FEB 12, 2016 9:17 AM | THINKPROGRESS
[Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court unexpectedly suspended the Obama administration’s most aggressive effort to fight climate change in a 5-4 vote. The rules, known as the “Clean Power Plan,” target greenhouse emissions from existing power plants and are expected to “decrease total emissions by a total of 16% from 2020 levels” by the time the rules take full effect in 2030. That’s only one step towards the 80 percent total reduction needed to ward of the worst effects of climate change, but it is a significant step.
And, as the Court’s party-line vote suggests, the Clean Power Plan is also a test of whether the United States has the political will to tackle climate change.
If we do not prove able to this task, the consequences will be catastrophic. In the relatively short term, the Environmental Protection Agency predicts that the Clean Power Plan will “avoid thousands of premature deaths and mean thousands fewer asthma attacks and hospitalizations in 2030 and every year beyond.” In the longer term, major cities could be swallowed by the ocean. Displaced residents will trigger a worldwide refugee crisis. Entire regions of the United States could be converted into a permanent Dust Bowl. The sheer magnitude of the catastrophe will rival any tragedy that has faced humanity since the Book of Genesis.
If the Court ultimately strikes down the Plan, however, the United States could be left impotent in the face of a looming catastrophe — and not just with respect to this particular catastrophe. The states challenging the Clean Power Plan call for sweeping changes to the balance of power between the regulator and the regulated. Indeed, if some of their most aggressive arguments succeed, it’s unclear that the federal government is permitted to do much of anything at all.]