Now They Want to Be Caesar: Eight State Attorneys General Decide to End-Run Legislatures, Set National Global Warming Policies Themselves

BACKGROUND: According to a press release announcing the events, “New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey, Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch, Vermont Attorney General William H. Sorrell and the office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg will announce on July 21, 2004 the filing of a major lawsuit to curb global warming in the United States, in conjunction with the attorneys general of California, Iowa and Wisconsin.”(1)

The announcement, according to the release, is to take place at not one but four press conferences, to be held simultaneously at noon Eastern in New York City, Los Angeles, Milwaukee and Des Moines.

TEN SECOND RESPONSE: Environmental policies properly are established by legislators voting in view of the public, not by lawyers in courtrooms. As the New York Attorney General’s office describes it, “the Attorney General serves as the guardian of the legal rights of the citizens.”(2) What happened to the citizens’ right to be governed by a legislature it selects?

THIRTY SECOND RESPONSE: Attorneys general are elected to enforce laws, not to create them. The Separation of Powers concept was enshrined in our governmental bodies by our Founding Fathers for a reason: When too much power is congregated in one source, dictatorship is inevitable. If these state politicians wish to set national environmental policies they should lobby Congress or run for Congress themselves.

DISCUSSION: According to a July 20 Associated Press article by Mark Johnson, “Eight states and New York City intend to sue five of the country’s largest power producers to demand they cut carbon dioxide emissions, which are believed to be linked to global warming.

The attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin, as well as New York City’s corporation counsel, will file a public nuisance lawsuit Wednesday in federal court in Manhattan, according to a draft news release…

The states contend carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced by increasing efficiency at coal-burning plants, switching from coal to cleaner burning fuels, investing in energy conservation, and using clean energy sources such as wind and solar power.

Marc Violette, a spokesman for New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, declined to comment on details of the lawsuit. But he said the action would ‘for the first time, put global warming on the litigation map’ – specifically targeting carbon dioxide emissions. ‘This is a precedent-setting, first-of-its-kind lawsuit,’ he said.”(3)

Hence – no pun intended – the appeal. These politicians are attempting to expand their power.

“Global warming” — the theory that behavior by human beings is causing the Earth to warm significantly — is highly contested scientific issue, one on which many climate scientists disagree. Even those scientists who believe human behavior is causing the planet to warm disagree significantly about causes and degree.

Scientists furthermore 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 (carbon dioxide is, roughly speaking, to plants what oxygen is to human beings).

Court decisions are blunt instruments and ill-suited for determining policies on such matters as global warming, where opinions are constantly undergoing change as new scientific knowledge is gained. The judicial branch, unlike the legislative, is not designed to accommodate the easy repeal or amendment of flawed policies.

Trials are by nature a debate between two parties — the plaintiff and the defendant. Legislatures convene hearings, hear from witnesses, review testimony and debate at length, with many voices and perspectives considered. The public, furthermore, is aware of the proceedings of legislatures and is easily able to communicate desires to lawmakers.

It often has been said that if you look at a state attorney general, you see a governor-wannabe.

Apparently, that’s yesterday’s news. Now they want to be Caesar.


Mark Johnson, Associated Press, “8 states, NYC to sue power companies,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 20, 2004, available at

Ten Second Response, “Global Warming: Why Can’t the Mainstream Press Get Even Basic Facts Right?,” National Center for Public Policy Research, March 22, 2004, available at

What Conservatives Think, “Environment: Are Conservatives “Un-American” on Global Warming?,” January 23, 2004, National Center for Public Policy Research, available at

“Questions and Answers on Global Warming,” National Center for Public Policy Research at

“Do Elevated Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations Enhance or Reduce the Amount of Vegetation Consumed by Herbivores?,” Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, July 21, 2004, available at

“Skepticism.Net: Global Warming” at

“Wikipedia: Global Warming,” available at

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.