The good news is that EPA is relying on good science. The bad news is that the science says things will keep getting worse.
After several months of review, on July 29, EPA denied 10 petitions to reconsider its 2009 Endangerment Finding for Greenhouse Gases under Section 202(a) of the Clean Air Act. The petitions, which were filed by, among others, the attorneys general of Texas and Virginia and the US Chamber of Commerce, pointed to errors in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the University of East Anglia “Climategate” email scandal as examples of how the science underpinning EPA’s ruling may have been flawed or skewed. A number of petitioners have vowed to appeal the ruling.
In rejecting the petitions, the EPA confirmed, in a 217-page denial and 360-page response to each charge, that there are no scientific or other bases to change its finding that climate change caused by emissions of greenhouse gases threatens public health and the environment. As the denial concluded, the evidence proving climate change is a human-caused problem remains “robust, voluminous and compelling.”
The science supporting the Finding has also been reinforced by recent additional major science assessments. One of these is this week’s report by NOAA on the State of the Climate, which, though it is a rigorous and solid report, is one depressing read. The report draws on the work of more than 300 scientists from 160 research groups in 48 countries, taking observations from the top of the atmosphere to the depths of the ocean, all of which reach the same conclusion – our climate is unmistakably changing. The report looks at 10 measurable planet-wide indicators — all of which are moving quickly in the direction they should not. Among the notable conclusions and statistics are that the decade of the 2000s was the warmest yet and the average temperature on Earth has grown a full degree Fahrenheit over just the past 50 years.
People may be unhappy about the conclusions and may disagree about appropriate policies to address climate change, but the probability that a court will overturn the Endangerment Finding seems approximately zero.