Following the Supreme Court’s massive blow to the fight against climate change, many climate activists are left wondering what to do next. In a 6-3 decision carried out by a conservative majority, the court ruled in West Virginia V. EPA that only Congress should have the authority to limit carbon emissions across whole states, despite the EPA’s efforts for cleaner energy. 

However, the future implications of this ruling extend far beyond just environmental policy. In fact, the Supreme Court’s 6-3 decision will curtail other governing agencies’ ability to address pressing issues that pervade our nation and our planet — even if it’s to undertake a problem that’s within the scope of an agency’s jurisdiction. 

To put it simply, the Court is signaling that regulatory agencies only have the power to carry out decisions Congress has consigned to them. This is particularly concerning as legislative gridlock makes it extremely difficult for Congress to pass laws already. No movement = no progress.

On top of legislative gridlock that hinders quick movement to combat climate change swiftly and effectively, the landmark 6-3 Supreme Court ruling poses a major obstacle to President Joe Biden’s “clean energy revolution.” In his campaign for presidency, one of Joe Biden’s critical selling points was his plan for the U.S. to achieve a 100% clean energy economy and reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Undeniably, this Supreme Court ruling halts his strides towards combating climate by limiting executive moving power. 

Even more worrisome, according to a climate change report detailed by NPR, we have 11 years to curtail emissions before we face harrowing climate conditions. From rising sea levels that can cause catastrophic flooding to unpredictable climate patterns that will significantly disrupt food production… if we don’t take drastic measures to effectively address climate change, the consequences in the years to come will both be costly and fatal.

So, what’s next? 

While the Court’s decision to limit the EPA’s ability to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants is a setback, it’s not the coup de grâce — it’s a wake-up call. 

The time is now for law-makers and corporate decision-makers alike to cultivate critical planet-centric approaches and strategies to effectively combat climate change. Ideally, this could look like creating and expanding “green jobs” as we can continue to seek out cleaner energy industries such as solar and wind power, imposing incentives for sustainable investments and proposing lower carbon alternatives and solutions.

Although grim and seemingly discouraging, the lack of federal effort calls for state and municipal governing bodies to act more urgently. While local climate policy isn’t the ideal nor the perfect surrogate for meaningful federal action, local policy can make a difference that’s worthwhile.  

“Cities are on the front line of the climate crisis, and they are also at the forefront when it comes to solutions,” says Kate Johnson, the head of US Federal Affairs at C40 Cities Coalition, in a statement for Bloomberg’s publication.  

“Moving forward, cities will have to continue or strengthen their policies to inhibit carbon emissions within their borders, in addition to working with neighboring cities and surrounding environmental groups to act on and deliver significant climate action plans,” adds Johnson

While all of the above is possible, there is no perfect substitution for federal support. Federal support is crucial for adequate funding and implementation across the board. While quite daunting, this decision only increases the importance for Biden and his administration to seek alternative options that don’t solely rely on EPA’s regulating authority to satisfy his climate goals. Whether that be utilizing existing legislation to boost cleaner transportation methods or banning the use of federal land for gas/oil production, there are innumerable ways for Biden’s administration to act. 

Truth be told, hope is dim. But this ruling isn’t the end of our fight. We still have some more punches to go.