Extreme Temperature Diary- Thursday June 30th, 2022/Main Topic: A Gut Punch from the Supreme Court…Ruling Curtails the EPA from Regulating Carbon Pollution

The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track planetary extreme, or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉

Main Topic: A Gut Punch from the Supreme Court…Ruling Curtails the EPA from Regulating Carbon Pollution

Dear Diary. This is my most pessimistic post yet, I hate to state. I’m in an extremely foul mood after today’s main environmental news broke. It’s becoming very apparent to me and many other climate scientists and activists that the United States through its government will not be able to do much about carbon pollution. Biden’s Build Back Better plan died in Congress over the last two years. Today the conservative Supreme Court ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency in the case of West Virginia vs. EPA, a case brought up to thwart governmental efforts to regulate carbon dating back to the Obama administration. Today should have been a great day to celebrate the installation of the first black female on the high court, Ketanji Brown Jackson, but today’s ruling soured this event.

The real power in this country stems from the Supreme Court, which can circumvent any item coming from the executive branch and constrain it. I warned all that this day would soon come:

If a central government has no real control over greenhouse gases, it cannot force fossil fuel companies to comply with any plans to convert to renewables. I’m beginning to seriously doubt that we can change, getting away from “business as usual,” before it is too late to cross +2.0°C above preindustrial conditions. Change here must come from the private sector, and most experts think that the private sector can’t regulate itself enough to stem our warming tide.

The Supreme Court’s new curb of the power of America’s Environmental Protection Agency continues its removal of “fundamental rights – to privacy, to safety, and now, to a livable planet” warns @MichaelEMann & others.

For more on what went down today, here is s New Statesman article:

  1. Environment
  2. Climate

30 June 2022

Guns, abortion, climate: how a new US Supreme Court ruling threatens the planet

The court’s conservative majority has pressed its agenda by restricting executive power over climate change regulation.

By India Bourke

Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images

The conservative majority on the US Supreme Court hit a nadir last week when it overturned Roe vs Wade, the 1973 decision which established that a woman’s right to an abortion was protected by the constitution. Now, in a ruling handed down today (30 June), the same judges have pressed their conservative agenda on planetary health as well.

In the case of West Virginia vs The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the six Republican-appointed justices on the Supreme Court ruled in favor of curbing the agency’s powers to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Attempts to cap carbon dioxide emissions should “rest with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body”, the ruling, which opposed by the court’s three liberal justices, decreed.

Analysts scrambled to insist that all was not lost for American climate action. The EPA has not been stripped of all its means of regulating greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act, explained Andres Restrepo, a senior attorney with the Sierra Club, an environmental NGO. It could still, for example, force energy companies to adopt aggressive (and expensive) energy efficiency measures at individual power plants, thereby making renewable energy investment more attractive by default.

But the decision undermines an important route via which Joe Biden could have used his executive power as president to further tackle climate change in the face of a divided Congress and stalled legislation. Biden’s reconciliation bill, which could put billions of dollars into renewable energy expansion, is stuck in Congress and its chances of passing before the midterm elections are decreasing. (In December, it only took one Democratic senator, Joe Manchin, to side with the Republicans against Biden’s Build Back Better Bill for it to fail.)

By determining that the EPA case fell within “the major questions doctrine”, the ruling will also, Restrepo adds, now “likely embolden opponents of agency regulations more generally to bring aggressive legal challenges over rules and regulations they don’t like and will give lower court judges more of a green light to strike them down.”

The decision “is exactly what big donors who packed the court wanted”, Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic senator, tweeted after the ruling was announced; by opening the door to the “major questions” doctrine, they’ve “given regulatory polluters a hammer”.

The West Virginia vs EPA battle began in 2015 when Barack Obama, as president, used the Clean Air Act to mandate regulations that would limit the production of carbon dioxide emissions. Known as the Clean Power Plan, this was designed to encourage greater investment by states and utility companies in renewable energy. However, a number of states, including West Virginia, stopped it coming into force by suing the EPA for going beyond the Clean Air Act’s original remit.

Attorneys-general from numerous Republican states argued that the EPA should have limited authority to regulate emissions. The Clean Air Act only allows the agency to oversee emissions from a stationary source, they claimed, such as those produced within the physical boundaries of a power plant. It should not, they argued, be allowed to push power companies to shift towards renewable energy more generally.

Many now fear that circumscribing the EPA’s power will be a serious blow to the US’s ability to meet its international climate change commitments. The American climatologist Michael Mann said: “The Bush/Trump-appointed right-wing justices who currently control the Supreme Court have already been roundly criticized for promoting the very sort of judicial activism they once railed against.” In the wake of Roe vs Wade, a ruling against the EPA continues the court’s trend of removing “fundamental rights – to privacy, to safety, and now, to a livable planet”. The agenda of the Republican leaning court “appears to be to turn the US into a plutocratic, theocratic corporatocracy”, he added.

Failure by the US to keep on track for its climate target of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 would jeopardize progress globally. If the world’s biggest economy and largest polluter per capita failed to reduce its emissions, it would become even harder to persuade other nations, especially lower-income ones, to reduce theirs. “The West Virginia vs EPA case comes at a critical moment for our planet,” the Democratic congressman Ro Khanna told the New Statesman. “We are already experiencing the effects of the climate crisis and things will only get worse if we do not take aggressive action and invest in a moonshot for renewable energy.”

Today’s decision would also seem to fly in the face of public opinion. Sixty-five per cent of Americans think that climate change is a major problem and 71 per cent think it will negatively impact future generations, recent polling from Yale University has shown. “As with Roe vs Wade, which was not about abortion but about control over women, a broad decision is about control over the economy,” says Professor Rachel Kyte, dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University in Massachusetts. “A broad decision would once again show the court to be out of step with where the country is.

“The court did not need to take this case as there was no effective legislation in place. It is difficult to see how this was anything other than a dangerous and ideological exclamation point on a decades long attack on government’s role in protecting citizens.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion was a “step along the dark political path” the US appears to be taking, Jeremy Cliffe wrote this week. The court’s choice on how to define executive control over emissions could be another. 

[See also: Justice in the balance: the fight for power and influence in the US Supreme Court]

Topics in this article: Roe v WadeUnited StatesUS Supreme Court

Related:

Here are some “ET’s” reported from around the planet the last couple of days, their consequences, and some extreme temperature outlooks:

Here is more climate and weather news from Thursday:

(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)

(If you like these posts and my work please contribute via this site’s PayPal widget. Thanks in advance for any support.) 

Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”

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