Year 2, Month 4, Day 30: Justice Delayed, and All That…


WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court appeared ready to rule that federal judges cannot set limits on greenhouse gas emissions, after a majority of justices suggested Tuesday that such disputes over global warming are better left to Congress and federal regulators.

I’m getting ready for the Violins concert and don’t have much time to devote to this letter, which is just a restructuring of yesterday’s to the WaPo on the same subject.

Sent April 20:

Judging from the Justices’ comments and questions during the Supreme Court’s hearing of AEP vs. Connecticut, it seems likely that the Judicial branch of our country’s government is going to be enjoined from addressing climate change in any substantial way in the immediate future. Yes, as Justice Ginsburg remarked, setting emissions standards is exactly the sort of thing that the EPA does, and in a properly functioning American democracy, the EPA would set and enforce those standards. But there’s the rub: our democracy is no longer functioning properly. When legislators disregard scientific expertise in favor of anti-environmental nihilism, disaster is inevitable; when corporate profits are more important than the continued maintenance of the earth’s biosphere, catastrophe is a certainty. While the court may deny the legal grounds for the states’ action, the fact remains that drastic reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is economically sensible, environmentally essential, and morally necessary.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 29: Bitch, Bitch, Bitch. All Ya Ever Do Is Bitch.

The WaPo opines on the Supreme Court’s likely dismissal of the states in AEP vs. Connecticut:

There’s a good reason that common law is displaced when the political branches speak. It’s not the place of unelected judges to determine how to distribute the costs of addressing climate change across the economy. In addition, a series of suits against individual polluters or groups of emitters is likely to result in an inefficient patchwork of judicial remedies, varying in scope and expense. Consistently applied regulation at the EPA is far better.

It’s reasonable to worry that the political branches may ultimately fail to enforce even the EPA’s modest greenhouse gas policies; many Republicans are eager to defund the agency’s efforts. If that happens, the plaintiffs will have a better case than they do now. But no one should wish to see America’s climate change policy made in court.

Which is all well and good, but which raises a very pertinent question. Sent April 19:

Nobody wants America’s climate change policy made in court. We want it made in Congress, preferably by legally elected representatives who are both fully informed about the climate crisis and prepared to jettison partisan ideologies for the long-term good of our nation, our civilization and our planet. Failing that, we want climate change policy made by a scientifically competent regulatory body whose goals are consistent with the agency’s name — that is, Environmental Protection. Involving the judiciary was always a long shot; the Supreme Court’s words on the AEP case are unsurprising. Given that the Legislative branch prefers to deny reality while attempting to restrain the Executive’s authority, and the Judicial branch is disallowed from considering the problem at all, the question is forced upon us: if we cannot cope with the gravest threat humans have encountered in millennia, can the American system of government be reasonably called a success?

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 28: Just You, Just Me, Just Us

Another, longer, article on the upcoming SCOTUS decision, this one from the Connecticut Mirror.

It is an indication of her strong ethical core that Justice Sotomayor plans to recuse herself when the Supreme Court hears the AEP vs. Connecticut case. However, given the close ideological ties between the Court’s conservative members and the fossil fuel industry, one has to wonder if Justices Scalia, Thomas, Alito and Roberts feel similar compunctions. Let’s pause to let the laughter die down, and then wonder: given the Republican right’s embrace of increasing the power of individual states, shouldn’t tea-partiers love a ruling that affirms Connecticut’s right to sue? Somehow, though, I doubt that the Koch Brothers and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are going to advocate for the states — and where the Kochs and the Chamber go, the Supreme Court is sure to follow. Far more likely is a decision that will protect energy corporations from having to deal with the environmental consequences of their irresponsibility.

Warren Senders

Year 2, Month 4, Day 27: Just Make It Stop. Please. Make It Stop.

Wherever Watertown, Wisconsin is, I just picked up a little squib noting that the SCOTUS is going to hear another climate-change related case:

As the EPA considers rules to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, Republicans in Congress lead an effort to strip the EPA of its power to regulate greenhouse gases. Arguments will be heard Tuesday, April 19, before the U.S. Supreme Court over the ability of states and groups such as the Audubon Society to sue large electric utilities and force power plants in 20 states to cut their emissions.

With regard to our current Court I am extremely pessimistic despite the presence of Kagan and Sotomayor.

Sent April 17:

The upcoming Supreme Court case addressing the rights of states and organizations to bring utility companies to court over issues of greenhouse gas pollution will pose a pretty conundrum for the court’s conservative majority. In conferring “personhood” on corporations, the Citizens United decision should make it easier for these actions to proceed — but the Court’s overwhelming bias towards the interests of the very wealthiest elements of our society may well make their upcoming decision an example of egregious hypocrisy. It is a grave misfortune that the ideological majority of America’s judicial branch is so firmly lodged in the pocket of giant, greedy, and irresponsible corporate entities. Corporate greed and scientific ignorance make a lethal combination, and it would be especially tragic if this combination of venality, stupidity, and cupidity served to hinder the work of states and environmental groups attempting to mitigate the potential damage from global climate change.

Warren Senders

Month 2, Day 7: Dinosaurs, anyone?

USA Today gets a rambling, inarticulate screed that starts with the Supreme Court and ends with Dinosaurs. One day somebody’s going to publish something. It’s gotta happen.

The recent decision by the Supreme Court to allow unlimited corporate spending in our elections will have far-reaching consequences on our lives. Nowhere will these be more profound than when corporations take on the complex issues of climate. Why? Because addressing the worst effects of global climate change demands genuine long-term thinking — and corporations, by the requirements of their charters, are only able to think in the short term.

The worst-case planetary scenarios suggested by scientists like Dr. James Hansen can be summed up in one word: Venus. More favorable climate projections have huge numbers of deaths and dislocations, with costs in the trillions of dollars. Needless to say, human extinction would be bad for business.

With gigatons of Arctic methane starting to melt and enter the atmosphere, and an increase in oceanic acidification beginning to threaten the food chain that supports over a billion people, there is no time to waste. We need strong and effective climate legislation, and we need it soon. But since forestalling these outcomes may require Big Energy to relinquish a few percentage points of profit in the next quarter, we can expect another type of pollution instead: corporate-funded disinformation touting the benefits of atmospheric CO2 levels last seen when dinosaurs walked the earth.

Warren Senders