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In a new analysis released today, The Supreme Court's Role in the Degradation of Democracy, Campaign Legal Center discusses how the Roberts Court's record in cases affecting American democracy is consistently anti-democratic, reversing decades of work by prior Courts that sought to perfect and protect our democracy. The report also discusses how the justices, in order to consistently reach anti-democratic results, have selectively and inconsistently applied core judicial and interpretive principles like judicial restraint and deference, devotion to text and respect for precedent.
It is difficult to pinpoint any principled and legitimate through-line in these decisions, the report states.
"The U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Roberts has hit rock bottom," said Paul Smith, senior vice president of Campaign Legal Center, who has argued 21 cases before the Court. "The Court's track record on democracy is particularly woeful and concerning, given that a strong democracy is essential to a functioning America. The Roberts Court repeatedly tells voters that they can turn to the political process for relief from rulings that they may disagree with, but then in its rulings, increasingly makes it more difficult for voters -- particularly voters of color -- to participate in that process."
The Court has always played a prominent role in democracy. The President's Commission on the Court acknowledged the Court's role in democracy and its perceived legitimacy as key factors in the recent debates surrounding court reform. In recent public statements, the justices themselves realize they are facing a legitimacy problem.
Only 25% of Americans have confidence in the U.S. Supreme Court, and the failure of any consistent legal rationale rightfully draws into question the Roberts Court's legitimacy.
The report asks, "If the Roberts' Court is not guided by some coherent judicial philosophy, are the justices simply aligning with the political party of the president who appointed them? Or is it that members of the current majority are averse to a participatory democracy in which every eligible citizen votes?"
The report concludes that the only potential remedy is a strong push back from Congress - the institution that the Framers intended to "check and balance" an aggressive and abusive Supreme Court.
Campaign Legal Center (CLC) advances democracy through law, fighting for every American's right to participate in the democratic process. CLC uses tactics such as litigation, policy advocacy, communications and partnerships to win victories that result in a more transparent, accountable and inclusive democracy.(202) 736-2200
"Without full access to all performed toxicity studies, there can be no reliable safety evaluation of pesticides by E.U. authorities," researchers warn in a new study.
New research published Thursday in the journal Environmental Health found that pesticide companies did not disclose to European Union regulators at least nine studies examining the brain toxicity of their chemical products—a finding that experts said is a scandal that must spur reforms.
"It is outrageous," Christina Rudén, a professor of regulatory ecotoxicology and toxicology at Stockholm University and a co-author of the new study, toldThe Guardian.
The researchers behind the new study found that pesticide companies submitted 35 developmental neurotoxicity (DNT) assessments to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency between 1993 and 2015 as part of efforts to win regulatory approval for their products.
But the companies withheld nine of those 35 studies from E.U. regulators, the new analysis notes, raising concerns that the firms deliberately suppressed information that may have impacted risk assessments. The Guardian noted that "the pesticides identified in the new study include the insecticides abamectin, ethoprophos, and pyridaben and the fungicide fluazinam."
"These are, or have been, used on a range of crops including tomatoes, strawberries, potatoes, and aubergines," the newspaper added.
The researchers said their findings demonstrate that "non-disclosure of DNT studies to E.U. authorities, in spite of clear legal requirements, seems to be a recurring phenomenon." Last year, the same researchers discovered that an industry-sponsored DNT study on glyphosate found impacts on "neurobehavioural function, motor activity, in rat offspring"—findings that were not shared with E.U. officials.
Glyphosate is currently authorized for use in the E.U. through 2023, despite evidence of its negative effects on humans, animals, insects, and the environment.
"Without full access to all performed toxicity studies, there can be no reliable safety evaluation of pesticides by E.U. authorities," the researchers warned Thursday. "Rules should be amended so that future studies should be commissioned by authorities rather than companies. This ensures the authorities' knowledge of existing studies and prevents the economic interest of the company from influencing the design, performance, reporting, and dissemination of studies."
Bayer—which owns Monsanto, maker of the cancer-linked glyphosate product Roundup—and Nissan Chemical were among the sponsors of the studies withheld from E.U. authorities, who only learned about the assessments years after they were conducted.
As AFPreported, the brain toxicity studies "were conducted on pregnant rats, testing whether the offspring of those exposed to the compounds suffered developmental problems."
"Decreased weight gain, delayed sexual maturation, and deteriorating motor activity were among the side effects reported in adult offspring in the studies," the outlet continued. "Of the nine pesticide compounds, four have now been taken off the E.U. market, while another four are currently under review."
"It is outrageous and unbelievable that a good fraction of these studies do not make it to the authorities as required by law," Axel Mie, another study co-author, told AFP. "There must be legal consequences and serious ones for the companies if they do not follow the law."
"Nothing less than a just global transformation... is required to ensure human well-being," researchers wrote.
If Earth were to get an annual health checkup akin to a person's physical exam, a doctor would say the planet is "really quite sick right now."
That's how Joyeeta Gupta, professor of environment and development at the University of Amsterdam, put it at a Wednesday press conference accompanying the publication of new research in the peer-reviewed journal Nature. Co-authored by Gupta and 50 other scientists from around the world, it warns that nearly every threshold for a "safe and just" planet has already been breached and pleads for swift action to protect "the global commons for all people now and into the future."
As Carbon Brief reported: "The new study develops the idea of 'planetary boundaries,' first set out in an influential 2009 paper. The paper had defined a set of interlinked thresholds that it said would ensure a 'safe operating space for humanity.' Its authors had warned that crossing these thresholds 'could have disastrous consequences.'"
"We cannot have a biophysically safe planet without justice."
The new paper, written by many of the same people, introduces justice considerations into the framework, leading the authors to propose a set of "safe and just" Earth system boundaries (ESBs) at global and sub-global scales, some of which are stricter than the "safe" limits outlined previously.
"For the first time, we present quantifiable numbers and a solid scientific foundation to assess the state of our planetary health not only in terms of Earth system stability and resilience but also in terms of human well-being and equity/justice," said lead author Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.
The interdisciplinary team focused on five of the nine planetary systems identified in 2009—climate, biosphere, water, nutrient cycles, and atmosphere. To determine the health of these systems, they relied on the following eight measurable indicators:
As Phys.orgreported: "Safe boundaries ensure stable and resilient conditions on Earth, and use an interglacial Holocene-like Earth system functioning as a reference point for a healthy planet. A stable and resilient Earth is dominated by balancing feedbacks that cope with buffer and dampen disturbances. Cutting-edge science on climate tipping points features as one major line of evidence to set safe boundaries."
To establish "just" boundaries for each indicator, the authors assessed the conditions needed to avert "significant harm," which they defined as "widespread severe existential or irreversible negative impacts on countries, communities, and individuals from Earth system change, such as loss of lives, livelihoods, or incomes; displacement; loss of food, water, or nutritional security; and chronic disease, injury, or malnutrition."
As summarized by Carbon Brief, the researchers took into account the following justice criteria:
"The results of our health check are quite concerning: Within the five analyzed domains, several boundaries, on a global and local scale, are already transgressed," Rockström said. "This means that unless a timely transformation occurs, it is most likely that irreversible tipping points and widespread impacts on human well-being will be unavoidable. Avoiding that scenario is crucial if we want to secure a safe and just future for current and future generations."
According to the paper, "Social and economic systems run on unsustainable resource extraction and consumption" have pushed Earth past seven of the eight "safe and just" ESBs.
The paper includes the following image for reference. The Earth icons representing the current state of the planet should be in the green space, which marks where "safe" (red) and "just" (blue) ESBs overlap. Instead, they lie beyond the "safe and just corridor" for every indicator except aerosol loading.
When "safe" ESBs are looked at in isolation, the planet has entered the danger zone for six of the eight indicators. According to the authors, 1.2°C of global warming to date has pushed the world beyond the "just" ESB for climate, which requires mean surface temperature rise to be capped at 1.0°C. For now, the climate still remains in the "safe" threshold, they say, even as the impacts of increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather are already being felt, especially by the poor.
However, Gupta stressed that "justice is a necessity for humanity to live within planetary limits."
"This is a conclusion seen across the scientific community in multiple heavyweight environmental assessments," said Gupta. "It is not a political choice. Overwhelming evidence shows that a just and equitable approach is essential to planetary stability."
"We cannot have a biophysically safe planet without justice," she added. "This includes setting just targets to prevent significant harm and guarantee access to resources to people and for as well as just transformations to achieve those targets."
As Carbon Brief pointed out: "This study is the first to assess Earth-system boundaries at a local scale, rather than analyzing the planet as a whole. This allows the authors to determine which boundaries have been crossed in specific regions and to identify 'hotspots' for breached boundaries."
As a result, researchers were able to produce the following map, which shows that more boundaries have been breached in certain areas, including Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South and Southeast Asia, and substantial parts of Africa, Brazil, Mexico, China, and the U.S. West.
Rockström told reporters that the eight indicators were "carefully chosen" to be "implementable for stakeholders... across the world."
The researchers hope that the "safe and just" ESBs they have put forth "will underpin the setting of new science-based targets for businesses, cities, and governments to address the polycrises of: increasing human exposure to the climate emergency, biodiversity decline, water shortages, ecosystem damage from fertilizer overuse in some parts of the world coupled with lack of access elsewhere, and health damage from air pollution," Phys.org reported.
"Stewardship of the global commons has never been more urgent or important."
Rockström and Gupta are co-chairs of the Earth Commission, founded in 2019 "to advance the planetary boundaries framework," Carbon Brief observed. "The concept has been widely used in academia and policy spaces, but has also attracted criticism from scientists who say it oversimplifies a complex system, or could spread political will too thinly."
Earth Commission executive director Wendy Broadgate, for her part, said that "a safe and just transformation to a manageable planet requires urgent, collective action by multiple actors, especially in government and business to act within Earth system boundaries to keep our life support system of the planet intact."
"Stewardship of the global commons has never been more urgent or important," she added.
In their conclusion, the authors wrote that "nothing less than a just global transformation across all ESBs is required to ensure human well-being."
"Such transformations must be systemic across energy, food, urban, and other sectors, addressing the economic, technological, political, and other drivers of Earth system change, and ensure access for the poor through reductions and reallocation of resource use," they added. "All evidence suggests this will not be a linear journey; it requires a leap in our understanding of how justice, economics, technology, and global cooperation can be furthered in the service of a safe and just future."
"Solar and wind are leading the rapid expansion of the new global energy economy," said IEA chief Fatih Birol, who added that "achieving stronger growth means addressing some key challenges."
Electricity generated by the sun and wind is set to soar to global record levels this year amid surging solar production and high fuel prices, a report published Thursday by the International Energy Agency forecasts.
The IEA's Renewable Energy Market Update Outlook for 2023 and 2024 notes that "the global energy crisis and policy momentum are driving robust growth in solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power."
Global additions of solar PV and wind are set to increase 107 gigawatts to over 440GW this year, and growth will likely continue next year to reach a total renewable energy capacity of 4.5 terawatts—the equivalent of the total combined electricity output of the United States and China.
"Solar and wind are leading the rapid expansion of the new global energy economy. This year, the world is set to add a record-breaking amount of renewables to electricity systems—more than the total power capacity of Germany and Spain combined," IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said in a statement.
\u201c\ud83d\udde3 \u201cThe world is set to add a record-breaking amount of renewables to electricity systems \u2013 more than the total power capacity of Germany & Spain combined\u201d\n\u00a0\nRead more from IEA Executive Director @fbirol on the latest trends in renewable energy markets \u2192 https://t.co/39ootu7F7a\u201d— International Energy Agency (@International Energy Agency) 1685619301
"The global energy crisis has shown renewables are critical for making energy supplies not just cleaner but also more secure and affordable—and governments are responding with efforts to deploy them faster," Birol added. "But achieving stronger growth means addressing some key challenges. Policies need to adapt to changing market conditions, and we need to upgrade and expand power grids to ensure we can take full advantage of solar and wind's huge potential."
According to the report:
Solar PV capacity, including both large utility-scale and small distributed systems, accounts for two-thirds of this year's projected increase in global renewable capacity in response to higher electricity prices caused by the global energy crisis, policymakers in many countries, particularly in Europe, have actively sought alternatives to imported fossil fuels that can improve energy security.
This shifting focus created a favorable environment for solar PV, especially for residential and commercial systems that can be rapidly installed to meet growing demand for renewable energy. These smaller distributed PV applications are on track to account for half of this year's overall deployment of solar PV—larger than the total deployment of onshore wind over the same period.
Meanwhile, the paper notes that "following two consecutive years of decline, onshore wind capacity additions are on course to rebound by 70% in 2023 to 107 GW, an all-time record amount."
The report continues:
This is mainly due to the commissioning of delayed projects in China following last year's Covid-19 restrictions. Faster expansion is also expected in Europe and the United States as a result of supply chain challenges pushing project commissioning from 2022 into 2023. On the other hand, offshore wind growth is not expected to match the record expansion it achieved two years ago due to the low volume of projects under construction outside of China.
The report predicts that "solar PV additions will continue to increase in 2024 while challenges remain for wind expansion."
\u201cIEA hedges rosy outlook for global renewables with caution on wind power. Global additions of renewable power capacity are expected to increase by one third in 2023 as growing policy momentum, higher fossil fuel prices and energy security concerns... https://t.co/gKrgVNI9ya\u201d— RenewableEnergyWorld (@RenewableEnergyWorld) 1685626348
"Global renewable capacity additions could reach 550 GW in 2024 in our accelerated case, almost 20% higher than in the main forecast," the paper contends. "This is mainly due to a more rapid deployment of residential and commercial PV installations, assuming a faster implementation of recent policies and incentives."
Earlier this year, IEA predicted that renewable energy will become the world's number one electricity source by 2025 thanks largely to a surge in wind and solar.
"We are close to a tipping point for power sector emissions," Birol said at the time. "Governments now need to enable low-emissions sources to grow even faster and drive down emissions so that the world can ensure secure electricity supplies while reaching climate goals."
The latest IEA report comes as countries set their sights on a global target for renewable energy ahead of this winter's United Nations Climate Change Conference—also known as COP28—in the United Arab Emirates.