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Supreme Court Amicus Curiae from scientists

Filed under: — group @ 29 November 2006

In the wake of the NY times editorial yesterday, we’ve been asked to provide a link to the Amicus Curiae (draft) written by David Battisti, Christopher Field, Inez Fung, James E. Hansen, John Harte, Eugenia Kalnay, Daniel Kirk-Davidoff, James C. Mcwilliams, Jonathan T. Overpeck, F. Sherwood Rowland, Joellen Russell, Scott R. Saleska, John M. Wallace and Steven C. Wofsy in the current Supreme Court case (Commonwealth of Massachusetts et al vs. US EPA et al). Some discussion of this statement is also available at Prometheus.

Update: The actual brief (of which the first link was a draft) is available here (see comments below).

Update 2: We also note that on the final brief, Mario Molina, Ed Sarachik, Bill Easterling, and Pam Matson were additional signers.


136 Responses to “Supreme Court Amicus Curiae from scientists”

  1. 51
    Eli Rabett says:

    I think everyone is missing the climate for the weather here. First, again , the court appeared pretty unanimous that CO2 was a pollutant. Second, based on the questions, if EPA under some future administration decided to outlaw combustion sources on the grounds that they emitted NOx, SOx, heavy metals, etc. it sure sounded like the Supreme Court would agree that they had the right to do so. Good luck to making a combustion system emission free except for CO2 and H2O.

  2. 52
    Keith Jackson says:

    #27 – I understand what you are saying about the plain meaning of “in its judgement”, however you have to read the whole clause, not a fragment. The whole phrase is “which in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare” (42 USCS § 7521). A plain language interpretation of that phrase is that judgement is limited to whether the pollutant is reasonably anticipated to endanger public health or welfare. Granted, this plain language reading is less convincing then the one that seems to have convinced Scalia that CO2 is within the Clean Air Act’s scope, but it is fairly clear nonetheless.
    Remember, Mass. et al aren’t actually asking the Court to force the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. They are asking the Court to make the EPA revisit the petition that asked the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases and rule on permissable grounds. The EPA says it can decline to make a pollutant finding for policy concerns that are not in the text of the statute.

  3. 53
    Rod Brick says:

    Re #27, 52 et al: The EPA’s “judgement” can not be unilateral nor without current scientific evidence way beyond conjecture. Virtually every pollutant the EPA regulates came after considerable study, including usually epidemiological analysis, private and public hearings, etc. They can’t just declare CO2 a pollutant to be regulated. (However, they have been known to try to sneak things in before…. )

  4. 54
    Nathan Brown says:

    Roger,

    I think a simple explanation has been provided about climate change, it’s Al Gore’s movie ;-)

    It seems obvious to me that the conservative judges are going to rule against the EPA, and the liberal one’s will rule in favor of the EPA. I don’t think the evidence that is presented matters much.

    Does anyone have a reason to think otherwise?

    Nathan Brown
    Learn how to prevent global warming by joining me in making one simple change.

  5. 55
    Keith Jackson says:

    #53 – what you say is correct, though I think you overestimate the “reasonably calculated” standard, which is a fairly easy standard to meet in legal terms. As for the analysis, private and public hearings, etc. the EPA has already held them in response to the petition that started this case. This wouldn’t be a case of “sneaking” anything in. The fact is, the EPA knew that if it made a finding, it would have to find CO2 is a pollutant and regulate it. So, instead, the EPA declined to make a ruling based upon policy considerations not in the statute.
    In this way, this case is similar to the FDA tobacco case. The FDA had clear statutory authority to regulate tobacco, but when petitioned to, declined. The difference is that Congress had legislated for years under the assumption that the FDA could not regulate tobacco, and so had set up a different regulatory scheme. In this case, Congress has not passed any regulatory scheme for greenhouse gases at all, so the legislative precedent doesn’t exist.

  6. 56

    I’ve been looking for an appropriate forum to do this in, but one hasn’t turned up, and I don’t want to make this an excuse for never doing it. A couple of months back I was pretty savage toward Gavin (I think it was Gavin) over whether real anti-technology ideologues existed. Whether I was technically right or not is irrelevant, I could have been a heck of a lot more polite. My apologies to Gavin and anyone else I offended, and my apologies again for taking so long to post this.

  7. 57
    Hank Roberts says:

    > Nathan Brown
    > … seems obvious to me that the conservative judges are going to rule against the EPA,
    > and the liberal one’s will rule in favor of the EPA

    Not even wrong.

  8. 58
    Archskeptic says:

    I have been an environmental scientist for over 20 years. Went down to the Antarctic to measure the effects of enhanced UV-B on the plant life there. Not a sausage. And this at a time when all the “Greens” were shouting doom and gloom. Well the Ozone hole is still there and still no disaster.
    Looking at the current debate over Global Warming, I see some interesting parallels- Gloom, doom and more disaster. And over what a 0.6C temperature rise in about 100 years? Still well within the range of natural variation and no proof that it is to do with man, or CO2. In fact a recent publication makes this absolutely clear.
    And I quote “The writers show that the human-induced climatic changes are negligible.”
    (Khilyuk, L.F., and G. V. Chilingar. 2006. On global forces of nature driving the Earth’s climate. Are humans involved? Environmental Geology, 50, 899-910.)

    Comments please.

    Archskeptic

    [Response: Hmmm... and I suppose you have actually read this paper, rather than just quoted a line from an advocacy web site? The authors claim that the natural rate of methane emission is an order of magnitude larger than human emissions.... tricky to reconcile that with the highest values (more than double pre-industrial values) in over 650,000 years... I would suggest that you focus your reading on papers with actual scientific content. -gavin ]

  9. 59
    Joseph O'Sullivan says:

    I’ll second Gavin’s Hmmm.

    #58 (Archskeptic) “Went down to the Antarctic to measure the effects of enhanced UV-B on the plant life there.”

    What plant life in Antarctica were you studying?

  10. 60
    Hank Roberts says:

    >an advocacy web site
    Yep, Western Fuels’ PR agency posted this 12/1, yesterday; they disallow questions.

  11. 61
    P. Lewis says:

    Re #59 and #60

    The author of #58 is Don Keiller, I think. He’s written a number of papers, including co-authoring this one:

    Montiel P., Smith A. & Keiller D. (1999) Photosynthetic responses of selected Antarctic plants to solar radiation in the Southern maritime Antarctic. Polar Research, 18(2), 229-235.

    HTH

    I’ll further second the Hmmm!

    I don’t agree with Archskeptic’s views on most things to do with GHG and warming (he was a prolific anti on the recently closed BBC S&N boards), but I don’t think allusions to hemp, whether true or not, are particularly helpful. :)

  12. 62
    Dontbuyit says:

    re: 58-61
    Wow, how rude people can be, especially to a peer, or to a person who actually has field work in places most of the rest of you can only talk about. At least #62 brought the level back up to less rude.
    So what’s wrong with this paper he’s citing? The question more interesting is, have any of you read it?

    [Response:Yes, it's bunk on mutliple levels. It has so many out and out incorrect statements that I would be amazed if this got any review at all. For instance, they claim to be able to model the effect of greenhouse gases purely as a function of their mass and ignoring their absorption of LW radiation. As the rebuttal (in press) states:

    It is astonishing that the paper of Khilyuk and Chilingar (2006) (as well as Khilyuk and Chilingar 2004, for that matter) could pass the review process of a seemingly serious journal such as Environmental Geology. Such failures of this process, which is supposed to guarantee the quality of published literature, are likely to damage the reputation of this journal.

    Indeed. -gavin]

  13. 63
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #41: Mark, I think it’s very common for people to have questions like yours when they first start to delve into the admittedly complex details of climate science. Reading the brief Hank linked to is a good idea, but I would suggest first reading the Discovery of Global Warming (which describes how the present scientific consensus formed starting from a base of very little knowledge just a few decades ago) and then the Real Climate FAQs. With these under your belt, the details will become much more comprehensible.

  14. 64
    Steve Bloom says:

    Re #62: OTOH, considering the present interest of the BBC in obtaining evidence of the alleged suppression of skeptic/denialist ideas, it may be useful to occasionally publish things like this. If that were the case here, though, I would expect to see some kind of accompanying note to keep the editors from being subjected to blame.

  15. 65
    Chuck Booth says:

    RE #58 “Well the Ozone hole is still there and still no disaster.”

    I’m not familiar enough with alleged claims of impending “disaster” to evaluate their merit, and I’m not even clear about what qualifies as a “disaster.” But, there are negative consequences from the ozone hole in the southern hemisphere that seem pretty serious (and should be familiar to anyone who has worked in Antarctica):
    http://www.atmosphere.mpg.de/enid/20c.html
    http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/sc_fact.html
    http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/reporting/atmosphere/ozone.html

  16. 66
    Doug Watts says:

    Re #34: Doug,

    If the Buzzards Bay Estuary is such a sensitive a habitat as you seem to imply you can can safely assume it destroyed 100 years from now with or without EPA action. If, OTOH, it is not that sensitive then it’s hard to see haw another couple of inches would make any difference.

    Sashka,

    I do not imply that salt marshes are very sensitive habitats. They simply are very sensitive environments, like all wetlands. Ample literature documents this. It can be fairly said that salt marshes are the physical expression of sea-level acting within a very low gradient shoreline environment dominated by organic detritus. My purpose in posting was (a) to state that the concern in Massachusetts over sea-level change is naturally focussed on those coastal environments most sensitive to sea-level change (ie. salt marsh habitats) (b) that a lot of the Mass. coastline is comprised of this habitat and (c) that this habitat is critical to the health and productivity of steeper gradient and deeper marine habitat nearby because of its function as a nursery for the larvae of numerous marine fauna.

  17. 67
    Doug Watts says:

    RE: 48. Joseph O’Sullivan.

    Thank you very much Mr. O’Sullivan for the apt example. People don’t realize how sensitive wetlands and marine wetlands (ie. salt marshes) are to long-term disturbances until they try to restore one or to recreate one from scratch. Wetlands in southeastern Massachusetts are long-term physical expressions of the entire post-glacial history of the region. Entire suites of plant communities and biomes can markedly shift just on the basis of a 1 inch change in elevation above the seasonal water table or sea level (in the case of estuarine salt marshes). The observable changes in these plant communities form the entire basis of how wetland delineations are performed in the field by trained botanists. In essence, the plant species and associations are used as highly reliable bio-indicators of seasonal water table patterns. Therefore, taken in reverse, it is easy to understand why an alteration to the seasonal water table (or sea level) must cause noticeable and irreversible changes to the plant community, which determines the fauna which can live in that plant community. I know from a lifetime of observation of southeastern Mass. freshwater and marine wetlands that just a one inch change in water elevation can radically alter the resident plant community, ie. favoring one species community and ruling out another. The 6,000 acre Hockomock Swamp in my town (Easton, Mass.) provides outstanding examples of this, as does the southern side of Cape Cod, Buzzards Bay and Montaup (Mount Hope Bay).

  18. 68
    Hank Roberts says:

    Don’t fall for the Denial Two-Step:
    1) It’s not happening
    2) It’s too late to do anything about it

  19. 69
    Mark Ritzenhein says:

    Re: 53 et al. I’ve come to realize that I thought of this blog as a Global Warming blog and not a Climate Modeling blog, which seems more correct. I’ve been reading about enviro issues and GW for twenty-five years, so I am familiar with the general outline. My real confusion here, again, stems from the seeming-focus on minutiae and the seemingly-endless doubt around what can be called established facts. Of course, if all of the answers were known then there would be no debate. However, the doubt and confusion made me question whether any conclusions at all could be made.
    Personally, I am more concerned with the human social response to the increasing pressures which GW will bring, which I feel has its own feedback loop towards disaster. Simply, if increased heat leads to desertification of grasslands, suddenly 6.5B people cannot be fed. They won’t just sit down and die. This, as much as any other thing, may lead to social chaos. Breakdown of social order (as seen in Bosnia, e.g.) will lead to instant destruction of remaining forests. The rest is clear, as massive population shifts will not be able to compensate for the losses of whole eco-regions. Skies and oceans empty of life down to the micro level, even, will mean a similar loss of a food source and system stability to the human race.
    As I’ve read in the popular press, especially since 2000, the discovered changes in ecosystems and in the general climate become more extreme and occur more rapidly than I ever estimate, leading me to a recent alarmism that there is no time to counter any changes. Hence, my anxiety and despair. My initial questions remain, however, and if carefully considered could have plain answers.
    Thanks to all for allowing me to speak. I will check out some more of the references generously provided. M

  20. 70
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 69

    Mark, you seem to have come to terms with consequences of AGW. Now, I suggest you get past the need to separate yourself from those pesky matters such as:

    How does one sort “noise” from “trend?”
    How do scientists cope with such uncertainty?
    How can one stand back and reach any conclusion at all?
    What scientific “truths” do any of you hold to?

    Get on with what your senses tell you and do something with what you know rather than spin your wheels to assure yourself and those who see and feel AGW that we first need “truths” before we act.

    If the fireman is standing in my living room with the fire hose in hand, I do not ask him if the water will damage my plasma screen TV.

    Get a move on, Mark.

  21. 71
    Sashka says:

    Re: #68

    Regarding the secong item:

    Of course, something can be done but this would be a meaningless statement. The meaningful question is “can something meaningful can be done?” Well, define “meaningful” first, then define the timeframe then one could discuss the claim on merits. Otherwise it’s just a slogan.

  22. 72
    Sashka says:

    Re: #66

    Doug,

    I’m afraid the inhabitants of salt marshes will have to adapt or perish. There is nothing that can be realistically done about it. It is not in EPA power to stop or meanigfully affect the sel level rise.

  23. 73
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mark, this is recommended in the parallel discussion over Prometheus:
    “basic biogeochemistry and global elemental cycling (William Schlesinger’s text, “Biogeochemistry: an Analysis of Global Change”, is the standard in the field)”
    http://www.amazon.com/Biogeochemistry-Analysis-Global-W-H-Schlesinger/dp/012625155X
    $25 used in paperback, it looks like a very good basis for understanding what’s known. Mine’s on order, but there are more copies available.

  24. 74
    Grant says:

    I’m afraid the inhabitants of salt marshes will have to adapt or perish. There is nothing that can be realistically done about it. It is not in EPA power to stop or meanigfully affect the sel level rise.

    You’re probably right about salt marshes, but you’re completely wrong about sea level rise.

    Yes, we are “committed” to a certain level of temperature increase and sea level rise, and emissions reductions won’t change that. But what doesn’t seem to be sufficiently emphasized is that emissions reductions will reduce the amount of change. Alas, it’ll be some time (probably after my lifetime) before the difference becomes “meaningful.” But it will be meaningful.

    Just because it’s not presently in our power to “fix” the problem, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take steps to avoid making things even worse.

  25. 75
    Phillip Shaw says:

    Re #68 & #71:

    Hank, as an avid dancer I respectfully suggest that the Denialist Disinformation Dirge isn’t a two-step, it’s a triple-step, i.e.:

    1. Global Warming is not happening.
    2. It’s happening, but it’s natural so we can’t do anything.
    3. Even if we are causing Global Warming, it is too late/costly/complex to do anything.

    Sashka, small AGW mitigation actions are ‘meaningful’. Even small reductions in GHG emissions slow the rate of climate change and give the environment, and our societies, more time to adapt. If I’m in a leaky liferaft, every leak I patch keeps the liferaft afloat that much longer. It is foolish and defeatist to say that if we can’t solve the whole problem then it is not ‘meaningful’ to solve part of the problem. It is important for each individual, each corporation, each city and town, and each country to do what they can. That goes for the EPA, too. This is not a feelgood slogan, this is survival.

  26. 76
    Dano says:

    RE 72 (Sashka):

    I’m afraid the inhabitants of salt marshes will have to adapt or perish. There is nothing that can be realistically done about it.

    And all those ecosystem services, provided for free? Gone. Human capital better spent on something else will be needed to replace those services.

    Sounds wasteful and inefficient to me, but I’m more of a microecon guy and only had one quarter of macro.

    Best,

    D

  27. 77
    Doug Watts says:

    Don’t fall for the Denial Two-Step:
    1) It’s not happening
    2) It’s too late to do anything about it

    - Hank Roberts.

    ————–

    Thank you very much, Mr. Roberts. My brother Tim and I do a lot of advocacy work on endangered species in New England, particularly the Atlantic salmon and the American eel. We encounter the “Denial Two Step” often in our work.

    Thankfully, the U.S. Endangered Species Act explicitly forbids this spurious method of argument. The ESA does not allow the decline of an animal due to “natural causes” to be an argument against listing, foremost because the term “natural causes” is itself a spurious abstraction.

    And thankfully, the ESA by letter and Congressional intent declares the native flora and fauna of the U.S. to have a priori importance, value and significance to the people of the United States, meaning the loss of this natural wealth is considered a priori to be a bad thing that should and must be avoided. The ESA does not allow for a debate or argument over whether the loss of a species or subspecies is “bad”. That matter is settled within the design of the statute itself. The only matters of relevant fact in an ESA listing process are whether the species is actually in danger of extinction.

    It is worthy to note that ESA status review documents for both the American eel (in preparation) and the Atlantic Salmon (issued Sept. 2006) both discuss in detail the impact of ongoing climate change as a factor which may contribute, or is now contributing, to the documented decline of both of these native animals in the United States and their global range.

  28. 78
    Sashka says:

    Re: #74

    Just because it’s not presently in our power to “fix” the problem, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take steps to avoid making things even worse.

    This is true. But it also also true that we don’t need to bend over backwards to reduce the sea level rise by 1%. Some measures may be effective other are certainly not.

    You are quite right that any deviation from the “business as usual” scenario could become (statistically) noticable only after our life time. Which was precisely the point I was making WRT to the merits of this lawsuit in general and the fate of the salt marshes in particular.

    For longer time scales one needs to (at least) demonstrate that the achieved reduction is greater than the uncertainty in the forecast. I’m not aware of such estimates.

  29. 79
    Doug Watts says:

    I’m afraid the inhabitants of salt marshes will have to adapt or perish. There is nothing that can be realistically done about it. It is not in EPA power to stop or meanigfully affect the sel level rise.

    This is not true. If we are irrevocably committed to an X increase in sea level increase due to climate change, what will occur is that low gradient saline estuary habitats will migrate landward and regress shoreward. This is well documented in New England via studies of the Pleistocene sea level minima and maxima after the most recent Ice Age (for example, drowned white pine forests along Scarborough Marsh in Scarborough, Maine).

    To thoughtfully prepare for this coming event, one would ensure that residential development and in-filling of areas directly adjacent to salt marsh habitats is minimized so as to accommodate the landward migration of these habitats as sea levels rise. If this is not done, the salt marsh habitats will literally have nowhere to go as they attempt to migrate landward because they will hit artificial fill and rip rap etc. along their developed edge.

    The counter-argument to the above is shown to be spurious in that if we project a significant loss of marine estuarine habitats due to irrevocable climate change trends and just throw our hands up in the air, then there is no rationale or justification for protecting these habitats at present. Ie. if they are going to be destroyed in the long-term, why bother doing anything to protect them in the short-term? In effect, this argument leads to a self-fulfilling prophesy which I believe scientists and the community at large should seek to avoid.

  30. 80
    Hank Roberts says:

    Lobsters are charismatic megafauna in Massachusetts, remember.

    http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0160-8347(198806)11%3A2%3C83%3AUOSPRB%3E2.0.CO%3B2-L

    “We discovered and studied an undescribed juvenile lobster habitat in Nauset Marsh, Cape Cod. Juvenile lobsters (X = 26.7 mm carapace length, 6 to 72 mm, n = 38) were collected from suction samples primarily in “peat reef” habitats during the period from August 1985 through October 1986. The reefs consisted of large blocks of Spartina alterniflora peat that had separated from the marsh surface and fallen into adjacent subtidal marsh channels. The smallest lobsters (6 to 7 mm CL) were collected from peat reefs in October 1985, and April and July 1986. In these habitats, juvenile lobster density averaged 2.5 individuals ${rm m}^{-2}$ (range 0-5.7) in suction samples. Peat reef habitats occur in other salt marshes in the northeastern United States and may be an important nursery habitat for small juvenile lobsters.”

  31. 81
    Sashka says:

    Re: 79

    what will occur is that low gradient saline estuary habitats will migrate landward and regress shoreward

    To migrate a few yards away is one way to adapt. I’m not sure what you are objecting to. I’m not sure, too, why you insist on the sensitivity of the marshes. If the inhabitants are able to survive by moving up as the water rises, why worry?

    To thoughtfully prepare for this coming event, one would ensure that residential development and in-filling of areas directly adjacent to salt marsh habitats is minimized

    Since I don’t own beach property, I don’t have a big problem with this suggestion … yet. I don’t see, however, what it has to do with those two inches of land that the EPA can help salvage.

    if they are going to be destroyed in the long-term, why bother doing anything to protect them in the short-term?

    This is a valid argument assuming the projections are correct.

  32. 82
    Doug Watts says:

    RE: #80.

    Thank you again, Mr. Roberts. A significant impact upon marine fauna due to small changes in sea level is also well illustrated by the striped bass, which is an immensely important and valued species along the entire Atlantic seaboard. Striped bass eggs have neutral buoyancy and drift in the water column prior to hatching into free-swimming larvae. Highly saline water is fatal to striped bass eggs (I believe the salinity threshold is on the order of 11 parts per thousand). This is why the primary striped bass nursery grounds in the U.S. are found in large, brackish to freshwater tidal estuaries (ie. Hudson River, tribs. to Chesapeake Bay, Merrymeeting Bay, Maine and numerous others). Sea level increase would, in general, cause the salt wedge to migrate landward, thus reducing the quantity of freshwater habitat necessary for striped bass eggs prior to hatching.

    Again, if we are facing an irrevocable increase in sea levels of X due to climate change that is in the pipeline, one mitigating action would be to remove dams or otherwise provide passage at dams located on large freshwater rivers along the Atlantic seaboard which formerly hosted migrating runs of striped bass far above tidal influence. The Susquehanna River is a prime example, as are the Kennebec and Penobscot in Maine and the Connecticut River.

    Such intentional actions would at minimum provide an offset for striped bass spawning areas that are viable at present but would be lost entirely or diminished substantially due to sea level increases. Thankfully, actions such as this are being undertaken, notably on the Kennebec and Penobscot (head of tide dam removals), not due to possible climate change impacts, but for the larger and more general purpose of habitat restoration.

    The point here only being that if we are facing certain irrevocable changes due to climate trends, there is a wide and varied menu of actions we can take right now (or start planning for right now) to at least mitigate for the cascade of deleterious consequences we can predict will most likely occur. I think the striped bass provides an illustrative example. The limiting factors of salinity and migratory barriers/access for stripers in their historic spawning habitats are very well known and the impacts of changes to these factors can be modelled very effectively right now.

    This leads to a more general rule of thumb (for me, at least). The more we can do now to increase the health and robustness of faunal populations that may be negatively affected by irrevocable climate change impacts, the greater the chance these populations may be able to survive those specific changes that are outside of our immediate control. I offer this as a starting point. Thanks.

  33. 83
    Gareth says:

    Re: #75 (&71/68)

    …as an avid dancer I respectfully suggest that the Denialist Disinformation Dirge isn’t a two-step, it’s a triple-step…

    You can’t count! It’s in 4/4 time:

    1. Global Warming is not happening.
    2. It’s happening, but it’s natural so we can’t do anything.
    3. Even if we are causing Global Warming, it’s going to be a minor problem so it’s not worth doing anything.
    4. Even if Global Warming’s going to have impacts, it’s too late/costly/complex to do anything.

    The “credible” deniers (or the deniers who want to be credible) are grouping round the third and fourth beats (downbeat and offbeat – but it’s all a beat up).

    Cheers

  34. 84
    Sashka says:

    Re: 75

    I didn’t choose to use the word “foolish” first but if you insist I’ll say that it is foolish indeed to pretend that you solved (a part of) the problem while you didn’t solve any.

    The word “meaningful” reflects a quantitative measure of achievement. Before you can present serious quantitative assesment of the impact of the proposed measures (compared to the existing trend) it remains exacly what you said: feelgood slogan.

  35. 85
    Sashka says:

    Re: 83, and similar before that.

    I think it will be more fun if you start presenting scientific arguments instead of dancing around.

  36. 86
    Ed Sears says:

    (to Sashka)Why the refusal to protect our natural environment? According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, the Rand Foundation and Stern, the cost of introducing low-carbon instead of high-carbon technology when our current equipment wears out, will be negligable. And why not start with one small part of the problem (new cars)? The states are asking the EPA to start thinking constructively about reducing emissions, not expecting them to solve the entire problem of global warming.

  37. 87
    Marcus says:

    Re: Sashka’s comments:

    In fact, there are plenty of studies on climate policy under uncertainty, showing significant benefits in terms of reducing temperature change both in terms of average and in terms of upper bounds. See Webster et al, 2003, Climatic Change, vol. 61. p. 295-320 for one example.

    Indeed, much of the point of climate policy is not to stop all temperature changes, but to keep the changes within some reasonable bounds.

    And indeed, the 6% of global emission due to US transport is only a small piece, but if no one acts on any of the small pieces, then certainly we won’t get anything meaningful done. (I do wonder why the case only addresses transport, and not the other 19% of global emissions that the US emits) (note also that transport is, I believe, the fastest growing emission sector) Whereas if we do start on transport, that gives us a certain amount of moral authority to convince others to take on their own targets (and Europe is certainly moving on that path even without our actions)

  38. 88
    Phillip Shaw says:

    Re 84:

    Reducing carbon emissions by mandating more efficient private and commercial vehicles IS a partial (and necessary) step towards mitigating GW. It’s a partial solution.

    In the US, the EPA is the appropriate federal agency to address this issue but it has dodged its responsibility for years and would continue to do so if allowed. Hence the suit now before the Supreme Court.

    Please don’t dredge up the tired and discredited old canard that vehicle efficiency is better addressed through market forces than through government regulations. The reason the EPA came into existence is that ordinary human and corporate nature places a greater emphasis on today’s convenience and profit than on the needs of a distant future. If the EPA has no role (or accepts no role) in mitigating AGW then let’s dissolve it and spend that money on an agency willing to accept the mission.

    Gareth (83) – thank you for the correction.

  39. 89
    John L. McCormick says:

    RE # 83
    Gareth, I hear what you are saying in #4, but you did not get their sytax straight.

    Here is what the denialists are really saying:

    Because it’s too late/costly/complex to do anything, Global Warming’s going to have impacts.

    Lets face the truth, there is no will, motivation nor interest among Americans to address AGW. We are about trying to hold on to what we have and enjoy the remainder of the football season.

    Were that not the case, there might be some indication of a heightened sense of urgency, focus and strategic thinking among incoming Democrats or the environmentalists. (Lets give Senator Boxer her due but it will take 60 votes to move anything in the Senate).

    According to a press release by the PEW Research Center issued
    WEDNESDAY, JULY 12, 2006 entitled:

    Partisanship Drives Opinion: LITTLE CONSENSUS ON GLOBAL WARMING

    Global Warming a Low Public Priority is definitely that, even among Democrats.

    The following is percent rating of each issue as â??very importantâ??

    Republicans……………..Democrats……….â?¦â?¦.. Independents

    Terrorism 84…………… Health care 89….â?¦.â?¦. Education 83
    The economy 80……….Education 86…..â?¦…. ..Health care 79
    Education 75…………… The economy 80…â?¦.. The economy 78
    Taxes 74………………. â?¦Social Security 79.â?¦ .Terrorism 72
    Social Security 73……… Situation in Iraq 78â?¦ Situation in Iraq 72
    Situation in Iraq 72……. Job situation 78..â?¦… Social Security 71
    Health care 69…………. Terrorism 69…….â?¦â?¦ Energy policy 67
    Immigration 64…………. Minimum wage 68…..Taxes 63
    Flag burning 60………… Taxes 66………..â?¦â?¦.. Job situation 63
    Energy policy 56……….. Energy policy 66.â?¦.. Environment 58
    Inheritance tax 54……… Environment 64…..â?¦. Immigration 57
    Job situation 52……….. ..Budget deficit 62..â?¦. Budget deficit 55
    Abortion 50……………. ..Global warming 56…. Global warming 49
    Budget deficit 47………. Immigration 52……. â?¦Minimum wage 48
    Gay marriage 43…………Gov. surveillance52.. Gov. surveillance47
    Minimum wage 36……….Flag burning 44â?¦…. Inheritance tax 45
    Gov. surveillance33…….. Abortion 39……..â?¦.. Flag burning 44
    Environment 30…………. Inheritance tax 37… â?¦Abortion 41
    Global warming 23………Gay marriage 31….â?¦.Gay marriage 28

    Heck, Democrats view global warming as a higher priority than flag burning.

    Cannot wait for 2008. Hope springs eternal.

    Or,maybe we should heed Alastair McDonald’s warming. And, be sure you anchor the windmill tower deep enough.

  40. 90
    Roger Smith says:

    “I think it will be more fun if you start presenting scientific arguments instead of dancing around. ”

    Well, your posts are almost entirely on the policy implications of climate change dressed up in serious-sounding language. Which is fine and fun but not science.

    Critera for what is worth protecting, the degree of proof required to make such choices, the influence of uncertainty on the decision, balancing the costs of inaction with the cost of action are all value-based policy judgments. Your values, my values and the Supreme Court’s values may well differ on this subject, and science cannot bridge this gap.

  41. 91
    Steve Reynolds says:

    Re 88:
    > Please don’t dredge up the tired and discredited old canard that vehicle efficiency is better addressed through market forces than through government regulations.

    Regulations that command and control are generally inefficient at accomplishing the goal. If the goal is reducing carbon emissions, then a tax on carbon emissions will allow market forces to best allocate resources to reduce emissions at the lowest cost.

  42. 92
    Doug Watts says:

    If they are going to be destroyed in the long-term, why bother doing anything to protect them in the short-term? This is a valid argument assuming the projections are correct. (Sashka)
    —–

    Err … no. What I presented above was an absurdist canard which follows the same lines as “Because humans only live for XX years, it makes no sense to provide seat belts or air bags in cars because we’re all going to die anyways.” Or that medical care should be denied to elderly people because they are a few months or years from dying anyways.

    Your seeming agreement with this canard implies that humans today should bear absolutely no responsibility for the condition of the Earth our own children and grandchildren will inherit from us.

  43. 93
    Robin says:

    I think this is a great idea!!!! I always read every article discussed here, in an attempt to understand climate change better. Thank you!

  44. 94
    Sashka says:

    Re: #86

    Why the refusal to protect our natural environment?

    I don’t. I’m just saying that not all efforts in that direction are equally smart. If a certain habitat is doomed for whatever reason (which doesn’t seem to be the case WRT marshes) then I’m sure one can find better ways to allocate resources than to fight for a lost cause.

    And why not start with one small part of the problem (new cars)?

    Because this is not the way to solve anything. If your roof is leaking, will you start with the biggest hole or with the smallest?

  45. 95
    James says:

    Re #83: “You can’t count! It’s in 4/4 time”. Oh, no, it’s 5/4. You’ve forgotten 5: Global warming is good for you!

    As I read the last few posts, I suddenly realized that I live in an area – the US Great Basin – that suffered considerable adverse (at least to my way of thinking) impact from the last round of global warming at the end of the last Ice Age. At that time the whole area seems to have been a fairly lush mix of forest and grassland, inhabited by a varied and now mostly extinct megafauna, with a couple of Great Lakes sized freshwater lakes (Lake Lahontan and Lake Bonneville). Now most of it is sagebrush and playa, with scattered refugia in the higher mountains.

    Seems to me that the end of Ice Age changes would make a good parallel for the kinds and degrees of change that the current warming might bring about.

  46. 96
    Doug Watts says:

    Critera for what is worth protecting, the degree of proof required to make such choices, the influence of uncertainty on the decision, balancing the costs of inaction with the cost of action are all value-based policy judgments. Your values, my values and the Supreme Court’s values may well differ on this subject, and science cannot bridge this gap. Comment by Roger Smith â�� 4 Dec 2006 @ 6:07 pm.

    Well said and thank you, Mr. Smith. If societal Group A doesn’t like to eat lobster and societal Group B does like to eat lobster and societal Group C is comprised of families who derive their income from lobster fishing, it is obvious all three Groups will reach different conclusions on the “value” of the American lobster. The value of the lobster, expressed in terms of “how much are you willing to pay to preserve it”, will most likely differ among the three groups.

    A critical, and often underplayed role of science, is to discern the various ecosystem functions performed by one species (or one habitat type) which provide real societal benefits not accounted for in a linear, single species analysis. To be a fair and accurate accounting which accords with reality, these “externalities” must be factored into the analysis.

    A well-studied example is the manifold ecosystem benefits provided by the Pacific salmon species in their respective freshwater environments. Spawning Pacific salmon constitute an important food supply for various mammals, including grizzly bears, but their spawned out carcasses also provide an abundant source of marine derived nitrogen (MDN) into watersheds very far from the ocean, due to the enormous spawning migrations of these animals. This MDN in turn has been shown to have a significant beneficial effect on the productivity of these waters and surrounding terrestrial habitats that can only be supplied by healthy runs of spawning Pacific salmon. As such, a quantitative analysis of the “value” of healthy runs of Pacific salmon, and the lost value due to their disappearance, must include the benefits and services provided by the marine derived nitrogen they supply to inland watersheds. An analysis which fails to account for these benefits is skewed from the outset; and skewed against preservation of the species.

  47. 97
    Eli Rabett says:

    Sashka, the truth is that you cannot escape the public square on this issue, at least not if you want to use your science to drive policy. The public square is full of jugglers, clowns, pickpockets, and folks who omit, misquote and simply lie to prove their point. Those who would deny climate change (funded by Exxon, Western Fuels, etc.) learned from the tobacco lobby and for a decade have been able to control the discussion in the US. A large part of their effort has been devoted to ridicule. If you doubt me, take a look at such tripe as Michaels “Satanic Gases” or Essex and McKitrick on “Taken by Storm”. That this is being now turned against them is necessary given the nature of the public discourse.

    Real Climate is one necessary leg in the effort to convince people that we have a serious problem. Posts like 83, pointing out the cynicism of the denialists, are another.

  48. 98
    Doug Watts says:

    Seems to me that the end of Ice Age changes would make a good parallel for the kinds and degrees of change that the current warming might bring about. Comment by James � 4 Dec 2006 @ 9:14 pm.
    —–
    Let’s bring this thread back to topic, the Supreme Court case involving whether CO2 should be defined and regulated as a pollutant pursuant to the Clean Air Act. A recent unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court involving whether the operation of hydroelectric dams constitutes a “discharge” pursuant to the Clean Water Act offers an instructive lesson (S.D. Warren v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection, http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/05pdf/04-1527.pdf). For the record, my historic research was used and cited in the case.

    At issue in this case was whether the operation and existence of hydroelectric dams on rivers could be defined as a discharge that might lead to pollution, as defined in the Clean Water Act. The Supreme Court said yes. The ruling rested on the basic premise that an activity (in this case, a “discharge”) which can harm the biological and physical integrity of a waterway meets the definition of a pollutant that is subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. All record evidence clearly showed that hydro-electric dams can indeed harm the biological and physical integrity of a waterway.

    In the instant case, the facts and law are quite similar. If evidence shows anthropomorphic CO2 emissions can cause profound negative impacts to humans, their natural environment, and the services this natural environment provides to humans, then manmade CO2 emissions can fairly be called a pollutant, just like mercury or lead. That CO2 emissions, in and of themselves, are not harmful for humans to breathe misses the point. What is the point, in my opinion, is what I call the “cascade of deleterious impacts” which accrue from these emissions on the basic fabric of our environment and the services it provides to humans. To me, this is a rather simple and irrefutable evidentiary case.

    In S.D. Warren v. Maine Board of Environmental Protection, we (plaintiffs) presented to the Court the scientific evidence. The construction and operation of hydro electric dams can so profoundly alter rivers that native fish species can no longer live in their native habitat within them (ie. Atlantic salmon, American shad, blueback herring). For this reason, these species become extinct from these watersheds.

    In S.D. Warren, which focussed on the Presumpscot River in Maine, we presented the science and historical evidence which showed that species such as Atlantic salmon once abounded in the river, that record evidence showed they became extinct due to the construction of dams without fish passage, that these species are extinct in the river today, and that no other cause except for dams could explain their extinction.

    In essence, we showed the effect of these dams on native Atlantic salmon in the Presumpscot River was identical in effect to dumping into the river a chemical which made it impossible for Atlantic salmon to live in the river. Even the plaintiff (S.D. Warren Company) agreed that discharge of such a chemical would be subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. In May 2006, the Supreme Court affirmed our argument unanimously, 9-0.

    In my naive opinion, the US EPA in the instant case wishes to avoid regulating CO2 emissions under the Clean Air Act solely because the EPA, as presently constituted, would prefer the Clean Air Act itself did not exist. The EPA cannot make this argument in court, since it is bound by law to enforce the Clean Air Act. In lieu, the EPA relies upon questioning the underlying scientific evidence which shows the manmade CO2 emissions in the U.S. clearly meet the definition of a pollutant, just like mercury or lead. If a substance is manmade, causes harm and its emissions to the public commons can be reduced, then it is a pollutant.

    Cheers.

  49. 99
    Chuck Booth says:

    Re # 75 To which I would add one more argument:

    4. Besides, global warming, will be beneficial – cold boreal climates will become moderate, with new agricultural land becoming available to feed the masses.

    Does that make it a Merengue? Or maybe a quadrille?

  50. 100
    T. M. Ritter says:

    For those interested, inherent in Scalia’s seemingly flippant “over my head” or dislike of science remarks during oral argument, is actually a very calculated legal point. Theoretically, at least, the agency involved (EPA) has the expertise in this area (at least, relative to the judicial branch of government). Hence, in Scalia’s jurisprudence, the judicial function will be to defer to that “expertise”. His point, I imagine, is: why should 9 (or 5 of 9) lawyers substitute their views for the view of the government body invested with the scientific expertise to regulate (or, not) in an area where such technical expertise is clearly demanded? -Todd Ritter


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