Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Did We Just Miss Extinction by One Vote?

We as a species may have just narrowly missed extinction, perhaps by as little as one vote on the United States Supreme Court.

By that same vote the planet may also have just missed one of those major kill-offs like the one that extinguished the dinosaurs and much of the life on earth.

A bit of background: outside the glare of the media, perpetually misfocused as it is,  President Obama last fall ordered the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue regulations that will virtually wipe out coal-fired power plants.  This is a big step in curtailing global warming and also, hopefully, cutting off the acidification of the world's ocean.  It's big news about curbing Big Coal and saving life on this planet.

Big Coal and its friends have been firing back at the Obama administration over this issue for the last couple of years as the Supreme Court has been repeatedly holding that the EPA has the power to regulate climate-changing gases, chiefly carbon dioxide.  The potential harm that CO2 can do was not within the scope of scientific thinking when the Clean Air Act was passed back in Nixon's day.  (And, yes, Virginia, there used to be Republicans back then who were pro-environment, including  -  most emphatically  -  ol' Nixon himself).  Since no one was then much hip to global warming and CO2, the new law didn't expressly authorize the EPA to regulate against the menace.

But in an unusual burst of good sense, the Supreme Court has upheld exactly that power on the grounds that it comes within the duty to protect life and health that the law places on EPA.  And that's the Supreme Court using the term "duty", i.e. the EPA not only can but MUST regulate against the conditions that will turn Earth into the boiling Venus and fry us all on the way there.

This is encouraging.  What is sad is that Big Coal and its buddies have made three trips to the Court to try to get a different result. But we won't be discouraged by their refusal to concede they've lost.  Rather we should be grateful for these repeated court cases because they point out a really dreadful possibility:  If the Democrats lose the presidency in 2016, a GOP president could appoint a right-wing justice to replace the aging and sickly Ginsberg.  That would deliver us all into the hot pot.  The Big Coal signal is clear:  it won't give up but will keep trying and hope to catch a break.  Ginsberg's failure to resign while Obama is president may give them just that break, allowing a GOP president to choose her successor.

Even before the GOP catching a break in 2016, we could be on the road to becoming Venus.  If we lose the Senate this year, it's conceivable that a Congress controlled by the GOP in both houses could vote to scrap or amend the Clean Air Act so as to save Big Coal's you-know-what and destroy the rest of us.  This scenario would be a bit tough though for the GOP to pull off, since Obama could veto such legislation, and the GOP is not likely to have a supermajority adequate to over-ride a veto.

No, the likelier hazard is that the Democrats lose the 2016 presidential race, the GOP thereby captures another seat on the Court and shoves us into the elevator shaft of our planet becoming a Hell.  We would not be tipping over into a slide toward a warmer Earth; we would be plummeting into a one-way, absolutely inevitable and self-accelarating fall into the boiling and sulphuric conditions of Venus. 

The fate of all of our grandchildren and their children and of this "little blue planet" rests in the hands of two women.  Justice Ginsberg and Hilary Clinton.  The former should set aside her self-serving decision to continue on into an older old age and instead resign in time for Obama to replace her.  We CANNOT risk her seat going to a Republican appointee.  As for Hilary, if Ginsberg puts us all at risk by hanging on to her seat until after 2016, some Democrat had damn well better win the presidency in 2016.  Can Hilary do it?

Can she? 

I wonder.

One vote on the Court may have saved us this week.  One woman may save or doom us in 2016.    



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