December 2, 2023

Decisions rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court reverberate throughout our society and political system. In addition to actual decisions and the written opinions that accompany them, the Court sometimes has a major impact on public policy by choosing not to hear a case. One example of the latter happened last month. The Court declined to hear a lawsuit initiated by a number of Republican state attorneys general that sought to stop the Biden Administration’s efforts to assign a social cost to carbon dioxide emissions. 

From the point of view of public policy, it would have been of great benefit to our country if the Supreme Court had taken up this case and ruled against the Administration. The Republican attorneys general are more than justified in distrusting the process by which Team Biden would calculate a social cost to CO2 emissions. The Biden bias has been evident since his first day in office when he hastily reauthorized something called the “Interagency Working Group of the Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases.” Federal regulatory agencies are required to conduct cost-benefit analyses of major regulations. Notice there are two sides to such analyses — the costs and the benefits. But notice the name of Biden’s working group: “Social Costs” are specified, but there is no mention of “social benefits” anywhere. Team Biden is fixated on the alleged costs of CO2 and not interested in weighing any social benefits of that trace atmospheric gas. (READ MORE from Mark W. Hendrickson: The Proposed New Fuel Economy Standards: Quintessentially Bidenesque

Does CO2 have any benefits? Yes, indeed, and they are considerable. The human-assisted CO2 enrichment of Earth’s atmosphere over the past four or five decades has led to a greening of the planet — an increase of land featuring vegetation about twice the size of the continental United States. Climate change expert Bjorn Lomborg says that land appears to be greening by an amount equivalent to “three Great Britains” per year. Growing seasons have lengthened and agricultural productivity has increased (quite helpful when considering a global human population of eight billion). 

What I believe the Court is saying here is that it is Congress’ prerogative — not the Supreme Court’s — to set energy policy.

Furthermore, since “cold weather kills 20 times as many people as hot weather” according to the English medical journal The Lancet, “overall weather-related human fatalities decline when the climate warms.” The modest increase in global temperatures of approximately two degrees since the end of the Little Ice Age in the 19th century has been a boon for human health. CO2 is benign and beneficent; hence, the absurdity of the U.S. government classifying it as a pollutant.

I wrote 15 years ago that the formal classification of CO2 as a pollutant would open a Pandora’s box of silly, counterproductive policies, and that has certainly been the case. Today, in the face of abundant evidence that CO2 has been beneficial rather than harmful, the political left is seeking to force Americans to drive more costly (both in terms of environmental degradation as well as in terms of dollars and cents) EVs and is threatening to destabilize our electric grid system by replacing reliable sources of energy (yes, fossil fuels as well as nuclear) with more costly unreliable intermittent sources of energy (wind and solar). Even as the costs of these alternate technologies can be seen to be rising faster than anticipated, making it clear that the only way to continue to force the transitions to these allegedly “green” alternatives will be additional massive expenditures by Uncle Sam, the left is doubling down, refusing to consider abandoning their economically and environmentally destructive course.

Personally, I would have been delighted if the Supreme Court had taken up the lawsuit filed against Team Biden’s CO2 quackery. But I must admit that the Court made the right decision. I admire the Court’s adherence to judicial consistency. 

Look at the 2022 Dobbs case in which the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The Court was not pro-abortion or anti-abortion; it simply ruled that abortion policy is properly set by the people’s elected representatives, not by the Supreme Court, on the grounds that the Court itself had usurped the legislative prerogative to write laws governing abortion. Similarly, in last year’s West Virginia v. EPA decision, the Court corrected another usurpation of the legislative prerogative. The Court did not express its opinions about what fuel sources electricity-generation should use, but ruled that the EPA lacked statutory authority to mandate particular fuel sources via regulations. (READ MORE: Degrowth: The New Fad in the Climate Change Movement)

It seems as though similar reasoning explains why the Court decided not to hear the Republican attorneys’ general lawsuit. The Court issues no statements explaining why it declines to hear certain cases, we are left to infer their reasons for doing so. It could be that the Court did not want to be perceived as micromanaging a regulatory agency by opining about how it conducts an analysis. Or it could be that the Court thought it would be premature to act at this time. Believing that the executive and legislative branches should hammer out public policies, the Court likely felt that there was still time for them to do so, and that the Court shouldn’t pre-empt that decision by interfering with a policy — regulation of carbon dioxide emissions — that is still evolving. 

Personally, I would have loved it if the Court had clipped the EPA’s wings. The EPA is a rogue agency that has been waging an irrational, destructive jihad against CO2 for far too long. What I believe the Court is saying here is that it is Congress’ prerogative — not the Supreme Court’s — to set energy policy. The real solution would be for Congress to thwart the socialistic agenda of the climate change cabal by passing a simple one-sentence law: For purposes of law and regulation, carbon dioxide is not to be classified as a pollutant. That won’t happen unless there is a shift in power in Congress and the White House. But until that happens, those branches of government, working together, have the constitutional authority to set climate-related policies, whether fallacious and destructive or rational and sound.