The Washington Post
Last Saturday, Barack Obama gained the second jewel in his
foreign policy triple crown: the
Paris climate accord. It follows his Iran nuclear deal and awaits but the
closing of Guantanamo to complete his glittering legacy.
To be sure, Obama will not be submitting the climate agreement
for Senate ratification. It would have no chance of passing — as with the
Iranian nuclear deal, also never submitted for the Senate ratification Obama
knew he’d never get. And if he does close Guantanamo, it will be in defiance
of overwhelming bipartisan congressional opposition.
You see, visionary thinkers like Obama cannot be bound by
normal constitutional strictures. Indeed, the very unpopularity of his most
cherished diplomatic goals is proof of their prophetic farsightedness.
Yet the climate deal brought back from Paris by Secretary of
State John Kerry turns out to be no deal at all. It is, instead, a series of
carbon-reducing promises made individually and unilaterally by the world’s
No enforcement, no sanctions, nothing legally binding. No
Kerry on “Fox News Sunday”: “This mandatory reporting requirement
. . . is a serious form of enforcement, if you will, of compliance, but there is
no penalty for it, obviously.”
If you think that’s gibberish, you’re not alone. Retired
NASA scientist James Hansen, America’s leading carbon abolitionist,
the whole deal “bulls---.”
The great Paris achievement is supposed to be global “transparency.”
But what can that possibly amount to when you can’t even trust the reporting?Three
months ago, the world’s greatest carbon emitter, China, admitted to having
underreported its burning of coal by 14 percent (later recalculated to17
percent ), a staggering error (assuming it wasn’t a deliberate
deception) equal to the entire coal consumption of Germany.
I’m a climate-change agnostic. But I’m realistic enough to
welcome prudent hedging against a possible worst-case scenario. I’ve long
advocated for amultilateral
agreement (unilateral U.S. actions being climatically useless and
economically suicidal) negotiated with the most important players — say,
India, China and the European Union — containing real limits, real numbers and
real enforcement. That would be a genuine achievement.
What the climate-change conference produced instead was hot
air, applauded by 196 well-fed participants. (Fourteen nights in Paris, after
all.) China promises to begin reducing carbon emissions 15
years from now. India announced it
will be tripling its coal-fired electricity capacity by 2030.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration is effectively dismantling America’s
entire coal industry.
Looking for guidance on how the U.S. will fare under this new
environmental regime? Take a glance at Obama’s other great triumph, the Iran
Does the American public know that the Iranian parliament has
never approved it? And that the Iranian president has never signed it? Iran
is not legally bound to anything . As the State Department freely
admitted (in a letter to Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) of the House
Intelligence Committee), the deal “is not a treaty or an executive agreement,
and is not a signed document.” But don’t worry. Its success “will depend
not on whether it is legally binding or signed, but rather on the extensive
verification measures” and our “capacity to reimpose — and ramp up — our
sanctions if Iran does not meet its commitments.”
And how is that going?
On Nov. 21, Iran conducted
its second test of a nuclear-capable ballistic missile in direct
contravention of two U.N. Security Council prohibitions, including one that
incorporates the current nuclear agreement — which bans such tests for eight
Our response? After Iran’s first
illegal launch in October, the administration did nothing. A few words
at the United Nations. Weren’t we repeatedly assured that any Iranian
violation would be met
with vigorous action? No worry, again. As U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power told
a congressional hearing last week, “discussions are a form of U.N.
The heart sinks.
It was obvious from the very beginning that the whole
administration promise of “snapback”
sanctions was a farce. The Iranians knew it. Hence their contempt for even the
prospect of American pushback: two illegal missile launches conducted
ostentatiously even before sanctions are lifted and before they receive their
$150 billion in unfrozen assets early next year.
Why not? They know Obama will ignore, downplay and explain
away any violation, lest it jeopardize his transformative foreign policy legacy.
It’s a legacy of fictional agreements. The proliferators and
the polluters are not bound. By our own volition, we are.
Only Guantanamo remains. Within a month, one-sixth of the
remaining prisoners will
be released. Obama will not be denied.