Eight States Decide to Set National
Global Warming Policy
by Amy Ridenour
The attorneys general
of eight states -- California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey,
New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin -- have filed a
lawsuit against five of the nation's largest electricity producers.
The attorneys general
claim their intent is to "curb global warming."
More likely, it
is a desire for publicity and, for some, an effort to jumpstart
political campaigns for the higher office of governor.
At issue: Utilities,
like human beings, are permitted by law to emit carbon dioxide,
a colorless, odorless gas vegetation needs to survive.
Despite being lawyers
and not climate scientists, the attorneys general have determined
that carbon dioxide is causing our planet to warm, that this
warming is ongoing and measurable and harmful, and that -- somehow
-- they have the legal authority to regulate electricity producers,
even if they are located in other states.
Never mind that
local measuring station temperature records located in these
eight states, as compiled by the Center for the Study of Carbon
Dioxide, show zero warming in seven of these states over the
last decade. Five states show temperature drops while two states
(Vermont and Iowa) show no change. Connecticut measurements showed
a mild increase in mean temperature over the past decade but,
the data shows, the local area is cooler now than it was 20 years
Never mind that,
as the New York Attorney General's office describes it, attorneys
general serve "as the guardian of the legal rights of the
citizens." What happened to the citizens' right to be governed
by a legislature it selects?
Never mind that "global warming" ("global"
but not in these eight states, apparently) is a highly-contested
scientific issue, one on which many climate scientists disagree.
Even those scientists who believe human behavior is causing warming
disagree significantly about causes and degree.
differ on the impact global warming would have on the Earth.
Some expect global warming would cause sea levels to rise. Others
believe it could cause sea levels to lower -- as increased amounts
of water vapor in the air result in more snow congregating at
the still-frozen poles.
Some global warming
debaters stress the possibility that global warming could hurt
plants, while others note the beneficial effect of increased
carbon dioxide levels on plant life.
Never mind that
environmental policy properly is established by legislators voting
in view of the public, not by lawyers in courtrooms.
You see, it actually
doesn't matter where one stands on global warming. For constitutional
reasons, this lawsuit is nonsense, and dangerous nonsense at
general are elected to enforce laws, not to create them. The
Separation of Powers concept was enshrined in our governmental
bodies by our Founders to prevent any one branch of government
from becoming too powerful. The attorneys general, each a part
of their state's executive branch, are trying to take for themselves
authority that rightly belongs to the legislative branch.
decisions are blunt instruments ill-suited for determining policies
on such matters as global warming, where opinions are constantly
undergoing change as new scientific knowledge is gained.
Trials are a contest
between two parties -- the plaintiff and the defendant. Legislatures
are deliberative bodies. They convene hearings, hear from witnesses,
review testimony and debate. Many voices and perspectives are
considered. The public, furthermore, is aware of proceedings
and is easily able to communicate desires to lawmakers.
If these state attorneys
general wish to set national environmental policies they should
lobby Congress or run for Congress themselves, not try to steal
the constitutional power that justly belongs to our national
Then, and only then,
should they try to use their offices to influence the content
of our national environmental laws.
Wags have quipped
that the "AG" abbreviation for "attorney general"
actually stands for "aspiring governor."
Now they want to
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Amy Ridenour is president at the National Center for Public Policy
Research. Comments may be sent to [email protected]