Now They Want to Be
Caesar: Eight State Attorneys General Decide to End-Run Legislatures,
Set National Global Warming Policies Themselves
DATE: July 21, 2004
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
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
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
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.
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Mark Johnson, Associated Press, "8 states, NYC to sue power
companies," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 20, 2004, available
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
What Conservatives Think, "Environment:
Are Conservatives "Un-American" on Global Warming?,"
January 23, 2004, National Center for Public Policy Research,
available at http://www.nationalcenter.org/WCT012304.html
"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 http://www.co2science.org/edit/v7/v7n29edit.htm
"Skepticism.Net: Global Warming"
"Wikipedia: Global Warming,"
available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming
by Amy Ridenour
Contact the author at: 202-507-6398 or [email protected]
The National Center for Public
20 F Street NW, Suite 700 Washington, D.C. 20001
(1) Attorneys General To Announce
Major Lawsuit On Global Warming, undated press release citing
Marc Violette "for [New York] Attorney General Spitzer"
(2) Functions of the office
of Attorney General, website of the New York State Attorney General's
Office, downloaded from http://www.oag.state.ny.us/employment/career.html
on July 21, 2004.
(3) Mark Johnson, Associated
Press, "8 states, NYC to sue power companies," Seattle
Post-Intelligencer, July 20, 2004, available at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/apus_story.asp?category=1110&slug=Emissions%20Lawsuit