The Sciences

Still Awaiting Our Global Warming "Scopes Trial"

The IntersectionBy Chris MooneyDec 8, 2010 8:04 PM


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My latest post has just gone up at DeSmogBlog. It's about the Supreme Court's decision yesterday to hear a case I've written a lot about--Connecticut vs American Electric Power--which seeks to hold a group of power companies responsible for their contributions to global warming. In essence, this will be a global warming tobacco-style lawsuit, if it is allowed to go forward--and the decision of the Supremes about that could get pretty interesting. Why? Because ironically, the do-nothing Congress that we're going to have in some ways empowers the lawsuit:

Connecticut v. AEP was originally dismissed by district court judge Loretta Preska in New York City. She said the plaintiffs were essentially asking her to go beyond the scope of her office—“political questions are not the domain of judges,” she wrote. After all, we’re all waiting on Congress or the administration or the international community to deal with global warming, right? (Riiiiight.) But the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit disagreed strongly. It ruled that the question at stake was not “non-justicable political” one, and empowered the case to go forward.... Which brings us to the Supreme Court. Any realistic survey of the political and regulatory landscape today suggests little reason to expect that global warming is going to be dealt with by Congress (which is feeling obstructionist). As for EPA? It seems likely to be obstructed. If both avenues are blocked, and there's no other clear climate remedy, will the Supremes really say that states being damaged by global warming can’t sue the polluters doing it?

Read here for my full DeSmogBlog analysis.

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