Global Warming, Standing and Stem Cell Research

Yesterday's oral argument in the global warming case, Massachusetts v. EPA (transcript here) included considerable discussion of the "redressability" prong of Article III standing doctrine. To oversimplify, the courts deny legal standing where the plaintiff(s) cannot establish that a favorable ruling will actually redress the injury alleged. There is certainly some logic to this requirement: where the relief sought has nothing to do with the harm alleged, then it does look like the plaintiff is asking for an effectively advisory opinion. But the Court's doctrine--and especially the way the lawyer for the U.S. read that doctrine in colloquy mostly with Justice Souter yesterday--goes well beyond that, essentially denying the right to a day in court to someone whose injuries will only be partly addressed by a favorable ruling. Where there is at least a logical connection between the alleged injury and the relief sought, it is not at all clear why standing should be denied on the ground that the relief might not make the plaintiff better off. If that's what the plaintiff wants, shouldn't the courts at least give the plaintiff the opportunity to show that the sought relief is his legal right?

Indeed, the strict application of the redressability prong reminds me of a satirical comment by John Stewart a couple of years ago when Laura Bush expressed support for limiting federal funding for stem cell research on the ground that promoting stem cell research gives Alzheimer's and Parkinson's patients and their families false hope. "It's not fair," the First Lady said, to raise hopes "because stem cell research is very, very preliminary." Stewart mockingly agreed that it would take many years of painstaking research to achieve medical breakthroughs, "so why start?"