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CIAO Focus, December 2006:
Global Warming and the U.S. Supreme Court


National Oceanic &
Atmospheric Administration

On November 29th, for the first time ever, the issue of global warming was brought before the Supreme Court. The plaintiffs in the suit, comprised of 12 states (CA, CT, IL, MA, ME, NJ, NM, NY, OR, RI, VT and WA) backed by several cities and various environmental groups, are arguing that the Environmental Protection Agency is not doing enough to regulate greenhouse gases they claim contribute to global warming and want the EPA to set emission standards for new cars and trucks.  They say that carbon dioxide is a health hazard like other pollutants and is therefore subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act, which was passed in 1970. 

The Bush administration, preferring a more narrow interpretation of the Clean Air Act, is arguing that the EPA does not have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, largely because global warming was not considered a threat when the act was signed into law. President Bush has said he favors voluntary measures by industry to curb potentially harmful gases over government regulation.

The Court is sharply divided over this issue with Justices Stephen G. Breyer, John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Ruth Bader Ginsburg appearing to sympathize with the plaintiffs while Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia, John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito are taking the government line. That leaves Justice Anthony M. Kennedy to cast the deciding vote which will ultimately determine whether or not the Supreme Court chooses to enter into the highly politicized debate of global warming.

This month CIAO examines global warming and the U.S. Supreme Court.  

From the CIAO Database:

Safeguarding the Ozone Layer and the Global Climate System

Climate Change (CIAO case study)

Early Observations on the European Union’s Greenhouse Gas Emission Trading Scheme: Insights for United States Policy Makers

The U.S. Response to the Kyoto Protocol –A Realistic Alternative?

Race to the Top: The Expanding Role of State Renewable Portfolio Standards

Acclimatizing - How to Think Sensibly about Global Warming

Outside Links*:

Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

The International Research Institute for Climate and Society

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Responding to Global Warming Skeptics (Union of Concerned Scientists)

The Pew Center on Global Climate Change

Ocean and Climate Change Institute (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (oral arguments)

Earth's Variable Climate (e-seminar)


* Outside links are not maintained. For broken outside links, CIAO recommends the Way Back Machine.