July 5, 2022
Recently, two close colleagues asserted to me certain facts about the climate crisis and young people that cut in seemingly different directions.
One of them, citing a forthcoming survey and her own experience as a practicing psychiatrist, emphasized that children increasingly despair for their own future.
The other, citing students in the science & sustainability classes that she teaches, maintained that when young people are empowered to do something real, their belief in a viable future grows.
I tend to believe them both.
But as adults contemplating the mounting catastrophe, are we not obliged to do something meaningful ourselves?
We cannot seek refuge merely in the hope that young people will find a way, somehow, someday, to turn back the tide, the heat, the drought, the wildfire, and the superstorms.
As some of you know, I have been working for many months, day and night -- formally on behalf of a handful of Petitioners, but also for my children and yours -- to fashion a coherent way forward, for our nation and beyond.
And so it was, some 2.5 weeks ago, on June 16, 2022, and at long last, that we were able to file our Petition to Phase Out Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Pollution to Restore a Stable and Healthy Climate.
Petitioners include renowned climate scientist James E. Hansen, 35-year veteran EPA scientist Donn J. Viviani (now retired), Emeritus Professor in Atmospheric Chemistry John Birks, distinguished climate accountability analyst Richard Heede, and the esteemed physician and writer Lise Van Susteren. See here.
That June 16 filing kicked off a 90-day statutory deadline, within which the US Environmental Protection Agency must either grant or deny the petition. And so, just 71 days from now (and counting) EPA has a decision to make.
Specifically, the Agency needs to determine whether or not GHG pollution "presents an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment" -- and, if so, to kick-off a rulemaking proceeding, with full public participation, to limit that risk. If not, we will need to see the Agency later on. In court.
Getting this done right will not be easy, but it is possible, and so I hope you will step forward, right now, by endorsing the petition and sponsoring our campaign.
At this point you may be wondering: What about the US Supreme Court? Indeed, its newly aggressive right-wing majority seems hell-bent on cutting back not only our fundamental freedoms, but on the very protections our federal government is allowed to pursue in the public interest.
And so, as part of that project, didn't the Court just put the kibosh on EPA efforts to address climate, in its decision in West Virginia v. EPA? Are we, then, reduced again to banging our heads against the wall of an intransigent, hopelessly-deadlocked Congress?
Well, in 3 words (or, perhaps just two): "No, and No."
On Friday, July 8, at 11am pacific/ 2pm eastern, I will discuss these very questions in more detail with E. Donald Elliott, the eminent Yale legal scholar, former general counsel of EPA, and astute conservative public commentator.
CPR Initiative will send out an announcement about that on Tuesday, allowing all Petition Endorsers and Sponsors to pre-register for this free webinar. But here, in advance of that, I can summarize my view:
I strongly agree with Justice Kagan, when she wrote in dissent that there are few things more frightening than this Court's arrogation "to itself—instead of Congress or the expert agency" a major decision maker role on climate policy.
And so, the prospect for meaningful federal action in the public interest, where the will of Congress is not perfectly expressed, is now more constrained. That much is clear.
And yet, I think, a reasonable way forward remains viable where, as we outline in the Petition, Congress' intent in existing law is crystal clear.
Yesterday marked the beginning of the 246th year since our forebears created a nation, rejecting tyranny and extending liberty, albeit only to free propertied men. Equally important, they set out certain principles of self-government, respect for the rule of law, and protection of fundamental rights against government intrusion. Even if currently, some of these principles are honored by the present Supreme Court in the breach, the logical implication of those principles serve us still, even at this dark hour – perhaps, especially in this dark hour.
We simply cannot and must not be self-deterred from using the fundamental tools of democracy, under the law, to protect and restore our nation, and our climate system.
Here we proceed pursuant to the Citizens Petition section of the Toxic Substances Control Act and so, by right, and pursuant to our fundamental responsibility to each other, to our children, and to their progeny, we demand real action on climate, under the law, to enforce existing law, and without further delay.
Will you now take action – and rally your friends, your family, and your community, to do the same – namely to join and amplify our demand?
With your help we will continue to expand this effort to protect and restore our climate, and to safeguard our children's future.
Together, we should get this done. Most important here, it is only together that we will get this done.