In 2007, The Supreme Court ruled that greenhouse gases were a pollutant under Section 2 of the Clean Air Act and therefore EPA had the authority to regulate them, especially carbon dioxide. In time, this Court decision will go down as one of the worst. In reaching its decision, the Court liberally interpreted the Clean Air Act’s definition of pollutant, while ignoring the fact that Congress in passing the 1990 amendments, explicitly denied EPA that authority. In addition, the Court poorly interpreted the state of climate science and the weakness of climate models that have been designed using the assumption that an increase in greenhouse gases will automatically increase global warming.
EPA used its newly granted authority to make an endangerment finding that to no ones surprise concluded that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil energy use would cause warming and dangerous climate change and those would endanger “human health and welfare.” It then issued regulations covering tailpipe emissions from vehicles and proposed regulations covering emissions from industrial facilities. Several business groups and states challenged those regulations and the endangerment finding.
Last week, a federal appeals court upheld the regulations that mandate reductions in emissions of six heat-trapping gases from large industrial facilities such as factories and power plants as well as from automobile tailpipes. A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said that the Environmental Protection Agency was “unambiguously correct” in using existing federal law to address global warming”. In its ruling, the Court accepted the Agency’s endangerment finding and concluded that since the regulations had not taken effect, the petitioners had not been harmed and therefore did not have standing to bring suit. The latter action has precedent; the former simply rubber stamped the ill advised 2007 Supreme Court decision.
The Supreme Court over a decade ago set standards for the admission of scientific evidence in court proceedings. If it had used those standards in reaching a decision on climate change, it should have made a different decision. The reason is twofold.
First, the International Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) which advocates hold up as the last word on the subject, has documented that scientific knowledge on factors driving climate change is strong on only two of eleven factors. If so little is known about the climate system, it should go without saying that it is not possible to attribute an effect to a particular cause.
Second, forecasts of dangerous climate change comes from models that are notoriously inexact. All use the hypothesis that greenhouse gas emissions will prevent solar energy from being reflected back into space and will lead to an increase in atmospheric levels of water vapor which will enhance the warming of that trapped radiation. Research has shown that atmospheric water vapor has not increased, so the hypothesis has not been validated. Without an increase in water vapor the effect of increased greenhouse gases is slight.