Credit where due: the Supreme Court’s 6–3 ruling in West Virginia v. E.P.A. is the culmination of a five-decade effort to make sure that the federal government won’t threaten the business status quo. In essence, the ruling begins to strip away the power of agencies such as the E.P.A. to enforce policy: instead of allowing federal agencies to enforce, say, the Clean Air Act to clean the air, in this new dispensation, Congress would have to pass regulations that are much more explicit, as each new pollutant came to the fore. A train of similar cases now approaches the high court—they would, for instance, make it all but impossible for the federal government to regulate tailpipe emissions or to consider the financial toll of climate change when deciding whether to approve a new pipeline. And this new jurisprudence would, in turn, make it even harder to achieve any international progress on rising temperatures. If the United States—historically, the world’s largest emitter of carbon—can’t play a serious policy role, it won’t play a serious leadership role. Wall Street may be the only other actor large enough to actually shift the momentum of our climate system.
By Bill McKibben. New Yorker. June 30, 2022.
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