U.S. Judge Tosses Climate-Change Lawsuits

Two Lawsuits Against Major Oil and Gas Companies Have Been Thrown Out

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A U.S. federal judge has thrown out two lawsuits that had been filed by San Francisco and Oakland against Chevron and other major oil and gas companies. The California cities had sought damages against the energy companies by holding them liable for climate change. The other companies named in the suit were BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil and Shell.

Judge William Alsop had asked for a remarkable “climate tutorial” from selected experts in the field. Amongst the questions he asked was:  “1: What caused the various ice ages (including the “little ice age” and prolonged cool periods) and what caused the ice to melt? When they melted, by how much did sea level rise?” The answer:

San Francisco and Oakland had charged the companies with being a public nuisance. They sought compensation for expenses they attributed to the need to deal with the climate, in particular building sea walls against rising sea levels.

The judge chose to rule that the dangers of climate change are “very real” but said that the problem “deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case” and that Congress and the federal Executive were the best place to address questions about the “worldwide positives of the energy” versus environmental hazards.

Moreover, he wrote:

“Having reaped the benefit of that historic progress, would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded? Is it really fair, in light of those benefits, to say that the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable?”

The full text of the submission by William Happer, Steven E. Koonin and Richard S. Linzen (a 31-page PDF) is linked here:

Amongst the judge’s other questions were:

  1. What is the molecular difference by which CO2 absorbs infrared radiation but oxygen and nitrogen do not?
  2. What is the mechanism by which infrared radiation trapped by CO2 in the atmosphere is turned into heat and finds its way back to sea level?
  3. Does CO2 in the atmosphere reflect any sunlight back into space, such that the reflected sunlight never penetrates the atmosphere in the first place?
  4. Apart from CO2, what happens to the collective heat from tail pipe exhausts, engine radiators, and all other heat from combustion of fossil fuels? How, if at all, does this collective heat contribute to warming of the atmosphere?
  5. In grade school many of us were taught that humans exhale CO2 but plants absorb CO2 and return oxygen to the air (keeping the carbon fiber). Is this still valid? If so why hasn’t plant life turned the higher levels of CO2 back into oxygen? Given the increase in population on earth (four billion), is human respiration a contributing factor to the buildup of CO2?
  6. What are the main sources of CO2 that account for the incremental buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere?
  7. What are the main sources of heat that account for the incremental rise in temperature on earth?

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R.M. Cutler

Chairman, Montreal Press Club Board of Directors

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