Leading climate scientists’ U.S. Supreme Court brief in states’ greenhouse gas lawsuit

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A group of 14 leading climate scientists filed an amici curiae brief on May 15 with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of a petition by Massachusetts, Maine, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia contending that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should be required to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles under the Clean Air Act.  The brief criticizes the Court of Appeals for misrepresenting a key report issued in 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences / National Research Council by selectively citing material in the report “in ways that emphasize uncertainties in the details while neglecting fundamental areas of certainty or consensus, giving the impression that climate science is more uncertain than it actually is.”   

The full text of the climate scientists’ brief is here: climate_scientists_brief.pdf

The Brief of Amici Curiae Climate Scientists David Battisti, Christopher Field, Inez Fung, James Hansen, John Harte, Eugenia Kalnay, Daniel Kirk-Davidoff, James C. McWilliams, Jonathan T. Overpeck, F. Sherwood Rowland, Joellen Russell, Scott R. Saleska, John M. Wallace, and Steven C. Wofsy is in support of Commonwealth of Massachusetts, et al. Petitioners v. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, et al., Repondents.  In December 2005 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied, in a 4-3 decision, the states’ motion to reverse an earlier ruling in favor of EPA by a three-judge panel of the court. 

In their brief, the scientists argue that

The Court should grant certiorari to require EPA to follow the Clean Air Act and settle a globally significant issue regarding the impact of greenhouse gases on the Earth’s environment.

I.  The Court of Appeals ignored reasonable scientific certainty that emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from mobile sources and other anthropogenic sources have already had an effect on the Earth’s climate and will continue to affect climate in the future.

II.  The Court of Appeals erred in not requiring EPA to apply the “Reasonably Be Anticipated to Endanger Public Health and Welfare” standard in Section 202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act. 

In addition to a set of general statements about the scientific understanding of climate change, the Statement of the Climate Scientists also includes a good section on “Decision-Making in the Face of Scientific Uncertainty” (pp. A5-A8 of the brief) that should be studied by both scientists and decisionmakers as a contribution to framing this topic. 

The brief criticizes the Court of Appeals for misrepresenting a key report issued in 2001 by the National Academy of Sciences / National Research Council by selectively citing material in the report “in ways that emphasize uncertainties in the details while neglecting fundamental areas of certainty or consensus, giving the impression that climate science is more uncertain than it actually is.”  We have observed such a pattern on many occasions, including the predatory relationship with scientific uncertainty exhibited by activists in the global warming denial lobby, as well as the administration’s political-level interventions in the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. 
 

 

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