Last night's New Hampshire primaries went pretty smoothly, all things considered.
Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump both took home sweeping victories for their respective parties. And in their victory speeches, both Trump and Sanders noted that despite the positive steps forward, they still have long fights ahead of them. "They are throwing everything at me except the kitchen sink, and I have the feeling that the kitchen sink is coming pretty soon as well," noted Sanders.
But behind all the victorious fanfare was a subtle yet important defeat — one that could have implications long after 2016.
Late Tuesday night, the Supreme Court announced that it would block President Obama's efforts to curb global warming by reducing emissions from coal-fired power plants.
The Clean Power Plan, which was announced in August, aimed to set new national standards for reducing carbon emissions from coal plants, which, according to the EPA, account for 77% of carbon dioxide emissions produced in the electricity sector.
Last night's 5-4 ruling on the plan was a stay request, which essentially means the EPA will not be allowed to enforce the plan for now. Although it's not the final word on things (an appeal to uphold the CPP will be heard in June), it's a surprising blow to the president's efforts to combat climate change.
Among the primary opponents of the Clean Power Plan are coal states such as Wyoming, whose legislators and citizens alike argue that they would lose thousands of jobs if the measure is passed.
Unfortunately, this vote is much more important symbolically than you may realize.
Why? While the Supreme Court's four liberal members opposed the stay request, it simply wasn't enough. That's alarming when you consider that:
1. Supreme Court justices are periodically appointed by presidents.
2. Presidents generally appoint justices with whom they share ideological views.
Since four justices are in their 70s or 80s, the next president will probably make at least one appointment. The implications for climate change could be huge.
Right now, the Supreme Court is made up mostly of conservative justices, with Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg occupying the court's only strong liberal positions.
And since conservative justices are more likely to vote against climate measures — or deny climate change altogether — a conservative president appointing another conservative justice could be bad news for future emission reduction plans or other climate-change-curbing regulations.
Climate change is one of the most immediate and present threats to the livelihood of all people.
And a great way to fight it is with sweeping, immediate legislation. If the Supreme Court is still able to surprise us like they did last night — and block a tip-of-the-iceberg measure to address such a huge problem — I smell trouble. And carbon.