Ketanji Brown Jackson is sworn in before the Supreme Court 3:56
(WABNEWS) — The United States Supreme Court has spent the last few weeks setting off political and legal earthquakes across America. But his latest daring blow could affect the entire planet.
After advancing the GOP agenda by overturning federal abortion rights and relaxing gun laws, the conservative majority on the court built by former President Donald Trump on Thursday limited the government’s ability to fight climate change.RELATED
In a 6-3 ruling, the justices held that US law did not give the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) the authority to set limits on emissions from planet-warming power plants. With President Joe Biden’s $500 billion energy and climate plan stalled in the Senate, the decision dealt a major blow to America’s global leadership on this matter.
The decision came at a time when scientists are warning of the disastrous effects of accelerating climate change and when wildfires and droughts in the United States show that the crisis is already here. And it was especially dismaying for the White House, as it threatened to undermine Biden’s authority on the world stage just as he was wrapping up a successful trip to Europe.
The president reaped several great victories, including consolidating NATO’s front against Russia, by mediating the entry of two new members —Sweden and Finland— and guiding the alliance to promote another key priority: building a front of democracies. international to counter China.
But his credibility in combating climate change — another key foreign policy priority — was undermined by the Supreme Court ruling, even though administration lawyers will seek alternative ways to cut emissions and global market forces will continue. rendering coal-fired power plants unprofitable or obsolete.
Mexico will benefit from the Supreme Court’s decision on “Remain in Mexico” 3:54
Global climate action depends on a collective effort. The smallest countries will not reduce their emissions if the biggest polluters, like the United States, do not. The difficult political decisions needed to reduce emissions are impossible for everyone to make if some nations avoid them. And other powers will limit their own climate goals if they fear losing a competitive edge to rivals that don’t shift their economies to reduce their reliance on fossil fuels.
If Biden’s ability to meet America’s ambitious climate goals is compromised, he will be unable to lead by example, and an already lame plan to avert catastrophic warming worldwide could be endangered.
The United Nations was quick to warn Thursday that the Supreme Court decision threatened to derail efforts to keep global temperature rise below 2% while pursuing efforts to maintain a 1.5% threshold.
“Decisions like today’s in the United States, or in any other major emitting economy, make it more difficult to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, for a healthy and liveable planet, especially as we need to accelerate the phase-out of coal and the transition to renewable energies. renewables,” said Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
“But we must also remember that an emergency as global in nature as climate change requires a global response, and the actions of a single nation should not and cannot get us to our climate goals.”
US leadership on climate change has often been erratic
The world is used to US spins on climate change.
President Barack Obama, for example, helped broker the Paris climate accord, which went into effect in 2016. But his successor, President Donald Trump, who had previously declared climate change a Chinese hoax, walked out of the agreement. Declaring that “America is back,” Biden moved to rejoin the deal within hours of being sworn in as president last year.
The Supreme Court decision marks a setback for Biden’s ambitious plans to cut US greenhouse gas emissions in half from 2005 levels by 2030 and create a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.
“This has made it much, much more difficult, for sure,” Carol Browner, who was an EPA administrator in the Clinton administration, told WABNEWS Thursday after the court’s opinion was released.
In essence, the court ruled that the Clean Air Act did not give the EPA the authority to regulate carbon emissions from power plants that contribute to climate change. Since the law was enacted in 1970, it did not contain detailed instructions for the agency to combat climate change, which, at the time, was not a widespread global concern.
The President of the Supreme Court, John Robertsargued in his majority opinion that the law could not be used by the government as authority to introduce brakes to combat climate change.
“Limiting carbon dioxide emissions to a level that mandates a nationwide transition away from using coal to generate electricity may be a ‘sensible solution to the crisis of the hour,'” Roberts wrote in his majority opinion. “But it’s not plausible that Congress would have given the EPA the authority to adopt such a regulatory scheme on its own.”
This is just the latest instance in which the Supreme Court’s close and literal reading of the US Constitution and law has seemed to pay little attention to modern world conditions and how majority decisions might affect them.
Last week’s nullification of the constitutional right to abortion, for example, has created chaotic aftermath and a patchwork of laws across the country. The earlier decision to strike down a New York state law that limited Americans’ right to carry guns outside the home came at a time when crime is on the rise in a nation already awash with guns.
In her dissent to Roberts’ opinion, Obama-nominated Justice Elena Kagan painted a dire picture of a warming world, with intense hurricanes, droughts, ecosystem destruction and floods consuming large swathes of the Eastern seaboard. And she argued that Congress had already given the EPA the authority to mitigate “catastrophic damages.”
“Regardless of what this court may know, it has no idea how to address climate change,” he wrote, accusing conservative justices of becoming the “climate policy makers.” Kagan concluded.
How many people would be affected by banning abortion in the US? 2:41 Republicans celebrate that the Supreme Court put a stop to bureaucracy
Leading conservative politicians immediately celebrated the decision, heralding it as a victory to limit government overreach in Washington by unelected bureaucrats.
“We are pleased that this case returns the power to decide one of the biggest environmental issues of the day to the right place to decide it: the US Congress, made up of those elected by the people to serve the people,” Patrick said. Morrisey, Republican attorney general of West Virginia, one of the top coal-producing states.
“This is about maintaining the separation of powers, not about climate change,” Morrisey said.
The problem, however, with the Supreme Court returning matters to Congress is the difficulty for legislators to achieve anything meaningful. The country’s polarization and filibustering rules in the Senate have made advancing major bills on key issues — such as voting rights and gun regulation — challenging in a closely divided Senate.
The recently passed gun legislation, for example, fell far short of the substantial revisions many Democrats would have liked to see. But they had to pass something that could get 10 votes from the GOP, even though Democrats nominally have a monopoly on political power in Washington.
And Republicans are unwilling to address climate change. Thus, the court’s right-wing majority is playing a major role in asserting a conservative political agenda to thwart whatever changes a Democratic Congress and president might enact.
That is difficult for foreigners to understand when it comes to an issue as urgent as climate change. But he guarantees that any effort to engage the United States in the global climate fight will inevitably lead to years of political battles in Washington. And it is one more example of how the country’s polarization is threatening its role as a world leader.