Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Scopes Redux

So, apparently, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to challenge global warming, in court:
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, trying to ward off potentially sweeping federal emissions regulations, is pushing the Environmental Protection Agency to hold a rare public hearing on the scientific evidence for man-made climate change.

Chamber officials say it would be "the Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century" -- complete with witnesses, cross-examinations and a judge who would rule, essentially, on whether humans are warming the planet to dangerous effect.
My brain is exploding with reactions to this:
  • How is the courtroom the right place to decide the truth of scientific matters?
  • Well, maybe it is. It is the place where the facts are determined behind criminal matters. In these cases, it is not the law that is in dispute, but rather the facts that determine how the law should be applied.
  • Is this more of a PR stunt than a legal stunt? Is it a way to get Joe Public on the side of business?
Maybe the real issue comes down to this quote:
EPA is set to formally declare that the heat-trapping gases scientists blame for climate change endanger human health, and are thus subject to regulation under the Clean Air Act.
And more questions:
  • Is it right for the EPA to expand its regulatory powers to include carbon dioxide?
  • Do businesses affected by this expansion have the right to fight it in court?
  • Why attack the science instead of attacking the interpretation of the Clean Air Act?
  • And maybe most confounding, why would the U.S. Chamber of Commerce invoke the Scopes monkey trial when the scientific standpoint won out (and the opposition is seen as a laughingstock)?
I'm still processing all of this, but my initial reactions are:
  • I'd love to see a balanced debate on the issue of global warming, where scientific studies are brought to light.
  • On the other hand, there does seem to be something wrong with having a legal expert decide scientific theory.
  • Regulating greenhouse gases by the EPA should take an act of Congress, not an interpretation of the Clean Air Act.
[Story seen through Slashdot]

1 comment:

Linda said...

The government should not be the one to decide whether warming is real. Set up a forum for scientists to debate first.