Foreign Policy Blogs


Supreme Court – As of noon Eastern time today, Google listed 1,127 news articles reporting on yesterday's U.S. Supreme Court decision, 5-4, in favor of the plaintiffs in probably the most important climate change case to be adjudicated anywhere in the world.  Here's the story from "The Guardian" and from "The Online NewsHour."   See this excellent analysis from Felicity Barringer at the "NY Times" and the "backstory" on podcast with her.  Reaction was generally muted from the EPA and the Bush Administration , see yesterday's press briefing from the White House.  The reaction from some of the interested parties was, however, predictably jubilant.  "Fantastic news" was what the environmental secretary for Massachusetts deemed it.  Massachusetts was the lead plaintiff.  Senator Barbara Boxer, a sponsor of the strongest of the global-warming proposals so far put before Congress, said: "This decision puts the wind at our back."  A really critical player in Congress in all of this, John Dingell, had this to say:  "Today's ruling provides another compelling reason why Congress must enact, and the president must sign, comprehensive climate change legislation." (I mentioned Dingell's history, importance and role in last week's post, "Bits and Bobs" below.)

The ruling also gives ammunition to California in fighting the legal challenge to its initiative on automotive emissions for which they need a waiver from the EPA. The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, said about yesterday's ruling:  "We expect the U.S. E.P.A. to move quickly now in granting our request for a waiver."

Here's the caveat in all this, though:  The EPA will not break any speed records in racing to control carbon dioxide from automotive emissions nor any other source.  The EPA is a creature of the presidential administration and this President has said it's not on. 

What is happening, though, is that momentum is building.  Congress will likely pass legislation this summer to increase energy efficiency and to boost renewable energy.  In the autumn, they may well get to passing something substantive on controlling carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.  The pressure is definitely on the White House, as a result of the Supreme Court's decision and any number of other factors, including the pressure that will brought to bear on the U.S. at the G-8 summit in Germany in June. 

IPCC Report , "Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability" is due out on Friday from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Advanced coverage of the report emphasizes the disparity in how various populations of the world are able to deal with climate change.  A piece in the "NY Times" Science section today highlights the problems.  There are a number of good resources there, including a reader forum in which you can take part.  That there is uneven development in the world is not, I'm afraid, news.  What is news is that people are raising the question of global warming's impact on the situation now and how it may exacerbate conditions in many impoverished places in the future.  The Kyoto Protocols have an important feature:  the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM).  The idea is to have richer nations help poorer nations by developing CDMs to boost sustainability. The UN administers the program and you can go to this interactive map to find projects throughout the world.

Sydney, Australia , It may not have looked like much but Sydney made a statement the other night.  Organizers called it a success. Watch this from the BBC.  Meanwhile, Australia is on track to ban incandescent lights, a move that the EU may well take.  Good on "ya! 

Update:  Glad to have gotten one wrong.  I said above that I thought the EPA would sit on its hands, but it is moving to process California's request for a waiver for automotive standards on carbon dioxide.  See this:  “EPA revives California's request to set tough emission standards”



Bill Hewitt

Bill Hewitt has been an environmental activist and professional for nearly 25 years. He was deeply involved in the battle to curtail acid rain, and was also a Sierra Club leader in New York City. He spent 11 years in public affairs for the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation, and worked on environmental issues for two NYC mayoral campaigns and a presidential campaign. He is a writer and editor and is the principal of Hewitt Communications. He has an M.S. in international affairs, has taught political science at Pace University, and has graduate and continuing education classes on climate change, sustainability, and energy and the environment at The Center for Global Affairs at NYU. His book, "A Newer World - Politics, Money, Technology, and What’s Really Being Done to Solve the Climate Crisis," will be out from the University Press of New England in December.

Areas of Focus:
the policy, politics, science and economics of environmental protection, sustainability, energy and climate change