Bush faces legal action over global warming

A A A

The Bush administration could be forced to take action on global warming using a 30-year-old piece of legislation to control the nation's vast emissions of greenhouse gases.

The US Supreme Court will today be asked to force the government to order its environmental regulatory body to control, as a matter of the public health, the amount of carbon dioxide pumped out by vehicles.

Amid a growing disparity between the Bush administration and many US states on the issue of global warming, it will be the first time the country's highest court has heard a case relating to climate change.

A number of environmental groups have joined with a dozen US states and several cities to try to force the government to make the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulate carbon emissions under the framework of the Clean Air Extension Act. This legislation, passed by Richard Nixon's administration in 1970, requires the EPA to develop and enforce regulations to protect the public from exposure to airborne contaminants.

The Bush administration has argued that the EPA lacks the authority under the act to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. The agency has argued that even if it had the authority, it would still have the discretion not to impose emission controls.

Carbon dioxide is one of the main greenhouse gases pumping into the atmosphere that a broad majority of scientists believe are responsible for raising the planet's temperature. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has concluded that most of the planet's warming over the past 50 years has been the result of human activity.

The US, with 5 per cent of the world's population, is responsible for 25 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for 37 per cent of the world's vehicles. The Bush administration has repeatedly refused to agree to limits on emissions, saying it would damage the economy. It has instead proposed developing better technology to limit emissions. One of the first things George Bush did on taking office in 2001 was to signal that the US would not support the Kyoto treaty.

A divided lower court had ruled in favour of the government in this test case, but the Supreme Court has agreed to a request, filed by the State of Massachusetts, to consider an appeal.

The Massachusetts attorney general, Thomas Reilly, said "global warming is the most pressing environmental issue of our time and the decision by the court on this case will make a deep and lasting impact for generations to come".

In his filing to the court, he added: "Delay has serious potential implications. Given that air pollutants associated with climate change are accumulating in the atmosphere at an alarming rate, the window of opportunity in which we can mitigate the dangers posed by climate change is rapidly closing."

In papers filed with the Supreme Court, the government has argued that the EPA should not be required to "embark on the extraordinarily complex and scientifically uncertain task of addressing the global issue of greenhouse gas emissions" when there were other ways to tackle climate change.

The Associated Press reported that James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told reporters: "We still have very strong reservations about an overarching, one-size-fits-all mandate about carbon."

The government is being supported by a number of industry groups representing car makers and manufacturers. Quentin Riegel, a lawyer with the National Association of Manufacturers, said dealing with climate change required a global response that was enforced fairly. "It's not a problem you can solve unilaterally," he said. "We want a system where everyone shares the burden."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive - West London - £35,000

£28000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A luxury fashion retailer based in W...

Ashdown Group: IT Systems Engineer - East Riding of Yorkshire

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Systems Engineer - East Riding of...

Recruitment Genius: IT Technician / Epos Engineer - Crayford

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This retail and hospitality til...

Recruitment Genius: HP Technical Support Analyst

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding IT Manag...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable