Opinion, Berkeley Blogs

The quiet failure of climate denial in 2013

By Dan Farber

NASA photo of Earth

The latest IPCC report proves that scientists are unwavering in their view that human carbon emissions are causing dangerous climate change.  In the scientific world, climate denial has no traction.  It isn’t gaining traction in the judicial or congressional worlds either.

First, the judiciary.  A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit, headed by a conservative judge, brushed aside objections to EPA’s finding that carbon emissions endanger human health and welfare.  On the full court, several judges objected to other parts of EPA’s climate policy, but not a single one thought it was worth discussing the objections of climate deniers.  The Supreme Court agreed to hear other aspects of the case, but not this one.  There just wasn’t enough substance to views of climate deniers to justify taking up the Court’s time.

NASA photo of Earth

Second, Congress.  You might recall that there was a government shutdown awhile ago.  It was sparked when Senator Cruz decided that Republicans should refuse to fund the government unless implementation of Obamacare was put on hold.  That strategy failed.

But the interesting thing is that Cruz’s target was health insurance, not carbon regulation.  The House GOP is opposed to most regulatory initiatives, and there’s no doubt that if they got the chance they’d block EPA climate regulations.  But when it comes down to it, it’s not their core issue.  Somewhere along the way, Obamacare became the defining issue for House Republicans, not climate change or financial regulation.  Climate deniers failed to get to the top of the priority list, and became just one of several dozen second- and third-level priorities for Republicans.

This doesn’t mean that House Republicans have now decided to embrace modern science.  That may be too much to expect given that many of them haven’t yet caught up with 19th-century advances in biology.  But the crusade against climate science seems to have taken the back seat for right now  in their priorities.

In both cases, there was no resounding victory against climate science.  But climate denial quietly failed to get any traction in the courts, and has been seemingly been eclipsed by other conservative causes.

And in the meantime, EPA continues to move forward in addressing climate change. Overall, you’d have to say it was a bad year for the deniers.

Cross-posted from the environmental law and policy blog Legal Planet .