The Supreme Court Brief on Climate Change and Carbon Dioxide


What we did


I and 17 other climate scientists (including 9 members of the National Academy of Science or Engineering and two Nobel Laureates) filed an amicus brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revisit the question of whether greenhouse gases from cars and trucks should be regulated. This is the first case to deal with climate change that has come before the high court.

The lawsuit began when EPA was asked to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles under the federal Clean Air Act in the same manner that the agency regulates other air pollutants harmful to human health and the environment, such as lead. Quoting from the 2001 report by the National Academy of Science's National Research Council, EPA refused, claiming that the science of climate change was fundamentally uncertain.

We take issue with this characterization of the 2001 report. We are profoundly troubled by the misunderstanding or misrepresentation of the current state of knowledge of climate change evident in the United States Environmental Protection Agency's denial of the petition for rulemaking to regulate emissions of greenhouse gases from mobile sources. To the contrary, the recent observations of changes in the earth's climate attributable to human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are so compelling that they have crystallized a remarkable consensus within our scientific community, overcoming initial skepticism.

As practicing scientists who study the earth's climate system, we and many in our profession have long understood that continued human-caused emission of greenhouse gases would eventually warm the earth's surface. We have been surprised to observe the evidence of human-induced climate change in their own lifetimes in the form of rising global temperatures, shifts in animal ranges, the retreat of glaciers globally and the retreat of arctic sea ice, and the increasing acidity of the oceans. We feel an obligation to inform the Court that EPA and the Appeals Court misunderstood or mischaracterized the science contained in this report and to offer our professional insight on using scientific evidence to judge whether a particular standard for regulatory action is met in the matter of climate change.

The impacts on climate attributable to human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases are sufficient to enable EPA to regulate such emissions from cars and trucks. Time is also critical with respect to curbing greenhouse gas emissions because delaying action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will certainly result in greater buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, subjecting the earth to lasting climate change and associated damages.

The text of our brief to the supreme court is here