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ENVIRONMENT:

Courts Confront Climate Change

by S. Fred Singer

Editor's Note: Given recent rulings by the current U.S. Supreme Court, arguing this and similar 'political' cases before that court may well result in rulings and precendents favorable to polluters.

The Justice Department should appeal the 9th Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court. Doing so would also provide an opportunity for the high court to revisit its April 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA—in which it ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate CO2 as a pollutant.
January 24, 2008—"Late last year, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration must consider the “risks of global warming” when setting gas-mileage standards for light trucks, minivans and SUVs.

Central to the court’s ruling was the claim that NHTSA, in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act, had ignored the benefits of reducing emissions of the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2).

Whatever their legal acumen, Justice Betty Fletcher and her colleagues on the bench demonstrated they have little expertise in climate science. Tighter restrictions on CO2 emissions cannot produce the imagined benefits. Greenhouse gas emissions occur globally: The court’s mandate will not measurably curb CO2 levels or global warming.

The court also assumed that human activity is the main cause of global warming. This has yet to be demonstrated by hard evidence.

The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) points to glacial melting, shrinking sea ice, and other consequences of global warming. But such “evidence” doesn’t tell us whether the causes are natural or manmade. Other evidence, such as the claimed correlation between temperature and CO2, is circumstantial; during much of the 20th century the climate was cooling while CO2 levels were rising.

A forthcoming report by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), of which I am the editor, may provide needed balance. An independent organization, not sponsored by the United Nations, national governments, or industry, NIPCC—which includes many IPCC authors and expert reviewers—was created to provide a second opinion on the IPCC’s official findings, much as a physician’s diagnosis may warrant a second opinion.

Drawing on peer-reviewed publications in major scientific journals, NIPCC examined the data used in IPCC’s May 2007 climate-change assessment, as well as research ignored in the IPCC report or published subsequent to its release. NIPCC concludes that “evidence” to support public hysteria about human-caused greenhouse warming does not hold up to scrutiny. Among the findings, expected to be published early this spring:

In view of these findings, the Justice Department should appeal the 9th Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court. Doing so would also provide an opportunity for the high court to revisit its April 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA—in which it ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate CO2 as a pollutant.

This time around, the White House should be better prepared to argue its case. Science is on its side.


S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric physicist, is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, and former founding Director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service. He is author of Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate (The Independent Institute, 1999).


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This story was published on March 7, 2008.