A Great Day for Science Too: More on the Court Decision Affirming Historic Climate Protections

On good days, the facts prevail — and Tuesday was one of those very good days.

As Fred wrote, on Tuesday the U.S. Court of Appeals for Washington, D.C. issued a unanimous, historic decision upholding EPA’s actions to reduce climate pollution.

In our press release, Fred called it a good day for the “thin layer of atmosphere that sustains life on Earth.”

He’s right of course. But our planet wasn’t the only big winner. It was also a great day for science.

The court roundly rejected challenges to EPA’s science-based finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare (commonly called the Endangerment Finding).

In the process, the court reaffirmed the importance of having rigorous, independent science as the bedrock of efforts to protect our health and environment.

The court’s eloquent statement speaks for itself:    

EPA simply did here what it and other decision-makers often must do to make a science-based judgment:  it sought out and revised existing scientific evidence to determine whether a particular finding was warranted.  It makes no difference that much of the scientific evidence in large part consisted of “syntheses” of individual studies and research.  . . .  This is how science works.  EPA is not required to re-prove the existence of the atom every time it approaches a scientific question.

(That’s from page 27 of the ruling. I added the emphasis.)

The court dismissed the challenges to the Endangerment Finding as without “merit”, noting that EPA relied upon an “ocean of evidence” including 18,000 peer-reviewed studies. (You can find those quotes on pages 26, 34 and 38 of the decision.)  

In dismissing this challenge the court acted in concert with our long history of relying on science-based evidence — not only to shape our health and environmental protections, but as the foundation of American innovation and ingenuity. 

EPA’s Endangerment Finding is based on an extensive review of climate change research, including assessments of climate research prepared by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, the United States Global Change Research Program, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

The creation of these assessment reports involved thousands of scientists, reviewing thousands of articles from peer-reviewed research journals.

This massive body of research documents the effects that rising atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping emissions are having on our climate. It also documents the harm that climate impacts cause to human health and welfare. 

Affirming EPA's reliance on state-of-the-art climate science, the court discussed the substantial evidence supporting EPA’s Endangerment Finding on page 30 of the decision:

To recap, EPA had before it substantial record evidence that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases “very likely” caused warming of the climate over the last several decades. . .  Relying again upon substantial scientific evidence, EPA determined that anthropogenically induced climate change threatens both public health and public welfare.  It found that extreme weather events, changes in air quality, increases in food- and water-borne pathogens, and increases in temperatures are likely to have adverse health effects … The record also supports EPA’s conclusion that climate change endangers human welfare by creating risk to food production and agriculture, forestry, energy, infrastructure, ecosystems, and wildlife. 

The call from scientists worldwide urging swift action to curb climate-destabilizing emissions has been heard. 

EPA’s efforts to fulfill its statutory responsibility to protect human health and the environment from dangerous pollution have been resoundingly affirmed.   

It is a good day to be a scientist, and an American.

(You can read more about the court cases on our website and in my colleague Megan Ceronsky’s earlier blog on the subject. And stay tuned for more analysis of the historic decisions.)

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