22:14 GMT +314 December 2019
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    A conference attendee looks at a projection of the Earth on the opening day of the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, on November 30, 2015 in Le Bourget

    The Fate of the Planet: Why You Should Care Who Joins the US Supreme Court

    © AFP 2019 / ALAIN JOCARD
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    There is more at stake than many Americans realize when it comes to who will replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the bench of the United States Supreme Court -- such as the fate of the entire planet, according to experts.

    Despite the treaty in Paris, where nations including the US vowed to curb their greenhouse gas pollution and get serious about climate change, the Republicans who control Congress refuse to pass any new laws to address the issue.

    For this reason, science journalist John Upton wrote on Facebook: “in dying, Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia may have done more to support global climate action than most people will do in their lifetimes.”

    He explained that the US pledge in Paris to reduce pollution levels from 2020 to 2025 will rely on new Environmental Protection Agency power plant pollution rules, called the Clean Power Plan (CPP), which will impose limits on the pollution caused by the power industry. These rules are already being challenged in the Supreme Court by fossil fuel companies and by some American states, which believe that regulations such as these should only be put in place by Congress.

    The US was a key player in being able to strike a deal during the climate talks in Paris, so if the nation is unable to fulfill their end of the deal, it could spell disaster for the treaty — and the earth.

    The week before Scalia’s death, the Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling against the EPA — with Scalia voting with the majority, and granting a “stay” as litigation moves forward. This shocking result meant that it was likely that the Clean Power Plan could be struck down by the court when it came down to it.

    Now, with Scalia’s passing and a liberal judge likely to be appointed, it will be unlikely for the act to be defeated. Upton noted that even if Senate Republicans block President Obama from appointing someone before he leaves office, the ruling will now likely be 4-4 — meaning that the ruling from the lower court will stand.

    "In the end, there are no guarantees. But the Clean Power Plan does seem to have ended this roller coaster of a week on firmer ground than it started on,” Jack Lienke, a lawyer with the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law, wrote for Mother Jones.


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