Tag Archives: climate change

Surprise – US Court Rules Kids Have a Constitutional Stake in the Future

A Federal Judge in Eugene, Oregon has confirmed the right of a group of plaintiffs representing young people to sue the Federal Government over its climate change policy.

As noted in a press release from Our Children’s Trust   entitled “Federal Court Affirms Constitutional Rights of Kids in Landmark Climate Case” that was posted on the website Common Dreams:

On April 8, 2016, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Coffin of the federal District Court in Eugene, OR, decided in favor of 21 young Plaintiffs, and Dr. James Hansen on behalf of future generations, in their landmark constitutional climate change case brought against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry. The Court’s ruling is a major victory for the 21 youth Plaintiffs, ages 8-19, from across the U.S. in what Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein call the “most important lawsuit on the planet right now.” These plaintiffs sued the federal government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and their right to essential public trust resources, by permitting, encouraging, and otherwise enabling continued exploitation, production, and combustion of fossil fuels.”

The case is significant in that the judge ruled that the young plaintiffs had standing to sue and that the outcome of the case would involve climate science. The central question will be a presentation of climate changes impacts  on the future of the young people and the responsibility of the Federal Government to act on behalf the public trust doctrine.

As Our Children’s Future noted:

 “In denying the motions of the federal government and the fossil fuel industry, the Court’s decision framed the issue as follows: “Plaintiffs are suing the United States … because the government has known for decades that carbon dioxide (C02) pollution has been causing catastrophic climate change and has failed to take necessary action to curtail fossil fuel emissions. Moreover, plaintiffs allege that the government and its agencies have taken action or failed to take action that has resulted in increased carbon pollution through fossil fuel extraction, production, consumption, transportation, and exportation. Plaintiffs allege the current actions and omissions of defendants make it extremely difficult for plaintiffs to protect their vital natural systems and a livable world. Plaintiffs assert the actions and omissions of defendants that increased C02 emissions ‘shock the conscience,’ and are infringing the plaintiffs’ right to life and liberty in violation of their substantive due process rights.”  The Court’s decision also upheld the youth Plaintiffs’ claims in the Fifth and Ninth Amendments “by denying them protections afforded to previous generations and by favoring short term economic interests of certain citizens.” Finally, Judge Coffin upheld Plaintiffs’ assertion of violations under the public trust doctrine, ruling that there is a federal public trust and plaintiffs’ claim can proceed.”

You can click on this link to read Judge Thomas Coffins’ “ORDER and FINDINGS & RECOMMENDATION “

See also:

“Sorry, Feds: Kids Can Sue Over Climate Negligence, Judge Says”  Nation of Change

Judge greenlights Oregon climate change lawsuit against Federal government”  – Oregonlive.com



Naomi Klein – “On why young people see radical action as practical”

Author and activist Naomi Klein has some perceptive comments in an interview in the Tyee – the independent British Columbia journal on why young people are more ready for drastic change to address continuing problems like climate change where progress has been slow or not much at all.

The full article is entitled, “We Faces a Series of Radical OptionsContinue reading

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee and Climate Change

Washington State Governor Jay Inslee was a featured speaker at the Budget Matters 2014 Conference held Friday December 12, 2014 in Seattle Washington at the Washington State Convention Center. Remy Turpin, the Executive Director of the Washington State Budget and Policy Center asked the Governor questions in a conversation on climate and income inequality.


Remy Turpin and Governor Jay Inslee

Governor Inslee started out by responding as to why he was concerned about climate change and pointed out a number of reasons. One reason Inslee said was personal – it was about what kind of world we were going to leave our grandchildren and this was at risk in fundamental ways. Another reason is about economic passion – how we grow jobs. But he said it was also about health issues caused by pollutants released from burning fossil fuels. He noted that asthma rates are high along heavily traveled roads and industrial sites. Asthma rates statistically go up closer to freeways. Children are particularly vulnerable and Inslee commented on a 14 year old he recently talked with whose friends all had asthma and thought it was normal until realizing that not all children had asthma.

Inslee also noted the impacts of carbon pollution on  increasing ocean acidification and its impacts on sea life. Warming associated with climate change is also increasing health risks by increased forest fires and the resultant air pollution.

Carbon pollution is particularly hard on low income people who live in lower priced homes next to freeways or in or near industrial areas releasing  pollutants from burning carbon based fuels. The current economy while growing is mostly benefiting those at the top and is not working for many working families leaving them more vulnerable.

Asked about what type of legislation he was going to propose to the Washington State Legislature on dealing with carbon pollution, the Governor said that to reduce carbon pollution it was necessary to internalize the cost.  The costs to the environment, peoples’ health and the economy are not currently borne by those making money off of carbon fuels but is passed back to everyone else.  Governor Inslee said there were two main ways to internalize the cost and they were to pass either a carbon pollution tax or a cap and trade system that puts a fixed cost per ton of CO2 produced.

While Inslee did not say which way he was going to propose, he seemed to talk most about the benefits of a cap and trade system. British Columbia has a carbon pollution tax but Australia’s right leaning government earlier this year repealed it’s carbon tax. California three years ago moved forward on implementing its cap and trade system  signed into law by former Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006.

Inslee noted that eight New England states participate in a cap and trade system that is legally binding, that is limiting the number of pollution permits and that operate by a market system that auctions the permits. Cap and trade was also successfully used 20 years ago in the east to limit sulfur dioxide from coal burning.

Some 20 European countries also have a cap and trade system. While there has been some controversy over the declining permit costs to emit carbon pollution, the goals that were purposed to be met look like it is working. As noted in a New York Times post by Stig Schjolset:

“…the European Union experience suggests that designed in the right way, in line with the polluter-pays principle and with a strong compliance regime, emissions trading systems will put an effective cap on carbon emissions – a cap that can be gradually tightened as politicians sign up to more ambitious reduction targets.”

Governor Inslee warned that any attempt to put a price tag on carbon pollution would result in a full court press by the carbon extraction industries that are creating the pollution. Inslee said it was time to make ” the polluting industries rather than poor people pay.”  He said the fight would be expensive and like that the tobacco industry launched-  full of nonfactual and untrue statements.  He said the fight has already started  but that this effort will create thousands of jobs and help build infrastructure for repairing highways and education as well as help clean the air we all breathe.

Congressman Inslee Challenges Republicans Trying to Defund EPA

The current majority Republicans in the US House of Representatives are anti-science and anti-regulation. While much of the rest of the world is trying to deal with the increasing negative impacts of climate change caused by rising greenhouse gases, Republicans are still denying humans have anything to do with it.

Republicans in Congress currently are trying to remove the ability of the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate greenhouse gases by proposing to pass a bill entitled the “Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011.”

In the US House of Representatives, the New York Times reports that the  bill, which would strip the EPA of its “power to regulate greenhouse gases“, actually “enjoys the near-unanimous support of the House Republican majority“. As such, conservative ideology seems to trump rational scientific opinion and the conclusions of the vast majority of scientists who do research on global warming.

As noted in the New York Times article:

Representative Jay Inslee, Democrat of Washington, is one of Congress’s most ardent advocates of strong action to combat global warming. Mr. Inslee brought to the hearing a two-foot-high stack of books and scientific reports, which he placed on his desk as a sort of totem of the robust science behind climate-change theory.
He used his question time largely to criticize Republicans as suffering from what he called an “allergy to science and scientists.” He said he was embarrassed that a country that sent a man to the moon and mapped the human genome could be on the verge of enacting a law that overturns a scientific finding based on the testimony of a few scientists who question the extent of human responsibility for altering the climate.
“If Copernicus, Galileo, Newton and Einstein were testifying today,” Mr. Inslee said, “the Republicans would not accept their views until all the Arctic ice has melted and hell has frozen over, whichever comes first.”
He said that much of the skepticism about global warming in Congress and among the public has been fed by a campaign of disinformation from energy interests. He likened it to the tobacco industry’s efforts to discredit the finding that smoking causes cancer. “People with enormous financial stakes attacked that science,” Mr. Inslee said.

Republican ideology unfortunately threatens to trump science and reason. The American voters need to wake up and realize this blind Republican assault on science based decision making threatens our economic future and the livability of our planet. What good does corporate profit do anyone if the planet is not habitable because short term greed triumphed over long term survival?

This is just another example of the dire threat that this country faces if Republicans take over the Senate and Presidency next year. Republicans care more for passing legislation to benefit their corporate base and pushing irrational right wing ideology than they do in finding long term solutions to real problems facing the American people and the world.

Britain Shows Leadership on Climate Change

Human impacts on our planet’s life support systems are contributing to carbon dioxide buildup and climate change. Few countries are taking critically needed action to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. In a dramatic action the British government has made a hard political decision, putting our planet’s welfare above continued unsustainable growth of airport traffic which contributes to climate change.

As reported in the New York Times today:

In a bold if lonely environmental stand, Britain’s coalition government has set out to curb the growth of what has been called “binge flying” by refusing to build new runways around London to accommodate more planes.
Citing the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions from aviation, Prime Minister David Cameron, a Conservative, abruptly canceled longstanding plans to build a third runway at Heathrow Airport in May, just days after his election; he said he would also refuse to approve new runways at Gatwick and Stansted, London’s second-string airports.
The government decided that enabling more flying was incompatible with Britain’s oft-stated goal of curbing emissions. Britons have become accustomed to easy, frequent flying — jetting off to weekend homes in Spain and bachelor parties in Prague — as England has become a hub for low-cost airlines. The country’s 2008 Climate Change Act requires it to reduce emissions by at least 34 percent by 2020 from levels reached in 1990

Here in Seattle meanwhile we opened a new third  runway at Seattle Tacoma International  Airport in 2008. As noted in a Seattle Times article in November 2008:

As the first jetliner takes off today on Seattle-Tacoma International Airport’s new $1 billion third runway, state and local decision-makers are already debating where in Puget Sound to put a fourth runway or its equivalent.

While the current recession has slowed consideration of expanding air traffic, when the economy improves pressure will again  increase for continued expansion of regional airports. Alternatives to more  air traffic include expanding our rail transportation system.  Last year a news report from McClathydc.com reported that:

Washington state and California officials have held preliminary discussions about a high-speed, state-of-the-art rail line that would connect San Diego and Vancouver, B.C., with trains that could travel in excess of 200 miles per hour.

Certainly we have alternatives. These don’t just include huge engineering projects and huge financial expenditures as more teleconferencing versus business trips as an example makes sense both environmentally and economically for businesses.

And horror of horrors, maybe people just not taking as many personal airline trips makes sense. Growth for growth sake is not the answer to living within our means without destroying our planet’s life support systems.

Let’s give a round of applause to Britain for acting with restraint. We need to do the same in planning for our future in the Northwest..

"The moral challenge of our generation"

In advance of the December 2009 meeting in Copenhagen on climate change, the UN Environmental Program released in September a 68 page Climate Change Science Compendium. Ban Ki-moon the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in the preface to the study, stated that:

“The science has become more irrevocable than ever: Climate change is happening. The evidence is all around us. And unless we act, we will see catastrophic consequences including rising sea levels, droughts and amine, and the loss of up to a third of the world’s plant and animal species.
We need a new global agreement to tackle climate change, and this must be based on the soundest, most robust and up-to-date science available
Through its overview of the latest definitive science, this Climate Change Science Compendium reaffirms the strong evidence outlined in the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report that climate change is continuing apace.
In fact, this report shows that climate change is accelerating at a much faster pace than was previously thought by scientists. New scientific evidence suggests important tipping points, leading to irreversible changes in major Earth systems and ecosystems, may already have been reached or even overtaken.
Climate change, more than any other challenge facing the world today, is a planetary crisis that will require strong, focused global action.
As pressures build for an internationally agreed response, we now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to come together and address climate change through a newly invigorated multilateralism. This will be our chance to put in place a climate change agreement that all nations can embrace – an agreement that is equitable, balanced and comprehensive.
This Climate Change Science Compendium is.a wake up call.  The time for hesitation is over.  We need the world to realize, once and for all, that the time to act is now and we must work together to address this monumental challenge.  This is the moral challenge of our generation”

The Climate Change Science Compendium is broken down into 5 sections. The first section, called Earth Systems, gives an overview of the leadup to the current situation.

The second section, called Earth’s Ice, notes that “Accelerated shrinking of mountain glaciers on every continent, rapid reduction of Arctic sea-ice, disintegration of floating ice shelves, and increased melt rates of Earth’s three Ice Sheets—Greenland, West Antarctic, and East Antarctic—provide compelling evidence of our changing climate.”

The third section, entitled Earth’s Oceans, notes that “Over the last five decades, the world’s oceans have been subjected to fishery overharvesting, seafloor damage from bottom trawling, and habitat loss around margins from coastal development schemes. Climate change further threatens oceans with higher temperatures, increased acidification, and altered circulation and nutrient supplies.”

The fourth section, entitled Earth’s Ecosystems, states that “Since the compilation of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, serious and irreversible changes in Earth’s Ecosystems due to anthropogenic activities are increasingly recognized with greater confidence and better quantification of the processes.”

The last section, entitled Systems Management, states that  “A variety of actions are under discussion to manage the challenge posed by climate change: Cutting emissions, reforestation, and geoengineering are a few. Current research suggests that some of the possible actions are not only important but necessary for any chance of success—but no single action is sufficient on its own.

The last section, entitled Systems Management, concludes that “A variety of actions are under discussion to manage the challenge posed by climate change: Cutting emissions, reforestation, and geoengineering are a few. Current research suggests that some of the possible actions are not
only important but necessary for any chance of success—but no single action is sufficient on its own.

The 2009 Climate Change Science Compendium is serious business.  It needs to be taken seriously. It’s like the blinking red light going on in the car.  Ignoring it because you’re tired of seeing it, isn’t going to make it go away.  It’s a warning light.  Ignore it long enough and it may just stop blinking. By then it’s too late because everything will have stopped running. 

Montana High School Cancels Climate Talk by Nobel Laureate.

It seems that a high school in Choteau, Montana thinks the best way to educate its students is to deny them the unique and rare opportunity to hear what a Nobel laureate has to say about global warming. What are they afraid of – that some students might actually be persuaded that global warming is real? Are they afraid that some students might come to question why more isn’t being done to protect their future from climate change?

The New York Times today reported that Nobel Laureate Steven W Running’s scheduled talk before 130 high school students was canceled after a few local conservative citizens complained to the school board and school superintendent.

Dr Running is a Professor of Ecology at the University of Montana. He was “a lead author” of the Report on Global Warming done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that won the Nobel Peace Prize 2007. The IPCC shared the Nobel Prize with Al Gore.

As noted by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in selecting the Intergovernmental Committee on Climate Change to receive its Nobel Peace Prize for 2007:

“Indications of changes in the earth’s future climate must be treated with the utmost seriousness, and with the precautionary principle uppermost in our minds. Extensive climate changes may alter and threaten the living conditions of much of mankind. They may induce large-scale migration and lead to greater competition for the earth’s resources. Such changes will place particularly heavy burdens on the world’s most vulnerable countries. There may be increased danger of violent conflicts and wars, within and between states.

Through the scientific reports it has issued over the past two decades, the IPCC has created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming. Thousands of scientists and officials from over one hundred countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of the warming. Whereas in the 1980s global warming seemed to be merely an interesting hypothesis, the 1990s produced firmer evidence in its support. In the last few years, the connections have become even clearer and the consequences still more apparent.”

Most high schools would view the opportunity to hear a Nobel Laureate speak as a great educational learning experience. And certainly most speaking engagements give an opportunity for students to ask questions. But if schools operated on the principle that if anyone in the community disagreed with a proposed speaker, he or she couldn’t speak, then the probability is that schools would never be having any guest speakers.

Sticking your head in the sand on global warming isn’t going to change the reality. Some people in Montana still need to realize that global warming will affect them also – that the world global means just that. Like it or not, it includes Montana. Global warming, if not brought into check, will have major impacts on Montana farmers and ranchers and conservatives. Global warming will not discriminate as to whether someone is conservative or liberal. It will affect us all.

Ignorance is Best Way to Make Decisions According to Bush

Who needs facts? Not George Bush when it comes to global warming. His actions speak louder than words he mouths to lull us into inaction.

In a confidential report to the White House, obtained by the Associated Press and as reported today in the Seattle Times , NOAA and NASA scientists have told President Bush that:

US scientists will soon lose much of their ability to monitor warming from space …the Defense Department has decided to downsize and launch four satellites … instead of six… will now focus on weather forecasting … Most of the climate instruments needed to collect more precise data for long periods are being eliminated.” …

“Unfortunately, the recent loss of climate sensors … places the overall climate program in serious jeopardy,” NOAA and NASA scientists told the White House in the report.

They said they will face major gaps in data that can be collected only from satellites: about ice caps and sheets, surface levels of seas and lakes, sizes of glaciers, surface radiation, water vapor, snow cover and atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Rick Piltz, director of Climate Science Watch, a watchdog program of the Washington-based Government Accountability Project, called the situation a crisis.

“We’re going to start being blinded in our ability to observe the planet,” said Piltz, whose group provided the AP with the previously undisclosed report. “It’s criminal negligence.”

In an ABC news report on May 29, 2007, entitled “10 Years to Climate Tipping Point” new research emphasized the urgency of having detailed accurate information such as the satellite program would provide:

Even “moderate additional” greenhouse emissions are likely to push Earth past “critical tipping points” with “dangerous consequences for the planet,” according to research conducted by NASA and the Columbia University Earth Institute.

With just 10 more years of “business as usual” emissions from the burning of coal, oil and gas, says the NASA/Columbia paper, “it becomes impractical” to avoid “disastrous effects.”

The study appears in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics. Its lead author is James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

The forecast effects include “increasingly rapid sea-level rise, increased frequency of droughts and floods, and increased stress on wildlife and plants due to rapidly shifting climate zones,” according to the NASA announcement .

You can read more on the NASA-NOAA report by going to the Climate Science Watch website .

Briefing Notes on NASA-NOAA Joint Document gives a summary of report.

Impacts of NPOESS NunnMcCurdy Certification on Joint NASA_NOAA Climate Goals is a copy of the full report dated Dec 11, 2006.

Note the date of this report – 6 months ago. There is no response yet from the White House on the Associated Press report but it is obvious that Bush has taken no action to alter the situation. If he had you can be sure the White House would have instantly responded that they had decided to fully fund the existing program to continue our long term gathering and monitoring of the global climate situation.

Bush and Cheney and their oil friendly cabal running things have no intention of seriously addressing global warming and are doing everything they can to sabotage the efforts of scientists to get accurate data and take immediate action. Bush’s program is to stall as much as he can for the next year and a half any efforts to take decisive action.

Warning – look at what Bush does, not what he says he’s “doing”. Only then will we not be blindsided by wimpy press coverage that uncritically reports Bush’s smoke and mirrors plan for global warming which does not seriously address doing much of anything. Right now it’s comparable to his administration’s plan to help Hurricane Katrina’s victims.

His global warming study plan is on track. Don’t be surprised if you see pictures of President Bush looking out the window of Air Force One once or twice to check out the global warming situation over the Atlantic Ocean as he flies to Europe for the G-8 Conference June 6-8, 2007. Do you really expect more? I don’t.

Reflections on Earth Day 2007

Every day is Earth Day when you think about it. What we do every day determines the future of the earth as we know it. The reality we face is that there is less and less margin of error to allow us to correct for mistakes.

We are still at a very primitive stage of understanding the delicate balance of the earth’s multiple environmental systems that keep it all together and working. We do global computer modeling based on things we think we understand and come up with projections of what might happen. The earth has feedback loops to adjust for changes like global warming but these loops have limits. Exceed the limits and the whole thing falls apart. Ask yourself how many people have had their home aquarium system die off.

The question for the future of earth is whether mankind comes to accept those limits or realizes too late that some things are not controllable by man at this time, if ever. Will we make changes in time to prevent a breakdown to our current operating systems for planet earth? Are we willing to come together to find a commonly shared solution or is it every nation and every corporation and every individual for themselves?

The prudent course of action when the engine light comes on in a car is to stop what you’re doing and check out why it came on. Warning lights are going on now on the earth – the most obvious being global warming and climate change. But also the disappearance of established ecosystems with associated habitats and species is also occurring like coral reef destruction and loss of major fisheries. We are literally spraying the earth with a host of chemicals whose long term effects we know little about let alone short term effects. Nature has a potential to recover if we don’t exceed global limits.

Our chemical impact is coming about for a variety of reasons. These include the introduction of new chemicals by the free enterprise market system which does not include an upfront analysis of impacts before chemicals are sold and released into the environment. Mining operations, smelters and chemical processing plants, coal plants, pharmaceutical and drug companies, military weapons, recycling operation, toxic waste dumping, disposal operations, you name it, there are thousands and thousands of ways we are producing, mixing, distributing and changing the chemical composition of our living environment that is cumulatively building up negative impacts.

Science usually operates by doing controlled experiments where you change one factor while holding the others constant. The earth is now like one huge laboratory where thousands of changes and chemical experiments and biological experiments are occurring simultaneously and very few are being tracked or understood.

The stakes are huge. Where once you would see something go awry locally, now many changes are occurring on a vastly larger scale because we are experimenting with changing things on a global level. Chernobyl was an example of a local incident that spread regionally. I remember going through a former mining area in the West some 30 years or so ago. The closer you got to where the smelter had been the more stunted the vegetation got.

Today with coal plants the same thing happens. Burning high sulfur coal produces sulfur dioxide which can be converted to sulfuric acid – that’s what acid rain is. The visible effects are regional not local and are becoming global as more chemicals get introduced into the atmosphere, our land and the oceans. A recent report cited air pollution from China showing up in the western United States. Carbon dioxide buildup occurs in the atmosphere as more plants are built. China in its attempt to catch up with the US prosperity model is planning on building one new coal plant a week.

While there is one earth, there is not one world. We are still a mish mash of warring ideologies and factious peoples. Capitalism creates an economic battle for competing markets and resources in which cooperation and restraint seem a lower priority than winning market share. Religious ideologies and war also are fracturing world unity.

While capitalism has increased material goods and comfort and produced many advances in science and medicine and other areas it also has placed a higher value on individual rewards and ownership rather than addressing community needs and shared prosperity worldwide. The AIDS crisis in Africa and people still suffering starvation and malnutrition around the world are just two examples of problems the world community is not addressing together with compassion.

That is not to say we can not change but to do so means more emphasis on shared values of one world and one people all sharing one earth. Instead the world remains divided by political, economic, and religious boundaries. We still build fences to keep us separate.

For religion to change, it means accepting that we are all children of a God who exhibits himself or herself in numerous manifestations. We are all God’s chosen people. There is not one chosen people or religion.

For economic systems it means accepting each other as partners and workers in one company with shared rewards. We are not competing against each other but we are working to provide basic human needs for all and sharing fairly in the rewards of hard work. We can not view others as nations or people to exploit or dominate or take advantage of.

For political systems it means governments will have to work to provide services fairly to all people, not give special tax breaks to the wealthy or tax exemptions to favored corporations.

For political systems and religions, nations need to separate religious belief systems that divide and limit people from political systems and governments that provide basic health care, nutrition, housing, food and education. Religions that limit freedom by domination and exploitation and edicts destroy human dignity and well being.

The future of the earth depends on mankind evolving into one co-operative worldwide caring community. We need to implement policies world wide that support individual life and human dignity without giving up basic freedoms. We need to develop a non-exploitative sustainable economic policy toward each other and the earth which currently sustains all of us. We need an economy that is not dependent on continual growth but that is sustainable in terms of the limits that exist for maintaining life on planet earth.

And we need to implement political policies that are fair to all by guaranteeing basic rights for all. These include access to adequate and safe food, clean water, clean air, housing, basic education and basic human rights. Religious policies need to accept the worth of every individual and practice tolerance for differences.

The future of the earth for humans depends on facing the reality that things need to change. Together we can envision and work for a future that allows us to live peacefully together, working for our common good. History is replete with wars and conquests. One side loses and the other wins. The reality of the earth today is that in a battle with the earth we all lose if we don’t accept the reality of the fact that no one wins if we perish as a species because we didn’t pay attention to the warning lights. The warning lights are blinking.

Will it Be the Big Chill at the US Supreme Court?

Washington State in 2003  joined with a coalition of other state attorneys general to sue the Bush Administration for its failure to regulate CO2 emissions from automobiles and other sources of CO2 contributing to global warming. The case was heard Wednesday before the US Supreme Court.

The question now is whether the Supreme Court will respond to the almost uniform scientific consensus that global warming is real and agree that the US Government has the authority to act, and needs to act to act now to protect the public, or whether it will instead respond to the political whims of the Bush corporate mantra and dump cold water on the EPA’s doing anything.

Democratic Washington State Attorney General Christine Gregoire, speaking in 2003, noted that “Washington State has shown its commitment by investing heavily in clean sources of power and strong pollution controls to provide the healthiest air possible for our citizens, crops and businesses. We need to see the same kind of commitment on a national level.” Christine Gregoire is now the Governor of Washington State.

Earlier this year Rob McKenna, the current Republican Attorney General for Washington State choose not to participate in a similar lawsuit with most of the same plaintiffs challenging the EPA’s not acting to raise Federal vehicle fuel efficiency standards. I guess he must have consulted with Republican Congressman Dave Reichert first. Reichert in his campaign for re-election this year said he didn’t think global warming had been proved. I’ll bet neither of them have gone to see Al Gore’s documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth“.

The current case now before the Supreme Court was the one started by then AG Gregoire.

According to the Environmental News Service

The (current)case originated in 1999, when various environmental groups filed an administrative rulemaking petition requesting that EPA set motor vehicle emission standards for four greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide. In August of 2003, the EPA denied the pending rulemaking petition. At that time, EPA also stated that, as a policy matter, it would not set motor vehicle emission standards even if it had authority. In October of 2003, this decision as challenged. On July 15, 2005, the federal appeals court for the D.C. Circuit voted 2-1 to let the EPA’s current position on greenhouse gas pollutants stand. In August, the full bench of the appeals court for the D.C. Circuit was asked to hear the case. The court denied that request with a 4-3 decision, paving the way for the Supreme Court appeal.”

Nina Totenberg of NPR notes that

The first question facing the justices is whether carbon dioxide is a pollutant at all. The administration claims it isn’t, and is backed by the auto and energy industries in that claim..

“We’re talking about carbon dioxide,” says former Solicitor General Ted Olson, who is representing the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. “It’s necessary for life. A pollutant is something that fouls the air, a contaminant. No EPA administrator in history has ever considered carbon dioxide a pollutant.”

We’ve commented on this argument before – “CO2 is life.” That’s why we all love to be in a room full of CO2. Who needs O2. Trace elements are also important to life. So are vitamins. But its all a matter of proportion. Just like injesting too many of some vitamins can be fatal, so can too much CO2 in the atmosphere – which contributes to global warming.

I guess this argument of CO2 is life made sense to Bush. That’s probably why he didn’t respond very quickly to Hurricane Katrina. I guess someone told him water is necessary for life. If a little is good for you, more is better. So what was the matter with those people in New Orleans? Didn’t they know that H2O is life?

Then Olson says it also a question of standing or the right to bring a case. Saying that just because Massachusetts will lose shoreline because of global warming that is not an adequate reason to bring suit.

Again from Totenberg of NPR

The states contend that they are suffering significant damage because of the EPA’s failure to act. They claim they are losing shoreline because of melting ice and rising oceans, that floods and storms are more severe, causing greater damage, and that controlling smog is getting more difficult. And the Western states say their snow pack is melting, jeopardizing their water supply.

Olson says that sort of generalized damage is not adequate to make the legal case: “If it does exist, it is damage to humanity in general, not to Massachusetts,” he says. “Courts need concrete particularized cases before they can constitutionally render a decision. Otherwise, anybody with a grievance can say ‘Gee, the ocean’s too high this year. I think we should have a lawsuit against the EPA.'”

Of course these are these same people that refuse to join with other nations to reduce CO2 pollution. They refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement or seriously explore and work for other international solutions.

These are the Bush people. The Democrats winning control of the House and the Senate is only a first step to bringing sanity back to public policy because the EPA is still run by Bush. And Bush with his Supreme Court appointments has swung the US Supreme Court further to the right. And it seems that many on the right really don’t understand what is happening.

USA Today said

“Chief Justice John Roberts and fellow conservatives questioned whether states’ environmental problems truly would be helped if the U.S. government changed its decision not to regulate emissions from new cars and trucks.
Roberts suggested that economic development in China, for example, could produce pollution that would offset whatever “marginal benefit” states hope to win through federal limits on tailpipe emissions. Justice Antonin Scalia also seemed skeptical about warnings of looming harm from so-called greenhouse gases, asking, “When is the predicted cataclysm?”

It is wonderful to have such forward insightful and forward thinking people on the US Supreme Court. I guess if we left it to Scalia to have building codes to protect buildings from falling down during an earthquake we would have no earthquake proof buildings because we can’t predict when the next earthquake will come.

Likewise, because any measure we take is only part of fixing the problem, we should do nothing? But what is nothing? The Seattle Times says that “Together, US power plants and vehicles account for some 15% of global CO2 emissions.

As the NY Times aptly argues, the case is rather simple.

“A plain reading of the Clean Air Act shows that the states are right. The act says that the E.P.A.”shall” set standards for “any air pollutant” that in its judgment causes or contributes to air pollution that “may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” The word “welfare,” the law says, includes “climate” and “weather.” The E.P.A. makes an array of specious arguments about why the act does not mean what it expressly says. But it has no right to refuse to do what Congress said it “shall” do

The Seattle Times in a lengthy article last year entitled “The Truth about Global Warming”summed up part of the reality.

“…atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide are increasing at a rate that precisely tracks man’s automotive and industrial emissions.
“The process is 1,000 times faster than nature can do it,” Battisti said. Climate reconstructions show that average global temperatures for the past 2 million years have never been more than 2 to 4 degrees higher than now. That means if greenhouse emissions continued unchecked, temperatures would likely be higher by the end of the century than any time since the human species evolved.”

Why is there still a controversy? In the Seattle Times article Eric Steig of the University of Washington says that

“…a handful of skeptics has dominated public debate.””Many of us have felt our voices are drowned out by the very well-funded industry viewpoint.”
He and several colleagues set out this year to bridge the gap between science and popular perception with a Web log called
RealClimate.org. Researchers communicate directly with the public and debunk what they see as misinformation and misconceptions. By giving equal coverage to skeptics on the fringe of legitimate science, journalists fuel the perception that the field is racked with disagreement.
You get the impression it’s 50-50, when it’s really 99-to-1,” Steig said. Over the past decade, coal and oil interests have funneled more than $1 million to about a dozen individual global-warming skeptics as part of an effort to “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact,” according to industry memos first uncovered by former Boston Globe journalist Ross Gelbspan.
From 2001 to 2003, Exxon Mobile donated more than $6.5 million to organizations that attack mainstream climate science and oppose greenhouse-gas controls. These think tanks and advocacy groups issue reports, sponsor briefings and maintain Web sites that reach a far wider audience than scholarly climate journals.”