The Supreme Court ruled today on the EPA’s authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate carbon emissions from new power plants, and if you’ve gotten to this half of the sentence I presume you are a daily reader. Welcome back. The Supreme Court has ruled, importantly, that the EPA either can or cannot curb greenhouse emissions the way it wants. It depends on whom you ask. I first learned of this decision from the LA Times, which reported that Supreme Court limits EPA authority on power plants. Then, balance-seeking perspicator that I am, I read in the other Times that Justices, With Limits, Let E.P.A. Curb Power-Plant Gases. A computer would tell you those sentences say the same thing.
Here’s a fun thought experiment: say you had conclusive evidence that A) man-made climate change would render the planet unlivable in 50 years and B) this process could be reversed by an immediate reduction in carbon emissions. Everyone has access to this evidence, but let us say that a combination of factors—popular ignorance of science, resistance from industry, sheer denial—leads people to do nothing. Some people try to make laws about burning coal and oil and gasoline, but other people stop them. Everybody keeps driving and cooking plastic bags on the stove and whatever, even though this behavior will kill the human race in two generations. Now for the sixty-dollar question: in this situation, when the will of the people was sure to wreck everything, would you still support democracy? Before you answer, read this editorial about the Rio+20 summit in Brazil and how little has changed since the last one. Continue reading