Judge Dismisses Trump Admin Lawsuit Against California's Cap and Trade Program
A federal judge rejected a Trump administration lawsuit to put a stop to California's carbon cap and trade program, which regulates the state's transportation sector, as The Hill reported. The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions as of 2018.
The market-based program is designed to reduce carbon emissions by making companies pay for the excess carbon they use. Since its signing in 2006 by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, it has forced companies to spend billions on carbon credits, according to The Sacramento Bee.
The California legislation enters the state into a marketplace with the Canadian province Quebec. The administration challenged the program, arguing that California had no authority to deal directly with the government of another nation and that the program usurps the federal government's primacy in foreign affairs, as Our Daily Planet reported.
The alliance between California and Quebec allows companies in both states to sell carbon credits to each other and, California officials say, broadens the market for credits and strengthens the overall program. The White House argued that the trade deal was equivalent to California signing a treaty with a foreign nation, which it is prohibited from doing under the constitution.
"California's Governors have defied this clear constitutional structure," federal officials argued in court papers, according to The Sacramento Bee. "They have positioned the State in open opposition to the foreign policy of the United States on greenhouse gas emissions."
However, the judge in the case, U.S. District Judge William B. Shubb, said California hasn't exceeded its legal limits or intruded on Trump's "foreign affairs power."
The federal government has shown no "concrete evidence that the President's power to speak and bargain effectively with other countries has actually been diminished," the judge wrote, as The Sacramento Bee reported.
In a tweet, Gov. Gavin Newsom called Shubb's decision a "huge victory in an unwarranted and vindictive lawsuit against California."
A huge victory in an unwarranted and vindictive lawsuit against California. #COVID19 is not the only unprecedente… https://t.co/BlScNyvUKn— Gavin Newsom (@Gavin Newsom)1595028370.0
Justice Department spokesperson Danielle Nichols told The Hill in an email that the department is "considering our next steps."
A spokesperson for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra referred The Hill to a past statement in which the lawyer said "California's Cap-and-Trade Program has existed since 2012 and was only strengthened from our collaboration with Quebec."
"California has long been a leader in fighting climate change for the sake of protecting public health, our natural resources, our economy, and indeed our planet," the spokesperson added.
The cap and trade program revolves around a series of carbon-credit auctions held every three months by the California Resources Board, the state's air pollution agency. Each credit enables the business buying it to emit one ton of carbon pollution. The number of available credits ratchets down every auction, which forces businesses to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint or buy extra credits on the open market. The market-based approach is designed to give individual businesses flexibility while simultaneously reducing the overall volume of carbon emissions, according to The Sacramento Bee.
In a sign that pollution is dropping, only one-third of carbon credits were sold in the latest auction, suggesting that the coronavirus pandemic is drastically reducing the amount of greenhouse gases emitted by the transportation sector.
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A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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