Supreme Court Blocks Obama’s Prime Climate Regulations

Published February 12, 2016

Climate Change Weekly #202

Legal efforts by 27 states and dozens of business, labor, consumer, and public-interest groups bore fruit when the U.S. Supreme Court stayed the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) while the case wends its way through the courts.

The Court’s February 9 ruling overturned a DC Court of Appeals panel’s decision to allow the rule to go forward. Although the appeals panel had not stayed CPP, it had established an expedited hearing schedule for the case, which is scheduled to begin June 2.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hoped to head off a stay by noting in its brief the Supreme Court is ordinarily “a court of final review and not first view. … Its traditional reluctance to address novel legal arguments in the first instance – without the benefit of any sustained analysis by a lower court – weighs strongly against intervention at this time.”

The Court ignored EPA’s pleas to allow the rules to go forward.

“This is an exceedingly uncommon situation for the court to step in, and it jeopardizes the plan all together from going into effect while President Obama remains in office,” said Bruce Huber, professor of law at Notre Dame Law School. “The Supreme Court’s order signals serious misgivings among some of the justices about the legality of the plan.”

CPP forces states to cut carbon dioxide emissions from new and existing power plants by approximately 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. According to one study, the cuts would cause 41 states to experience double-digit increases in electricity prices, with 28 seeing increases topping 20 percent – all for a rule EPA itself admits won’t prevent a measurable amount of temperature increase.

Because any final court action on the rule is not expected until 2017 or beyond, the stay opens the door for the next president to decide whether to defend CPP as is, withdraw it and modify it, or drop it entirely. The stay is a blow to President Barack Obama’s climate legacy, as CPP is critical to meeting greenhouse gas emission cuts he promised in Paris in December 2015.

In a statement, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, lead plaintiff in the states’ challenge, described the Supreme Court’s action as a “historic and unprecedented victory” over EPA.

“We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule’s immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues,” Morrisey said.

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Scientific American and CNN


Paris climate deal could make more poor homelessClimate scientists suppress inconvenient truthsUnemployment looms for hundreds of Australian climate scientistsClimate scientist Christy dismantles NOAA temperature claimsFew Americans concerned about climate change


A new study by the Rights and Resources Initiative shows implementation of the United Nations’ Paris climate agreement could displace up to 4.1 million people living in heavily inhabited forests and another 0.9 million who depend on such areas for their economic well-being. The agreement calls for those areas to be designated “ecologically protected” in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), two of the poorest countries on Earth. Western-backed programs to expand forests and limit their use, in order to reserve forests as carbon sinks dedicated to removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, could make millions homeless.

According to Andy White of the Rights and Resources Initiative, “Governments have targets to expand their protected areas, and now with new climate funding being available the risk is they will use this to expand in a way that doesn’t respect local rights. It could result in the displacement of millions of people.” Andrew Follett of the Daily Caller reports the DRC and Liberia, with the support of Western governments and environmental organizations, have already displaced millions of resident from their historic forest homelands. The DRC has removed 17 million people, almost a quarter of the country’s population, from existing protected areas.

Under new programs funded by Germany and environmental non-profit groups, the DRC is planning to set aside 12 to 15 percent of its forested land as ecologically protected areas. Liberia has committed to turning 30 percent of its forests into ecologically protected areas in exchange for $150 million in developmental aid from Norway.

Concerning the impact on people being removed from their forest homes, Follett quotes a Mbuti tribal leader in the DRC saying, “Our new masters … like the animals more than humans and do not mind that people suffer as long as the animals are happy.”

SOURCES: Protecting the Forests and Daily Caller


An article by Senja Post published in the journal Public Understanding of Science examined the “ideals and practices” of German scientists as they communicated climate change research findings to the public. Post surveyed German climate scientists holding the position of full professor and actively engaged in climate research, finding “the more climate scientists are engaged with the media the less they intend to point out uncertainties about climate change and the more unambiguously they confirm the publicly held convictions that it is man-made, historically unique, dangerous and calculable.”

In addition, the more convinced scientists were rising carbon dioxide levels are causing dangerous climate change, the more they worked with the media to spread that message. Post’s survey also revealed German climate scientists object to publishing results indicating climate change is happening more slowly than expected, which in her words “gives reason to assume that the German climate scientists are more inclined to communicate their results in public when they confirm rather than contradict that climate change is dramatic.”

SOURCE: Cato Institute


Larry Marshall, chief executive of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), sent an e-mail announcing significant job cuts at the agency. The departments of Oceans and Atmosphere and Land and Water are each expected to suffer losses of than 100 jobs.

Andrew Holmes, president of the Australian Academy of Science, issued a statement saying he was seriously concerned about the country’s future ability to monitor climate in the Southern Hemisphere as well as conduct climate and environmental research. “Australia is internationally recognized for its expertise and unique position in climate and environmental research,” Holmes’ statement said. “Realistically, there are no other countries in the Southern Hemisphere that are able to do what we do.”

Holmes continued, “Our climate and environmental scientists are some of the best in the world.” “We wouldn’t stop supporting our elite Olympic athletes just as they’re winning gold medals. Nor should we pull the rug out from under our elite scientists.”

SOURCE: Mashable


In testimony before Congress, John Christy, Alabama’s state climatologist and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, explained the data used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to proclaim record temperatures is biased in a number of ways. The ground-based data come from thermometers located near sources of artificial heat, including concrete and air conditioner exhausts, and the ocean data come from ship engine water intake valves. By contrast, Christy notes, satellite-derived temperatures offer global coverage and are not affected by the heat island effect. Christy noted climate models show 2.5 times as much warming as has been observed by satellites and weather balloons.

Because the satellite measurements challenge the narrative of a discernable human impact on climate, Christy noted,

[t]here have been several well-funded attacks on those of us who build and use such datasets and on the datasets themselves. … It is a bold strategy in my view to actively promote the output of theoretical climate models while attacking the multiple lines of evidence from observations. Note that none of the observational datasets are perfect and continued scrutiny is healthy, but when multiple, independent groups generate the datasets and then when the results for two completely independent systems (balloons and satellites) agree closely with each other and disagree with the model output, one is left scratching one’s head at the decision to launch an offensive against the data.

Christy also pointed out actual observations show the frequency and intensity of extreme events is not increasing, disproving claims based on climate models.

SOURCES: Dr. John Christy, House Testimony and Daily Caller


A public opinion poll released by YouGov, an Internet-based market research firm headquartered in the UK, found only 9.2 percent of Americans rank global warming as their biggest concern. The poll, which surveyed 18,000 people in 16 countries and Hong Kong, was limited to questions about international issues, ignoring typically high-ranking domestic concerns such as crime, education, health care, and taxes. With 12.8% respondents worldwide saying climate change was the most serious global concern, climate change ranked as the third most serious issue facing the world according to those surveyed by YouGov, consistently behind international terrorism (25.1%) and poverty, hunger, and the lack of drinking water (15.2%). (Most polls typically list poverty, hunger, and drinking water separately, with each consistently ranking higher than climate change.)


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