On April 2nd, the United States Supreme Court passed down a decision on how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates greenhouse gases. The ruling was made on the basis of the Clean Air Act (a piece of 60s era legislation) and asserts that the EPA has the jurisdiction to regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant. It goes on to chastise the organization for not doing so.
While the decision is certainly in keeping with the way the things are blowing, one has to wonder whether such an approach is sensible. The kind of problem posed by climate change has only become reasonably well understood in the period after the Clean Air Act was implemented. Also, while the EPA has a considerable amount of expertise, it does not have a huge amount of legitimacy. At least, it doesn’t have the level that would be necessary to push through the kind of societal changes society requires.
The smart money is that the next American administration – whether Democrat or Republican – will oversee a substantial change of tack when it comes to climate policy. The denialism of the present lot simply won’t be tenable in the post-2008 world. What form that new engagement takes – national, through bilateral or regional initiatives, or through a global system – will be the truly interesting thing to keep one’s eye upon.
PS. Apologies, but the profoundly disrupted state of the St. Antony’s College network at the moment prevents me from posting an image. Just getting this post to appear required more than ten hours of frustration. An image will appear once I am on a solid connection again. How cruel to come home to such shoddiness.