There was no need for President Trump to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement to achieve his goal of overturning the Obama administration’s global warming policy. This had already occurred through court rulings and executive orders, which effectively halted higher vehicle fuel economy standards (up to 54.5 miles per gallon) and ended the Clean Power Plan program, which pushed electric utilities to shift away from coal.
Nine scientists have been dismissed from the EPA’s 18-person Board of Scientific Counselors—ostensibly to include more voices from regulated industries, though the scientists say their work was apolitical and did not involve regulations. The US government has also postponed an important meeting scheduled for Tuesday to determine whether the country should or should not withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change, a matter that President Donald Trump promised to decide this month.
Just what White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon meant when he recently suggested “deconstructing the administrative state” is unclear. To critics, he would gut the whole superstructure of social and environmental safeguards, starting with the Environmental Protection Agency (which, say news reports, may face a staff cut of one-fifth). But regardless of Bannon’s meaning, the relentless growth of the administrative state is a reality that we can’t escape.
By all means, let’s have a carbon tax. It’s the best way to deal with global climate change. It would require Republicans and Democrats to compromise -- a good thing -- and would provide revenues for a government that desperately needs more revenue. Fine. But let’s not pretend that a carbon tax is a panacea for either climate change or too much debt.