Today the supreme court heard a case brought by the States against the central government’s Environmental Protection Agency. The case brought by the states asserts that the EPA was legally obliged to lower carbon emissions and that by not doing so was violating it’s own mandated duty. The Bush administration supports the EPA in this case.
From the questions submitted by the nine Justices the case seems to break down about fifty-fifty in that it seems that half the justices were somewhat impressed by the case, while the other half (the conservative half lead by Scalia and Roberts) seemed to indicate that the States had no legal footing on which to appeal the case. Originally the case was brought to a lower court in Massachusetts which ultimately struck down the States’ assertions. A final decision by the Supreme court should be forthcoming in a few months.
Either way, this suit will not bode well for Global Warming. Taking legal action in
this way can only incite those who oppose forceful change, and in the end the looming increases in the cost for energy production and consumption will put those parties opposing these changes in a commanding position(at least here in the United States where there are a good many conservatives opposed to government interference.)
The case for global warming though significant, is by no means a certainty. No one
can look at the data and say for certain that the phenomenon of global warming is not a
due to a naturally occurring process. After all, we are in an interglacial period which implies that global temperatures will rise normally. Admittedly they have risen significantly over the past one hundred fifty years, which happens to coincide with the industrial revolution, but once again this coincidence does not a proof make!
To take the EPA to court in this way will likely cause more resistance than the case is worth! There is a danger here of solidifying the opposition, and being that the weather is anything but predictable,and rather, it is oscillatory in nature, we run the riskof falling prey to a temporary moderation in temperatures or a temporary return to colder trends. In other words if for any reason we should see a temporary trend towards colder temperatures in the near future(which is quite possible and even to be expected) those who are opposed to forceful legislation in favor of curbing Greenhouse emissions will resound with a thunderous “I told you so” that may well tip the political balance back to dirty carbon Emissions (especially if it’s a lot cheaper.) It is also worth noting that other nations like India and China may also be watching, and may in time seek to compromise internal political weaknesses so as to delay their own compliance to lowering emissions. Given present economic trends that may well be a real possibility in the future.
In the end I really believe that a slow campaign of gentle persuasion and self realization is more likely to produce better results than force. This changeover to low carbon emissions will require sacrifice, and sacrifice is more likely to come of one’s own volition than by forced servitude. Convincing people slowly, of the need to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions is much more likely to lead to a successful long term reduction than to force people , or to have the courts sue people over these matters. This is not a good, or sustainable approach.
A look at Europe’s efforts will show that in the end the population’s own understanding of the problem, and a genuine concern for the potential disaster that might ensue from sustained high levels of carbon emissions has resulted in a concerted effort that has been for the most part sustained and fruitful with little friction and infighting. Making enemies will not have good results for the environmentalists. Education on the other hand will prove to be the deciding factor in this struggle. Getting people to care and to want to take action on their own should be the real objective. Though this strategy will take a little longer, in the end it is more likely to lead to a successful campaign on a national level.