climate would be negligible,” curbing temperature rise by “less than .2 degrees Celsius in 2100.”
The facts: The co-founder of the MIT program on climate change says the administration is citing an outdated report, taken out of context. Jake Jacoby said the actual global impact of meeting targets under the Paris accord would be to curb rising temperatures by 1 degree Celsius, or 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit.
“They found a number that made the point they want to make,” Jacoby said. “It’s kind of a debate trick.”
One degree may not sound like much, but Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate scientist at the Potsdam Institute in Germany, says, “Every tenth of a degree increases the number of unprecedented extreme weather events considerably.”:

As we went to press here, the UK Elections is in full swing and Teresa May, the UK Prime Minister is on the BBC Question Time facing a regular audience--and the questions are very very tough!!!   The UK Elections is next Thursday--the same day as Former Director Comey is due to testify.  It is interesting that the President's Counselor, Kelly Ann Conway, has said that the President is yet to decide.    What Professor Turley noted in his blog is interesting read we are featuring here in its' entirety--and it is of note that Ms. Conway was one of Professor Turley's students:

In an interview on Good Morning America, White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway said that the decision had not been made whether the President would invoke executive privilege to bar former FBI Director James Comey from discussing his conversations with Trump regarding the Russian investigation.  The invocation of executive privilege could raise some provocative and problematic issues for the White House. (For full disclosure, I taught Conway at GW law school).
 Executive privilege is of course not referenced in the Constitution though it has been claimed in some form since the administration of George Washington.  The Supreme Court laid out the foundation for the privilege in United States v. Nixon and it has been used extensively to deny information to both Congress and the courts in prior controversies.  The Supreme Court treats the privilege as “qualified” and the strongest claim is made when a president can show that the disclosure would impair nationals security or the functioning of the Executive Branch.
This would fall on the weaker end of that spectrum of claims.  Comey reportedly wants to testify that the President tried to pressure him to drop the investigation of Gen. Michael Flynn.  Some have alleged that the effort constitutes a form of obstruction of justice, though I still have legal reservations about those claims.  Moreover, Trump has spoken publicly about these conversations, undermining claims over the sensitivity of the information.  Indeed, in his May 9 letter firing Comey, Trump wrote: “. . .  I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation . . . ” Finally, Congress has a legitimate interest in the information as part of its oversight authority under Article I.
If Trump wants to invoke, we would expect a letter or memo to go to Congress detailing his claim — often from the White House counsel or with his support.  In  fairness to Trump, it should be noted that President Barack Obama asserted the privilege in 2012 to block Congress from seeing documents relating to an investigation into Fast and Furious. I was highly critical of the invocation.  
Since Comey is now a private citizen, the invocation would open up equally problematic questions of how the White House could stop him.  If Congress goes forward to ask the questions, Comey could elect to share the information.  It is not clear what the Administration would do in the aftermath. If could seek a court order enjoining the testimony, but time is running out and there is not a lot of case law that could be marshaled on the point.
In other words, it would be a mess.   Once again, I am not sure why the White House would let such a question linger given its damaging political optics of a president trying to silence a witness after repeatedly denying claims on those very conversations.  If you are going to invoke privilege, you should do so. If you are not going to invoke, you should convey an eagerness to have a full and open discussion of the conversations.
I have previously criticized the apparently loose control over private lawyers invoking presidential privileges and immunities.  This is a case where the White House needs to be clear and proactive on its position.  If it choses to invoke, it will be a considerable risk on this weak foundation.  Past presidents have been leery of taking such issues to court.  Since executive privilege is implied under Article II, it can be severely limited by ill-conceived court challenges.  We have already seen remarkably sloppy legal work by the White House in the first immigration order. This is far more serious in its implications for future presidents if they go forward with a casual invocation of executive privilege.

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