The Supreme Court of the United States has arrogantly ruled that the second most vital gas to sustaining life on Earth is a "pollutant." In doing so, five of nine Justices did the same dirt to climate science Monday that twelve OJ jurors did to forensic science in 1995.
At issue was the Environmental Protection Agency's position that it had no power to regulate "greenhouse gases," such as carbon dioxide, as EPA scientists believed they fail to meet the Clean Air Act's definition of airborne pollutants. Astoundingly, a majority of non-scientists in robes ruled that they did.
In an all-too-obviously politically motivated decision, the Court found that the EPA not only had the authority to regulate "greenhouse gas" (GHG) emissions but actually carried the legal responsibility to do so.
And right on cue, judicial ignorance of both the scientific and fiscal pitfalls of the Massachusetts v. EPA ruling incited similar media nescience. Alarmists repeated their erroneous mantra that man's role in global warming had been "settled," while the press loudly proclaimed that President Bush's environmental policies had been properly "rebuked."
But the dire portent of this case far-exceeds the photo-ops it provided gloating greenies.
Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens opined that "air pollutants" include "all airborne compounds of any stripe" and concluded that:
"Because greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act's capacious definition of 'air pollutant' we hold that EPA has the statutory authority to regulate the emission of such gases from new motor vehicles."
Capacious? That would seem considerably understated, given that the list includes everything from Asbestos to Radon to Hydrochloric Acid, but fails to mention any gases essential to life - until now that is. Nonetheless, the word is so broadly tossed about that the EPA felt it wise to provide The Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act for clarification. There, air "pollutants" are defined as (emphasis added):
"unwanted chemicals or other materials found in the air. Pollutants can harm health, the environment and property. Many air pollutants occur as gases or vapors, but some are very tiny solid particles: dust, smoke or soot."
In his opinion, Stevens cavalierly declared CO2 to be the "most important species" of greenhouse gases. This, itself, is pure enviro-friendly trash -- most scientists award that honor to water vapor. Nevertheless, as he considers greenhouse gases to be "well within" the CAA's definition of pollutants, it would follow that CO2 must be "unwanted" in the air. I suspect, however, that huggers of every tree, every blade of grass, and every other form of vegetation on the planet would heartily disagree, as its presence in the air is as essential to the flora as O2 is to us fauna.
Writing in dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia agreed with the original CAA position that a "physical, chemical ... substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air" must also be an "air pollution agent" to be classified as a "pollutant," adding that:
"Not only is EPA's interpretation reasonable, it is far more plausible than the Court's alternative. As the Court correctly points out, ‘all airborne compounds of whatever stripe,' ante, at 26, would qualify as ‘physical, chemical, ... substance[s] or matter which [are] emitted into or otherwise ente[r] the ambient air,' 42 U. S. C. §7602(g)."
The Justice then pointed out the obvious flaw in the majority's interpretation:
"It follows that everything airborne, from Frisbees to flatulence, qualifies as an ‘air pollutant.' This reading of the statute defies common sense."
It does, indeed. Not to mention the Court's own 1993 Daubert Standard which stated that federal trial judges must become "gatekeepers" of scientific evidence - determining its admissibility based upon standards of being both "relevant" and "reliable." Yet, given the ongoing debate over and ongoing scientific study of the GHG / Global Warming connection, such evidence can not be reasonably declared as either.
Does this checklist standard somehow not apply to the highest federal court in the land?
The very opening of Stevens' headnote accepts as scientific fact that which has been settled only to the satisfaction of long time eco-maniacs, political doomsayers and their "turned" accomplices in the scientific community:
"Based on respected scientific opinion that a well-documented rise in global temperatures and attendant climatological and environmental changes have resulted from a significant increase in the atmospheric concentration of ‘greenhouse gases'..."
Nuts. So, just how "reliable" can the scientific evidence be when hundreds of contrarian scientists offer solar-related theories which dismiss the impact of GHG altogether? And just how "relevant" can it be when absolutely no evidence exists suggesting that reducing CO2 emissions will lower atmospheric temperatures even by a single degree Celsius? As Scalia reminded his colleagues,
"the science of climate change is extraordinarily complex and still evolving."
Surely, the only thing "reliable" in the Court's decision will be its catastrophic impact upon the sticker-price of cars, trucks and buses -- and for what? Nothing but hysteria abatement! And, as an added bonus to the enviro-nutters, by bolstering pending and future fuel economy standards legislation, an already troubled U.S automobile industry - which depends heavily on truck and SUV sales - could soon be riding a lot further along the road to doom.
But there's more. While the current target is tailpipe emissions, eco-maniacs are nothing if not insatiable. Accordingly, let's not overlook the significantly increased price of electricity from all those plants currently providing cheap power from inexpensive coal which will soon be forced to find "cleaner," more costly alternatives. And, of course, the power-related increases in production and transportation costs all the way up the energy food-chain and their subsequent impact upon the price of all consumer goods and services.
As to Daubert's test of relevance, there's certainly nothing in the evidence presented which is "relevant" to rising Massachusetts sea levels - the "damage" claimed at the heart of the absurd case being decided. No, it appears more likely that Stevens and his three fellow bench-liberals -- David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer - managed to persuade moderate Anthony M. Kennedy to surrender the rules and sing along with their liberal-alarm-song quartet.
The upshot of this is staggering: As politics has compromised science, so has politically compromised science compromised a landmark Supreme Court decision. Effectively, by dragging SCOTUS into the global warming debate, alarmists have managed to inflict chaos upon yet another formerly intellectually structured decision-making system.
Justice Scalia concluded his dissension in agreement:
"The Court's alarm over global warming may or may not be justified, but it ought not distort the outcome of this litigation .... No matter how important the underlying policy issues at stake, this Court has no business substituting its own desired outcome for the reasoned judgment of the responsible agency."
Yet - it most certainly did.
Let conservatives take an important lesson from this. The philosophical battleground on which we fight for our future now lies as much in the courts as anywhere else.
Proper selection of justices becomes more essential with every election.
Marc Sheppard is a technology consultant, software engineer, writer, and political and systems analyst. He is a regular contributor to American Thinker. He welcomes your feedback.