The Supreme Court had a bit of a meltdown yesterday over it’s first significant Global Warming case, and by the end of the argument, on the first day, “the only certain outcome,” was that the debate would continue. Slate offered this take on the argument yesterday — “The justices are perhaps deciding, after all, the most urgent scientific question facing the planet: They are deciding Bush v. Gore’s Movie.”
The N.Y. Times notes that the “Supreme Court argument Wednesday on the Bush administration’s refusal to regulate carbon dioxide in automobile emissions offered three intertwined plot lines to the audience that had come to watch the court’s first encounter with the issue of global climate change.”
On one level, the argument was about the meaning of the Clean Air Act, which the Environmental Protection Agency maintains does not treat carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases as air pollutants and thus does not give the agency the authority to regulate them.
On another level, the argument was about whether the dozen states, three cities and many environmental groups that went to federal court to challenge the agency’s position had legal standing to pursue their lawsuit.
And on still another level, the courtroom action was an episode in a policy debate that began well before this case arrived on the Supreme Court’s docket and that will continue, in the political sphere, no matter what the justices decide.
The Sumpreme Court Justices appear to be divided over a decision on Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, No. 05-1120.
At this stage, even if the plaintiffs survive the challenge to their standing and the court finds that statutory authority exists, it is highly unlikely that the court would order the agency to undertake regulation. It would be a victory, Mr. Milkey agreed, if the justices went so far as to tell the E.P.A. to reconsider its position.
NPR’s Nina Totenberg offers her take on the case on All Things Considered.