Climate Change, Presidential Power, and Leadership: 'We Can’t Wait'

58 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2019

Date Written: 2012


The United States now has a climate change policy focused on reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs). Most of this policy has been generated by the Obama Administration through executive action, primarily within the Environmental Protection Agency. To meet U.S. pledges to reduce GHG emissions by 17% by 2020 and 83% by 2050, President Obama must do more because it is clear that Congress will not address climate change. As described in this Article, there is much more the president can do. Using his treaty-making authority, he can take a more positive, constructive approach to reducing GHG emissions in the climate change negotiations. He also has a number of tools available within the World Trade Organization for encouraging fuel efficiency, disseminating technologies that would mitigate GHG emissions, and eliminating fossil fuel subsidies. Domestically, he can direct agencies to impose higher standards on existing sources of GHG emissions rather focusing solely on new and modified sources. He can also do much more to reduce emissions of powerful but short-lived climate forcers, such as methane and black carbon. For example, 99% of black carbon emissions could be eliminated from existing trucks by requiring the use of regenerative filters. Lastly, the president could redirect funding to climate prizes that reward innovation in developing transformative technologies to reduce GHG emissions. In this political climate, and with climate science pointing to ever greater climate impacts, President Obama must use the presidency to act. We can’t wait.

Keywords: climate change, mitigation, short-lived climate forcers

JEL Classification: K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Wold, Chris, Climate Change, Presidential Power, and Leadership: 'We Can’t Wait' (2012). Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law, Vol. 45, No. 1, 2012, Available at SSRN:

Chris Wold (Contact Author)

Lewis & Clark Law School ( email )

10015 S.W. Terwilliger Blvd.
Portland, OR 97219
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics