Editorial: Greenhouse Gas Ruling Will Set Tone for U.S., World

    In a lawsuit now facing the U.S. Supreme Court, 12 states and several cities are suing the Bush administration to force the Environmental Protection Agency to restrict carbon dioxide emissions of new cars. The court is conflicted, however, over whether carbon dioxide can be considered a “”pollutant”” under the Clean Air Act. The EPA argues that it does not qualify and refuses to lay down mandatory limits for vehicle emissions.

    Clarisse Miguel/Guardian

    The case could set an important precedent for U.S. behavior on global warming.

    Forcing the EPA to regulate vehicle emissions could easily affect other regulations, including a power plant emissions case currently in litigation.

    In the case’s arguments, Chief Justice John Roberts questioned whether reducing the carbon dioxide emissions for which U.S. vehicles are responsible would even matter, especially in light of China’s dramatically increasing demand for oil.

    Legal debates aside, these attitudes are unfortunate. The United States is striving to remain a world leader, and meaningfully addressing global warming, an increasingly salient world problem is the American government’s responsibility. Even if regulating carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles would be a proverbial drop in the world’s bucket, its symbolic value is much greater. The connection between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming is clear, and the U.S. government’s attempt to avoid its ultimately necessary role in combating the problem is a legitimacy-squandering mistake.

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