(CNSNews.com) - Global warming skeptics reacted strongly Monday to a Supreme Court ruling that the Environmental Protection Agency has the power to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from cars, calling the decision "bad news" for the country and predicting that the economic fallout will be "vast."
In the first case of its kind to reach the high court, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act gives the EPA the power to regulate greenhouse gases and that the agency has "no reasoned explanation" for not doing so.
"Because greenhouse gases fit well within the Clean Air Act's capacious definition of 'air pollutant' we hold that EPA has the statutory authority to regulate the emission of such gases from new motor vehicles," the court said.
"While we are still reviewing the case for its regulatory implications, having the authority to regulate C02 as a pollutant and justifying that authority are two different things," Marc Morano, spokesman for Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told Cybercast News Service.
"CO2 is not an air pollutant and should not be treated as one," Morano added.
According to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the court's decision has broad implications ranging from the judicial standing of environmental plaintiffs to America's economic future.
"The decision implies that Congress ratified the Kyoto Protocol in 1977 when it enacted the Clean Air Act's Section 202 regulating auto emissions, but somehow forgot to tell anybody," said CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis. The Kyoto Protocol, drawn up in 1997, requires industrialized countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by specified amounts. The U.S. did not ratify the treaty.
"The same groups that sued EPA to regulate CO2 auto emissions under Section 202 will now sue EPA to set national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for CO2," he added. "However, in previous rulings, the court has forbidden EPA to consider cost when setting NAAQS. As a result, the potential for economic harm is vast."
"The court's decision empowers EPA to take control of America's global warming policy," argued CEI Director of Energy and Global Warming Policy Myron Ebell. "This should certainly be a surprise to Congress, which has been vigorously debating the issue for years.
"For an agency as unaccountable as EPA to be deputized in this way is bad news for the future of our country," he added.
The National Center for Public Policy Research called the decision "a victory for the bad guys in the battle over whether the American people will be governed by accountable elected officials or unaccountable judges."
"Unable to convince the Senate to vote upon, let alone ratify, the Kyoto global warming treaty, the left has adopted the Kyoto-by-stealth strategy of asking judges to force its version of science into the pocketbooks of the American people," the group's president, Amy Ridenour, said in a statement.
"We learn from Justice Stevens today that carbon dioxide is 'the most important... greenhouse gas.' Science cannot confirm the Justice's confident statement. The role of water vapor, the most plentiful greenhouse gas, is not yet understood. Nor is the role of carbon dioxide understood," said Ridenour.
"Such uncertainty, among many others, is the reason scientists annually request and spend several billion dollars of funds supplied by hardworking U.S. taxpayer for research into climate change. Can the taxpayers now expect relief? After all, the Justices have spoken; the verdict is in," she added.
"We shall see how many groups on the political left today ask: 'How many peer-reviewed papers has Justice Stevens published?'" Ridenour said.
She added that - as dissenting Justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito have said - policies regarding "the alleged threat of global warming should ... be determined by the Congress and the Chief Executive."
"As the dissenting Justices also observed, '[Global warming] is not a problem that... has escaped the attention of policymakers in the executive and legislative branches of our government, who continue to consider regulatory, legislative and treaty-based means of addressing global climate change,'" Ridenour said.
"The Supreme Court should have stayed out of the way. The legislative and executive branches are empowered by the Constitution with the duty of setting environmental policies, and, unlike our rapacious judicial branch, also are accountable to the American people," she added.
Environmentalists hailed the ruling.
"While this case has worked its way through EPA and the courts, scientific evidence of global warming has continued to mount - so much so that the scientific debate is over," said Earthjustice attorney Howard Fox.
"Our climate is warming, and pollution from human activities is a major cause," Fox said in a statement. "Harms include rising seas that submerge coastal lands, stronger hurricanes, more drought, melting ice caps and degraded ecosystems,"
The Sierra Club called the ruling "a watershed moment in the fight against global warming."
"This is a total repudiation of the refusal of the Bush administration to use the authority he [sic] has to meet the challenge posed by global warming," the Associated Press quoted Sierra Club spokesman Josh Dorner as saying.
Dorner added that the Supreme Court's decision "sends a clear signal to the market that the future lies not in dirty, outdated technology of yesterday, but in clean energy solutions of tomorrow like wind, solar."
"To combat this most urgent environmental crisis, strong and comprehensive U.S. action is crucial. EPA must use its existing Clean Air Act authority to require control of greenhouse gas emission - by motor vehicles [the subject of this case] as well as by other sources like power plants," Fox said.
"The Act has successfully cut emissions of many pollutants, and it can do the same for greenhouse gases," he said.
Global warming proponents say CO2 is the most important greenhouse gas - gases blamed for affecting the temperatures of the planet and the atmosphere.
Despite the court's "air pollutant" ruling, many scientists argue that CO2 cannot be considered a pollutant, given its crucial role in the life cycle. During the process of photosynthesis, plants convert CO2 into carbohydrates, in the process releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.
See Earlier Stories:
Global Warming Policy to be Decided by Supreme Court (Sept. 1, 2006)
Scientist Calls Global Warming Theories 'Bunk,' Cites Errors of Logic (March 15, 2007)
Global Warming Skeptics Shunned (Feb. 8, 2007)
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