Eric Holthaus writes: Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death at a remote Texas ranch has triggered a political earthquake and instantly changes the outlook for a host of high-profile issues the court is currently considering. But perhaps none of these are as consequential as the fate of the planet itself. As Climate Central’s John Upton wrote, “in dying, Scalia may have done more to support global climate action than most people will do in their lifetimes.”
Scalia’s death comes just days after the Supreme Court issued an unprecedented stay that temporarily blocked the implementation of the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s centerpiece climate legislation. The Clean Power Plan isn’t perfect, but it was on pace to double the already accelerating rate of coal-fired power plant retirements by 2040. Last week’s surprising action by the Supreme Court — dubbed a “nightmare scenario” by the Hill — raised substantial fears among environmentalists that the court’s conservatives might eventually block the Clean Power Plan completely. At the very least, the stay buys some time for Republican hopefuls in this year’s presidential election; if one were to win, he could just cancel the executive order that launched the plan in the first place.
The stay is still in place, but the climate law experts I talked to say Scalia’s death greatly boosts the eventual survival chances of the Clean Power Plan. A 4-4 court would guarantee that the lower court ruling would stand—and the D.C. Circuit Court is expected to approve the plan. [Continue reading…]