Declaring a Climate Change Emergency: A Citizen's Guide

by Daniel Farber | March 14, 2019

Originally published on Legal Planet.

The possibility of declaring a national emergency to address climate change will probably remain under discussion for the next couple of years, particularly if the courts uphold Trump's "wall" emergency. For that reason, I thought it might be helpful to pull together the series of blog posts I've written on the subject. I want to emphasize three key points at the beginning:

  1. Declaring a climate emergency should be off the table if the Supreme Court rules against Trump.
     
  2. An emergency declaration is not a magic wand that gives presidents a blank check. A declaration would allow some constructive steps to be taken, but within limits.
     
  3. The ultimate goal has to be congressional action, and an emergency declaration should only be considered as part of a larger legislative and administrative agenda.

Even if the Court upholds Trump, using this precedent to fight climate change will require some real soul-searching. Trump has violated a long-standing norm of presidential restraint in using emergency powers to address domestic policy. Whether to disavow or exploit that change in norms is a hard question. And declaring a climate emergency might help mobilize public opinion in support of legislative action, or it might cause a backlash that would make new legislation harder. But if the Supreme Court rules for Trump, the idea of a climate change emergency declaration has to be taken seriously.

Something of ...

The Potential Benefits of Declaring a Climate Emergency

by Daniel Farber | March 04, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. I have a confession: When I started thinking about the possibility of a climate emergency declaration, it was mostly as a counterpoint to Trump's possible (now certain) declaration of an immigration emergency. As I've thought about it, however, it seems to me that there are enough potential benefits to make the idea worth serious consideration. A relatively restrained use of emergency powers could still have some real payoff. In general, I'm not in favor of expanding ...

Trump's 'Emergency' and the Constitution

by David Driesen | February 20, 2019
Originally published in The Regulatory Review. Reprinted with permission. President Donald J. Trump has declared a national emergency to justify building a wall on the U.S. southern border, which Congress refused to fund. But Mexicans and Central Americans coming to our country in search of a better life does not constitute an emergency. Immigration at the southern border is neither new, sudden, nor especially dangerous. The number of immigrants has been declining for years and crime rates among immigrants are lower ...

National Security, Climate Change, and Emergency Declarations

by Daniel Farber | February 18, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Trump finally pulled the trigger and declared a national emergency so he can build his wall. But if illegal border crossings are a national emergency, then there's a strong case for viewing climate change in similar terms. That point has been made by observers ranging from Marco Rubio to Legal Planet's own Jonathan Zasloff in a post last week. I agree, but I want to dig deeper because it's such an important point. In order to ...

Using Emergency Powers to Fight Climate Change

by Daniel Farber | January 14, 2019
Originally published on Legal Planet. Republicans are apparently worried that if Trump could use emergency powers by declaring border security a national emergency, the next president could do the same thing for climate change. There's no doubt that this would be far more legitimate than Trump's wall effort. Border crossings are much lower than they were ten years ago; he has said in the recent past that his prior efforts have vastly improved border security. In contrast, the Pentagon has classified ...
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Time for Real Action on Global Warming

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