Set aside your passion or depression about the sad state of American politics to make room for a global catastrophe. Two courts will be making profoundly important decisions about carbon dioxide and its role in "global warming" and that's what true environmentally conscious people should be talking about, not "climate change." The court decisions will have a lot more impact than everything Al Gore and Bill Clinton are now doing and the billions in private money targeting global warming. Richard Branson's commitment of $3 billion to fight global warming points to the ineffective actions by the Bush administration. But the scale of global warming is so large and the sources of greenhouse gases so widespread that government action is absolutely necessary. Should be interesting to see if 2008 presidential candidates make commitments to fight global warming.
The Supreme Court will soon be hearing the case against the federal EPA. A number of states, cities and environmental groups assert that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases should be regulated as air pollutants. Of course, the Bush administration in its role as protector of the corporatist state, not we the people, wants to use voluntary actions and continued research.
Of all the possible impacts of global warming, rising ocean levels is the greatest crisis. I'm betting that Bechtel, Halliburton and many other big pro-Republican spenders already have business plans for a trillion dollar market for dikes.
If the Supreme Court goes with federal regulation, the impacts on the automobile, coal and electric generation industries will be considerable, assuming that there is someone in the White House who actually wants to regulate the greenhouse gases. Personally, I have no confidence in any Democrap president and even a Democrap controlled House doing the right thing. The money and pressure from industry to maintain the status quo are probably powerful enough to assure us a hot future.
The Bush administration argues that carbon dioxide -- unlike other chemicals that must be controlled to assure healthy air -- is not a pollutant under the federal clean air law, and even if it were that the EPA has discretion on how and whether to regulate it. On the side of a livable future is what the Clean Air Act says in Section 202, namely that the E.P.A. administrator ''shall'' regulate any air pollutant from any new vehicles that ''may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.''
The second and newer court case comes from a lawsuit by California to collect damages from the six largest automakers operating in the U.S. Vehicle emissions in automobile-addicted California account for 30 percent of carbon dioxide in the air. The U.S. District Court for Northern California will decide this case. But a decision that affirms injuries to California's environment, economy and public health from carbon dioxide auto emissions will surely crawl the lengthy path to another Supreme Court decision. California recently enacted the toughest cuts in carbon dioxide emissions from cars calling for a 25 percent reduction by 2020.
It is satisfying to us global warming fear mongers that industry is now being hit with prospects of both regulation and paying for the damage done by their greenhouse gas emissions. But the cost or protecting our coastal cities is so enormous that collecting the money from industries for dike systems is beyond reality, and they know it.
Yet time is running out. Personally, global warming took on new meaning for me when I made a trip to Alaska and for some hours watched giant glaciers falling into the water and saw huge land areas that have lost massive glaciers in recent years. If you ever want to see glaciers, you better take a trip soon. At the pace we are addressing global warming, a large part of the globe's glaciers will melt away in the not too distant future.