At the G-8 Summit in Italy this week, the leaders of the world’s major economies endorsed the goal of keeping global warming from exceeding 2 degrees centigrade (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), in line with recommendations by scientists on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The leaders did not agree, however, on specific measures to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to achieve this goal, which led the Wall Street Journal editors to liken them to King Canute commanding the tides to roll out. Unfortunately, Hu Jintao’s abrupt return to China to deal with deadly ethnic violence between Han Chinese and Uighurs in Xinjiang Province helped scuttle any chance for a breakthrough in getting leaders of developing countries to agree to control their GHG emissions. This now appears to be the key stumbling block to global agreement in Copenhagen in December on a post-Kyoto regime to control GHG emissions.
Last month’s approval of climate change legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives put President Obama in a stronger position at the G-8 summit to push for aggressive global action to combat climate change. At the same time, however, the Senate Environment & Public Works Committee chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer announced that it would postpone a vote on climate legislation until late September. Previously it had been hoped that the committee would report out the Senate’s version of the legislation approved by the House by the end of July. The delay is supposed to give the committee more time to craft improved legislation and to persuade wavering senators.
Last week Pakistan’s Oil & Gas Regulatory Authority increased the price of gasoline in the country by nearly 23% in response to a July 7 decree from Pakistan’s Supreme Court that suspended a carbon tax recently imposed by the government of President Asif Ali Zardari. The Pakistani government had expected the carbon tax to raise $1.5 billion this year to help it close a budget deficit. The Supreme Court is hearing a challenge to the government’s authority to impose a carbon tax without approval by Parliament.
On Thursday morning I participated in a Supreme Court Seminar for Baltimore high school teachers cosponsored by the Street Law, Inc. and the U.S. Supreme Court Historical Society. I presented the session on “Competing Judicial Philosophies” where we examined some Supreme Court cases that were decided without the increasingly prevalent conservative/liberal split among the Justices. One of the teachers observed that it is hard to teach principles of American government when many students assume that the political process is simply a battle between good and bad ideologies.
On Friday morning the new sixth edition of my casebook Environmental Regulation: Law, Science & Policy went to press. Due to extraordinary efforts by my research assistants and my publisher, the new edition will be up to date through the end of June, including even an excerpt from the Couer Alaska Clean Water Act case decided by the Supreme Court less than three weeks ago. The book should be available in a few weeks, in plenty of time for fall classes. I celebrated completion of this project by heading down to the Eastern Shore for a crab fest and kayaking on the Choptank River.