Way back in 1750, the start of the Industrial Revolution, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). Just over 250 years later in 2005, the levels of carbon dioxide had risen to 380 ppm. As we enter the month of July in the summer of 2022, we are at approximately 420 ppm. The present concentration is believed to be the highest in 14 million years. Because of this rise in trapped carbon dioxide (and other ‘greenhouse gases’), the planet has already heated an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since 1750. Scientists believe that1.5 degrees is the threshold that will result in catastrophic heat waves, increased extreme weather events and widespread species extinction. We are already seeing the dire beginning chapters of what this tale of wanton disregard for Creation stewardship and justice reveals about the horrific fate that awaits us and all life on earth if we do not change course.
Arguably, job #1 for the species with the most complex brain on Earth (Homo sapiens sapiens) is to quickly and drastically reduce the atmospheric pollutants (primarily fossil fuels) that are choking and super heating the planet and thus making our common home less conducive to health and well being, and inhibiting the ability of all creatures to survive and thrive. And yet, for all our smarts and the magnitude and urgency of the task before us, we keep acting like an extinct brontosaurus, the ‘thunder lizard’ with a brain the size of a walnut. And the longer we keep up this insane behavior, the closer we come to joining the dinosaurs as a ‘once upon a time’ resident of planet Earth.
We are in the midst of an existential global crisis. And we’ve been told by science that what we do or fail to do to curb fossil fuel emissions in this decade leading up to 2030 will either make or break any chance of staying below 1.5 degrees. Nevertheless, as an example of reckless and nonsensical conduct, yesterday in a not surprising but yet ruinous 6-3 decision, the super majority of conservative Supreme Court Justices demonstrated their dereliction of duty in this most critical of all pursuits. After two weeks of mind numbing decisions, they capped off the grand finale by hog tying, ham stringing and knee capping the federal agency whose mission it is to “protect human health and the environment.”
Coming at the end of two historic weeks of judicial mayhem and havoc wreaked on an overwhelmingly disapproving populace, this decision has ramifications that will effect not only Americans, but all life forms throughout Earth’s biosphere. In the case of West Virginia v. EPA, plaintiffs in the case (19 mostly Republican states’ attorneys general and coal companies) argued that powers to regulate power plant emissions (powers granted under the Clean Air Act of 1970) should fall on Congress rather than the EPA. And we all know that trying to get any meaningful climate and environmental action through the polarized House and Senate is a lost cause – DOA.
A February 8, 2022 blog post from Evergreen Action had this to say about the meaning of the potential outcome of the SCOTUS ruling:
“What’s at Stake
West Virginia v. EPA is the result of numerous challenges, advanced by Republican-led states with the backing of coal companies and right wing judicial activists, to the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP relied on established Clean Air Act authorities to cut power plant carbon pollution, but the rule never even went into effect. The Trump administration rolled back the plan in 2017, and the Biden administration has declined to revive it.
That’s why many Court-watchers were outraged by the Court’s decision to hear West Virginia. Why would the Court take up a case on a regulation that never went into effect and make a ruling in the abstract? The answer is painfully clear: in West Virginia v. EPA, the Court’s conservatives are adhering to industry’s calls to gut the Clean Air Act and, with it, EPA’s regulatory authority.
But the court’s decision in West Virginia could have implications far beyond the purview of EPA and the Clean Air Act. The case threatens to overturn Chevron deference, a fundamental principle of regulatory governance, and reintroduce the nondelegation doctrine, a principle that could render most of contemporary government unconstitutional”.
That sounds eerily like the ‘tip of the iceberg’ ruling on abortion that opened the door to other rulings that could obliterate long standing privacy rights. A June 30 article in the New York Times reports that the lead plaintiff in the case decided by the Supreme Court on Thursday, Patrick Morrisey, said that he sees his victory as a first step in the Republicans’ broader effort to curtail not just the authority of the E.P.A. but also the entire executive branch. “We are pleased this case returned the power to decide one of the major environmental issues of the day to the right place to decide it: the U.S. Congress, comprised of those elected by the people to serve the people,”
Again I say – DOA, and quote Bill McKibben who wrote in the NewYorker, “the Supreme Court’s 6–3 ruling in West Virginia v. E.P.A. is the culmination of a five-decade effort to make sure that the federal government won’t threaten the business status quo.”
“This devastating decision is the latest in the efforts by extremist and partisan Republican-appointed justices to take a wrecking ball to the health, liberty and security of the American people,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. “In just two weeks, the court has acted to erase reproductive health freedom, flood our public places with more deadly weapons and, now, to let our planet burn.”
At a critical time when we need all the water pressure available to put out the fire that is global warming, this is no time for the SCOTUS majority to be tying the fire hose in knots. With nothing less than the fate of life on Earth at stake, it borders on the criminal.
America and the world stand at a cross roads. Wise and courageous people must heed the words of John Stuart Mill who in an address at the University of St. Andrews in 1867 said: “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends than that good men should look on and do nothing.” Whether this applies to those involved in an attempted coup of American democracy to accomplish the ends of the ‘Big Lie’, or to partisan Justices who bring dishonor to the highest court of the land, there must be good men and women willing and able to look injustice/evil in the face and do something.