Think Progress/Climate

In a decision which will have enormous consequences for US climate change mitigation, the SCOTUS has rejected a challenge to the EPA authority on air pollution rules.The case, American Petroleum Institute vs. EPA, saw the oil lobby disputing a rule adopted in 2010 that “set a tighter Clean Air Act standard for short-term spikes in nitrogen dioxide pollution near roads.” This new standard is 100 parts per billion for one hour, compared to the previous annual standard of 53 parts per billion dating back to 1971.

        Supeme Court
                                              photo:Adam Fagen, creative commons flr

President Obama has said that in the absence of any opportunity for substantial legislation to mitigate climate change that he will act unilaterally using his powers of office to effect the necessary change. His major weapon in the battle to mitigate climate change is the EPA. The SCOTUS decision was a major blow to the oil industry efforts to lessen and dismantle the authority of the EPA.

Nitrogen dioxide is a pungent, reddish-brown gas with a strong odor, and is emitted from auto exhaust and fossil fuel power generation. The DC Circuit upheld the rule in July of last year, finding that it addressed a real public health threat. The agency had pointed to scientific data showing the effect of nitrogen dioxide on the public, particularly asthma sufferers. The Supreme Court’s decision to not hear the case means the DC Circuit’s 2012 decision stands :
Nitrogen dioxide in the atmosphere produces ozone when acted on by sunlight. The IPCC considers ozone to be the third most important greenhouse gas behind carbon dioxide and methane.
Here is where the magnitude of the SCOTUS decision becomes apparent. Ozone, together with methane and black carbon(soot) are the short lived climate pollutants which if targeted for reduction will give immediate climate cooling due to their short lived time in atmosphere. Whereas the major culprit in climate warming is CO2 which lives hundreds of years in the atmosphere. So reducing the short lived climate pollutants buys us the time to reduce the much longer living CO2

I've written extensively about reducing the short-lived climate pollutants as being the major vehicle we have to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. The US is fully aware of this solution and has been a major supporter of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition to reduce the short lived climate pollutants. This is mitigating climate change with back door policies probably not even noticed by the deniers or obstructionist republicans.


"One question that's getting a lot of interest in policy initiatives such as the United Nations' Environment Programme Climate and Clean Air Coalition is controlling short-lived greenhouse gases like methane and ozone as part of a short-term strategy for mitigating climate change," Bowman said. "Our study could enable policy researchers to calculate the relative health and climate benefits of air pollution control and pinpoint where emission reductions will have the greatest impacts. This wasn't really possible to do at these scales before now. This is particularly important in developing countries like China, where severe air pollution problems are of greater concern to public officials than climate change mitigation in the short term."
So we're receiving help in mitigating climate change change from a surprising source. I doubt that the majority conservative justices were even considering that aspect of decision. Everybody wins in this decision, except the oil industry.

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Originally posted to Climate Change SOS on Tue Apr 02, 2013 at 08:51 AM PDT.

Also republished by DK GreenRoots.

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