The American Medical Association (AMA) is “deeply disappointed” with the US Supreme Court ruling that restricts the power of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate carbon emissions that cause climate change and harm public health, AMA President Jack Resneck Jr, MD, said in a statement.
“Regulating and reducing greenhouse gas emissions is critical for combating the climate crisis and its major health implications, impacting the respiratory, cardiovascular, and immune systems of the US population, with minoritized populations disproportionately impacted,” Resneck said.
Yet, on June 30, by a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the Clean Air Act does not give the EPA broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that contribute to global warming.
The ruling, with conservatives in the majority, was a blow to the Biden Administration’s efforts to fight climate change.
In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote that the Court has stripped the EPA of the power Congress gave it to respond to “the most pressing environmental challenge of our time.”
The causes and dangers of climate change are no longer subject to serious doubt, Kagan writes. Modern science is “unequivocal that human influence” — in particular, the emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide — “has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land.”
“The stakes here are high,” Kagan writes. Yet the Court has prevented “congressionally authorized agency action to curb power plants’ carbon dioxide emissions. The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decision-maker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening.”
The AMA has declared climate change a public health crisis that threatens the health and wellbeing of all people and supports policies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions aimed at carbon neutrality in the United States by 2050.
“As physicians and leaders in medicine, we recognize the urgency of supporting environmental sustainability efforts to help halt global climate change and the devastating health harms that it is sure to bring,” Resneck said.
Despite the Court’s ruling, Resneck said the AMA “will continue to do our part to protect public health and improve health outcomes for our patients across the nation.”
The Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health (MSCCH), a coalition of 44 national medical societies that represents more than 70% of all American doctors, is also disappointed in the Court’s ruling.
“This decision hobbles a powerful resource that we have as a nation to improve our air quality and act against climate change. The decision undermines regulations that are needed to protect our health in the modern era,” MSCCH executive director, Mona Sarfaty, MD, MPH, said in a statement.
“Climate change is a health emergency today in many communities and will be a health crisis tomorrow for even more people around the country and the world. The wide-ranging and dangerous health impacts will continue to worsen without widespread action to decrease greenhouse gas emissions,” Sarfaty said.
“The thing that gives doctors and healthcare workers hope is solutions like the EPA’s ability to protect us from harmful pollutants, because this helps us protect and improve health through cleaner air and address climate change in the long-run. Research has shown that the health benefits of the Clean Air Act are enormous. For every dollar spent on the Clean Air Act, we’ve saved $30 in health costs,” Sarfaty noted.
The Supreme Court decision is “tying EPA’s hands as our essential public health agency labors to build a safer, healthier country in the face of a changing climate. After this setback, the imperative is now stronger than ever; the Administration and Congress can reaffirm their commitment to public health and make major climate investments to counter the impacts of this ruling,” Sarfaty added.
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