News | April 2, 2007

Supreme Court Ruling Opens Door for Global Warming Solutions

Durham, NC — The Supreme Court's ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from cars opens the door for a concerted, nationwide approach to dealing with global warming, say two Duke University environmental experts.

Robert B. Jackson, faculty director of Duke's Center on Global Change and professor of biology, said, "This really confirms what a mountain of evidence already suggests: that carbon dioxide harms the environment as a greenhouse gas. The billion-dollar question is how to regulate it as cheaply and efficiently as possible."

Tim Profeta, director of Duke's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, said, "Today's ruling flips the greenhouse gas debate completely on its head, by giving the next administration the authority to simply regulate carbon dioxide emissions without waiting for Congress.

"In this climate, a national cap-and-trade program should start to look a lot more attractive," Profeta said. "Industry should be coming to Congress to design a flexible and efficient program right now; that's a more certain approach than waiting for EPA to determine how to apply greenhouse gases to the Clean Air Act."

Cap-and-trade programs are those that set overall authorized caps on emissions and then allow the buying and selling of those emissions credits.

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA has offered no reasoned explanation for its refusal to regulate vehicles' emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases related to global warming.

The ruling is considered to be one of the most important on environmental issues to reach the Supreme Court in decades. It marks the first high court decision in a case that involves climate change.

"With this landmark ruling out of the way, we can finally roll up our sleeves and get to work on the problem of global warming," Jackson said, adding that he could envision a cap-and-trade system that initially is implemented nationwide but ultimately expanded worldwide.

SOURCE: Duke University