Dr. James Hansen is the former NASA scientist who first testified to the US Congress about the dangers of greenhouse gases. 34 years ago this month, he told the August body that he was 99% sure that the rise in global average temperatures was caused by an accumulation of carbon dioxide and other artificial gases in the atmosphere as a result of human activity.
Of course, no one listened to Dr. Hansen then, and that is one of the reasons why we are today on the brink of a global climate catastrophe. To make matters worse, the reactionary soldiers of the U.S. Supreme Court are ready to send a legal thunder down this week, stating that the federal government has no business regulating carbon emissions under the Clean Air Act. But Hansen and several of his colleagues have anticipated the court’s forthcoming verdict and have written to the Danish Environmental Protection Agency with a proposal that they believe will save the day.
Together with Donn Viviani, who spent 35 years with the EPA before retiring, Hansen has filed a legal document with the EPA claiming that greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger to the climate and should be regulated as such under the Toxic Substances Control Act, a law passed in 1976 as part of a series of environmental regulations in the United States.
“Using TSCA would be a small step for [the US president] Joe Biden, but potentially a huge leap for humanity – as a first step towards getting the polluters to pay, “Hansen said according to a report from The Guardian. The TSCA, which was amended in 2016, allows the EPA to impose regulatory requirements on companies and enforce strict controls on certain substances. It has been used to curb chemicals including asbestos, lead in paints and PCBs.
It covers substances that pose “an unreasonable risk of harm to health or the environment.” Hansen and Viviani believe that this can be interpreted to allow for a phasing out of greenhouse gas emissions. “TSCA is like the ruby slippers [in The Wizard of Oz] – it can do almost anything. It can allow you to levy a tax on carbon and can handle the legacy of carbon emissions. It has almost international reach, as the USA is the largest market in the world and could also apply these measures to imports, ”says Viviani.
To support their claims, Hansen and Vivianid, along with several other people who are part of the petition, have filed “a mountain worth” of scientific studies showing the impact of greenhouse gases on the weather, resulting in forest fires, heat waves, severe drought, rising sea levels and increasingly acidified seas.
The United States has a recent history of trying to regulate carbon dioxide under existing environmental legislation, as Congress has often been reluctant to consider enacting laws to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Barack Obama was unable to get his climate legislation through the Republican-dominated Congress. He tried to use the Clean Air Act – another of the environmental achievements of the 1970s – to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, but under Trump the Terrible, that effort was reversed. This week, the US Supreme Court will decide whether the EPA should have CO2-regulating powers at all, but Hansen believes that the change to TCSA in 2016 provides a fresh basis on which to present the argument again.
“TSCA is different,” Hansen says. “It’s better than the Clean Air Act. CAA was a possible remedy for a rising CO2 fee because the Supreme Court of Massachusetts vs. EPA ruled that CO2 was a pollutant. However, there is a very strong suspicion that if CAA is used on that way, the current Conservative Supreme Court will overturn that decision, which they can not easily do with the TSCA, which was adopted by Congress and confirmed [in 2016] with bipartisan support. “
Some climate activists have criticized President Biden for what they see as a lack of action in the face of the climate crisis, despite prioritizing it in the early days of his presidency. The war in Ukraine and rising energy prices have led the White House to highlight new gas extraction as an alternative to Russian supplies. Obstructionism by Despicable Joe Manchin has also been a factor.
Viviani tells The Guardian, “President Biden is an empathetic man; we hope he is a brave man too. We hope he will use both his empathy and courage to pick up on this tool he has in TSCA and use it to give hope that a solution will be found for the many millions of young people, and indeed all of us. “Under the provisions of the TSCA, the EPA has 90 days to consider and act on the legal request.
In addition to Hansen and Viviani, the other petitioners include Lise Van Susteren, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at George Washington University, John Birks, Emeritus Professor of Atmospheric Chemistry at the University of Colorado Boulder, Richard Heede of the Climate Accountability Institute, and the Climate Protection and Recovery Initiative.
For more on the petition of Hansen, Viviandi and others, watch this video by James Hansen and his colleagues, which was brought to the attention of Dan Allard.
How is it possible that the US Supreme Court could at all think to judge against constructive climate action? The answer is simple. The six so-called judges who pose as “conservatives” are men who were dieted throughout their legal careers by the Federalist Society, one of the many tentacles of Koch Industries, the conglomerate led by Charles Koch.
For 50 years, Koch has funded opposition to the New Deal, government regulation, the civil rights movement, the Woodstock generation, and almost every progressive initiative you can imagine. Much of the money Koch has invested in his vicious plans has been spent on protecting his God given the right to extract and burn fossil fuels.
These judges were anointed to the bench with the understanding that they would do everything in their power to protect the business model of their benefactor. They are not there to serve the Constitution or protect democracy. They’re there to protect Charles Koch’s business interests first and foremost, and that’s exactly what they intend to do.
When done, America will be a theocracy dominated by white men. Hansen and company may believe that the law on the control of toxic substances will prevent a perversion of climate initiatives, but they must keep in mind that what Congress adopts one day may be undone by an upcoming Congress another day.
Elections have consequences. And if the U.S. Congress sneaks right after the midterm elections this fall, there will be nothing left of America to preserve while the fire of conservatism sweeps through Congress and legally achieves what the treacherous troublemakers on January 6, 2021 could not.
We welcome Dr. James Hansen for working tirelessly to keep climate change at the center of people’s minds and praying that his and his colleagues’ efforts are enough to prevent America from slipping off track and becoming a nation that puts the fear of homosexuals ahead of effective climate action.
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