As I and others have pointed out, the US 2016 Presidential election may well be pivotal in determining the outcome of the long, bitter conflict over climate. There is still a little time before the Obama Administration’s climate regulations start seriously impacting and misdirecting electrical energy source selections and thus the US economy. But the actual time remaining depends on the timing and outcome of the “Clean Power Plan” (CCP) Supreme Court case, which is unknown.
As previously discussed, one major political party and its nominee, Hillary Clinton, favors ending all use of fossil fuels by 2050. The other major party and its nominee, Donald Trump, says that it will drastically reduce less than essential regulations, which appears to include some environmental and most climate regulations. This would presumably return energy source selection to market forces rather than government fiat. Given that wind and solar are uneconomic without government regulations or subsidies, the change could be a major one. The differences between the parties could not be much more clear cut.
So what has happened is that the climate issue has been mixed in with many other policy differences between the parties and nominees which are totally unrelated. Given the gridlock in Congress, voters can pick either one policy package or the other, but cannot mix and match as is normally done in writing legislation.
The Current Situation
At the moment Trump appears to be closing the polling gap with Clinton, who has led in the polls since the party conventions. If this surge should continue, Trump is likely to win and there is likely to be a clear climate winner with climate regulations pushed back by at least four years and possibly eight years since he would presumably withdraw any climate regulations that have not gone final and prepare revisions effectively withdrawing the rest.
The situation becomes more complex, however, when some contingencies are taken into account. The most important one results from the fact that the Democratic National Committee has the authority to fill a vacancy although it cannot remove nominees against their will. In a normal election year such a change would be highly unlikely. But this has been far from a normal election year.
The Democratic nominee, who is committed to a more radical climate policy than that of the Obama Administration, has two possible uncertainties hanging over her candidacy beyond the normal electoral uncertainties. The best known is the Email scandal. This has been in the news for so long, however, that it is doubtful whether significant new information will come to light before the election.
The Elephant in the Closet
The other issue, however, has received almost no attention. This is Mrs. Clinton’s health. Mr. Trump is downplaying this issue and to date has not really discussed it publicly. But others, particularly conservative news websites (and even a climate website) have had more to say about it, including detailed video. The issue is whether Mrs. Clinton is suffering from a debilitating and progressive neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s that would presumably make it very difficult for her to carry out the duties of President in a timely and effective way.
This is where voters or even the Democratic National Committee could play an important role. One conservative website includes a list of over a dozen physicians they have consulted who have raised major questions concerning the issue. One is reported to have stated that:
- “From a distance, without formal evaluation there are still three things I know for sure regarding Hillary Clinton’s medical condition: 1) She has a neurological disorder; 2) pneumonia did not cause the episode on 9/11; and 3) she and her staff have been lying to cover up the truth of her condition for months if not years.”
After her collapse on September 11, everything she does will be scrutinized for any further possible neurological symptoms she may exhibit, and if such symptoms should be documented there may be pressure within the Party to get her to voluntarily withdraw; if not, voters may start to take the issue into account as it becomes more widely known in making their selection.
The Implications for the Climate Issue
So the next question is what happens to the Democratic Party’s climate platform if someone else takes her place? Obviously it would depend on whom it might be. If it were Senator Sanders, the climate agenda would be likely to be even more extreme. If it were Senator Kaine, however, it would be more uncertain. His voting record on climate has generally been pro-alarmist, however. But another possibility might be Vice President Biden, who has not been in the Senate for almost eight years but has made some alarmist statements in the last few years.
Since there is little likelihood that Congress will settle the climate question on its own, a further question is who the new President would propose to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court since the immediate issue is whether the crucial EPA CPP regulations will be upheld when they reach the Court. The current Court would appear likely to vote 4-4, which would mean that the very “liberal” DC Circuit Court’s forthcoming decision would hold. Trump has promised to nominate only very conservative justices, which would presumably result in making the Court’s decision on CPP 5-4 against. A Democratic president would presumably result in the opposite outcome.