by Sean Siperstein
UPDATE: More on the climate-fires connection from the Center for American Progress.
Usually I don't write in the first-person here, but the recent convergence of events we've been covering in California with the wildfires devastating that state leave a sense of urgency-- one that leads me to echo Tim's question this morning.
Like Bill McKibben, I have relatives in the area, though mine (fortunately) are just outside of the affected region near Malibu. And like Bill, my thoughts do turn at this time to the undeniable reality that climate change does impact disasters like this one. It's not the decisive issue here to be sure (though it rarely is), as many with more expertise have told me over the last couple of days, and getting the science right is essential. At the same time, though-- as explored (alongside other factors) by Daniel James Brown in an excellent op-ed in today's LA Times--it is certainly a part of the problem, and thus seems germane to address on a general level.
One impact of this tragedy, ironically, has been the delay until next week of California's anticipated lawsuit against the EPA (which it's likely will now be joined by New York). Nevertheless, the glare of the fires very much illuminates the question at hand in that suit, and in any potential Congressional action to remove its necessity-- whether California and other states have the ability, under legislation that Congress itself passed (the Clean Air Act), to alleviate a problem that does impact them at least in some part and will continue to do so.
To take action on this matter, Congress wouldn't even need to endorse those actions per se, nor blame global warming for current and future impacts it may have on California. Otherwise-recalcitrant members would merely need to recognize what libertarian-leaning Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) recently wrote to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson in supporting California's waiver application:
While I am a strong believer in a market economy and the notion that free people make the best choices, I am also aware that federal law expressly permits the states to enact these standards. Moreover...our founders saw the wisdom in leaving these types of decisions up to the states and our current lawmakers have ratified this wisdom with regard to this important policy area, our federal agencies should do likewise.
Should the EPA continually not follow Congressman Paul's advice, the matter will likely continue to drag out through litigation. While that will certainly give me lots of interesting material to cover here at Warming Law, the urgency of this all certainly leads me to also ask whether having Congress step up and challenge the President on this matter, whatever its pitfalls, should also be a parallel course of action...