Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Regardless of one's position on global warming, the issue is ubiquitous these days and like the mercury in the planetary thermometer, the accompanying debate also is on the rise.
President Bush has taken environmental heat for, among other things, failing to support the Kyoto Protocol, a U.N. agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions ratified by more than 150 countries, but not the U.S.
President Clinton signed the accord, but it was never ratified by Congress. Bush withdrew from his predecessor's commitment to Kyoto, arguing the plan would jeopardize the US economy since developing countries, like China and India, were exempt from the deal.
This week, the Chinese government itself warned that if no measures are taken to curb emissions, production of Chinese wheat, corn and rice will drop by as much as 37 percent in the latter half of this century.
But the big environmental development this week took place a stone's throw from the Capitol, where the High Court handed down a landmark decision on greenhouse gas emissions.
The Supreme Court ruled this week that the Environmental Protection Agency does indeed have the authority to regulate carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. The lawsuit, filed by 12 states and 13 environmental groups, had grown out of frustration over the Bush administration's failure to act on global warming issues.
Dana Perino, White House spokeswoman: "We questioned whether we did have the legal authority. Now the Supreme Court has settled that matter for us, and we're going to have to look and analyze it, and see where we go from there."
In rendering its decision, the high court pondered three questions:
* Do states have the right to sue the EPA?
* Does the Clean Air Act give EPA the authority to regulate tailpipe emissions of greenhouse gases?
* Does the EPA have the discretion not to regulate those emissions?
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court said yes to the first two questions and ordered the EPA to re-evaluate its contention that it has discretion in regulating tail pipe emissions. The judges said the agency had so far only provided a "laundry list" of reasons that included foreign policy considerations and that in the future the EPA must tie its rationale more closely to the Clean Air Act.
In arguments before the court last year, lawyers for the EPA argued that new regulations could hurt the U.S. because 85 percent of the economy is tied to greenhouse gas emissions. Automakers have said they will work with lawmakers to deal with the challenges of global warming, but cautioned that no single industry should bear the burden alone. After the ruling on Monday, individual automakers said they were reviewing the decision and could not comment immediately.