Supreme Court to hear CO2 case today

Today (11/29/06) the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of Massachusetts v. EPA in which over 25 plaintiffs, including a dozen states, are suing the EPA. There are two fairly straight-forward questions at issue: 1) Does the EPA have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant? 2) Can the EPA decline to exercise that oversight if it does have the authority? According the the Supreme Court very short summary of the questions at issue, Section 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act, 42 U.S.C. § 7521(a)(1), requires the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA ") to set emission standards for "any air pollutant" from motor vehicles or motor vehicle engines "which in his judgment cause[s], or contribute[s] to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare." The two sides in the debate both sound quite certain of their positions. The environmentalists say the regulation's language is clear that since CO2 can come from vehicle exhaust it should be regulated by the EPA. According to a VOA story, "Environmental lawyer Edward Warren, who has argued many cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, sees it differently. He says it was not the intent of the Clean Air Act to regulate CO2. 'The practice for 35 years has been never to consider CO2 emissions to be a pollutant.'" It should be noted that the case is not intended to create a legal determination as to whether CO2 is a cause of global warming, although that will certainly be in the plaintiffs' arguments. A short report from Northwest University shows some bias but still contains a reasonable history of the case: http://docket.medill.northwestern.edu/archives/003742.php In July, 2005, the US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled for the EPA by a 2-1 split decision. For anyone who wants to dig deep into that case, here it is: http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/elp/MA_v_EPA.pdf One interesting and less obvious point made in the case before the Court of Appeals was that unilateral regulation would make it more difficult for the US to conduct foreign policy in the area of greenhouse gas regulation. It will be interesting to see how much weight the Court gives such an argument this time. My guess is that the result will end up 5-4 for the EPA....but I could also see 5-4 against the EPA. I'd be shocked if Stevens, Ginsburg, and Souter didn't rule against the EPA. Breyer probably will, too, though I could see him going the right way. I would expect Roberts, Alito, Scalia, and Thomas to rule for the EPA. That leaves Kennedy, the villain from Kelo as the swing vote.... Actually, I could imagine the two questions being decided differently, with the first question, "Does the EPA have the authority to regulate CO2" being decided as a yes, but the second question "Can the EPA choose not to exercise that authority?" also being decided as a yes. That will cause no change in current policy, but will make the EPA and regulation of greenhouse gases become a significant issue in the 2008 Presidental election, with a Democratic candidate promising to make the EPA exercise its authority and a Republican who has to decide between junk science and political expediency. If it's John McCain, I'll bet on political expediency and guess that he'll match any Democrat's promise to further regulate our economy in this area.
  • honestly
    Comment from: honestly
    12/01/06 @ 02:48:27 pm

    So climate change is "Junk Science", eh? Sorry, but that just illustrates a lack in at least one of the following: honesty, literacy, or reason. It also puts you into a very small fringe group when it comes to the "debate" on the issue. The debate about whether the earth is warming was itself over quite a while ago. The constantly-growing litany of evidence is so overwhelming that it is impossible to list here. How far it will go, or what the cumulative effect of the changes is, of course, the subject of valid discussion, because it is so complex that many would agree that the models have the potential for significant error. Yet serious damages already are being done, and major financial institutions are keenly aware. As to whether the climate change is being caused and/or accelerated by human activity, there can be no "proof" that will adequately satisfy you. But when one looks at the facts, i.e. the clear linkage between CO2 & other greenhouse gases and temperature; and between the increase in atmospheric CO2 and fossil-fueled industrial activity, the conclusion is inescapable to any but the knuckle-draggers. I strongly suggest an objective viewing of "An Inconvenient Truth", which illustrates these connections.

  • Comment from: Rossputin
    12/03/06 @ 08:42:48 am

    Climate change is not junk science. The idea that global warming is caused in any substantial way by humans is junk science. As I've noted repeatedly, even supporters of Kyoto acknowledge that it would probably not cause more than a 0.5 degree difference in ultimate temperature over many decades, at the cost of billions or trillions of dollars of economic output. Secondly, it is just silly that so many enviros assume that climate change on the rather small scale most of them expect must necessarily be a bad thing. Sure, it would be bad for some places, but will be great for other places. To me, this hype about stopping global warming reminds me of when I signed up to the (joke) organization called the Society to Stop Continental Drift. The recent Stern Report out of England represents the worst of global warming hysteria. It makes every possible worst case assumption, then multiplies them to come out with predictions of disaster far outside those of other groups which are afraid of global warming. It also massively understates the costs for "doing something about it". The global warming people use data from a time scale so short as to be irrelevant when looking at climate change. It's like basing geological conclusions on looking at a few thousand years of rocks. There is a LOT of info out there disproving Al Gore's silliness. You can read many responses to the Stern Report by doing a little internet research, and here's another thing for you to read: http://www.junkscience.com/Greenhouse/

  • honestly
    Comment from: honestly
    12/06/06 @ 10:16:14 pm

    Your 2nd para is a non-sequitur to your fundamental argument, which seems to be that human activities are not responsible for the rapid changes observed. The changes noted are not of a small scale at all. Not only the temperature changes (noted most dramatically in the polar regions and resulting in massive melting of glaciers, sea-ice and permafrost), but massive changes in habitats, die-off of sea coral, etc. For those who are not so ideologically blindered, there are new data collected almost daily. A report today (12/6), for instance: Warmed-Up Oceans Reduce Key Food Link - http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/W/WARMING_MARINE_LIFE? . I've been tracking this topic for several years, and I have so many articles on file that it would require a fairly sophisticated relational database to keep adequate track of all of the data, studies. You complain of a " too-short time scale" for the data and conclusions; then you decry "Al Gore's silliness"...Yet it's clear you didn't watch the movie (predictably, I suppose), or you couldn't have made the first claim. Gore's movie brilliantly illustrated just the opposite...that scientists are talking about profound changes compared with the scientific record of hundreds of thousands of years. For example, it is known that the level of CO2 now in the atmosphere is greater than it has been in the past 650,000 years! And the understanding of the heat-trapping effects of CO2 and other "greenhouse gases" is a fundamental basis of atmospheric science. Perhaps you missed that class in high school, or had "more important" things to think about? Finally, various comments suggest that the real "fear" you harbor is the supposed cost of taking action. First, I note that you fail to compare such costs to the cost of maintaining a dangerous status quo which exacerbates the problem and possibly accelerates the rates of change. Some of those "status quo" costs (from rising seas, inundated coastlines, more severe storms) can be seen as likely enough that the globe's major insurers are SERIOUSLY concerned. (Ah but they must be communist capitalists right?) Many other potential costs are incalculable. Rapid transformations of habitat will mean not only displacement of many species, but accelerated migrations...introducing pests, diseases to areas not prepared to deal with them. Secondarily, any good capitalist should recognize that economic opportunities and economic gains can also be the flip side of the "costs" associated with making the necessary changes to reduce GHGs. (Of course essentially you made this argument by suggesting that "it could be great for other places" (i.e. there could be losers, sure, but there could also be winners. ) You know, I've read such ideologically blindered, unscientific and illogical commentary as yours before. In fact I've seen it on the very websites you've noted. Hmmm. One thing the years have taught me is the truth of the old saw, "you can lead a horse to water.... " (...but you can make a human honestly think! ) So keep your blinders on, son. It probably gives you a lot of comfort to stay in denial. But I predict you'll feel and look awful foolish in years hence.