Why are lawyers arguing climate science?

By Charles Battig

The following article originally appeared as a letter to the editor in the Richmond Times Dispatch.


 

Shakespeare understood the importance of the legal profession when he had Dick “the butcher” suggest: “The first thing we do; let’s kill all the lawyers” in his Henry VI. Whatever Shakespeare’s intended connotation, it was framed in the context of his play. Others have used the phase to picture lawyers in a less than favorable light. To such critics, I point to the recent action of our most distinguished group of lawyers, our U.S. Supreme Court.

In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in the Massachusetts vs. EPA decision that “the harms associated with climate change are serious and well recognized. The government’s own objective assessment of the relevant science and a strong consensus among qualified experts indicate that global warming threatens … a precipitate rise in sea levels, severe and irreversible changes to natural ecosystems, a significant reduction in winter snow pack with direct and important economic consequences, and increases in the spread of disease.”

Four years later, these predictions have proved largely false. Persistent snow packs have prolonged the skiing season into early summer at some resorts. Hurricane activity remains at a multidecade low. Recent satellite data show a remarkable downward trend in sunspot activity, reminiscent of the associated “Little Ice Age” of the 1300-1850s. Current scientific concern is with solar activity, not innocent carbon footprints.

It is fortunate that our Supreme Court lawyers are here, in contravention to Shakespeare’s exhortation. Their June 20 decision in American Electric Power vs. Connecticut illustrates how valuable lawyers can be, especially when they demonstrate the ability to reconsider facts and change their minds. In this ruling, Justice Ginsburg is quoted: “The Court, we caution, endorses no particular view of the complicated issues related to carbon dioxide emissions and climate change.” In addition, the court referenced professor Freeman Dyson, a well-known critic of the hypothesis of manmade global warming.

One wonders why the June 22 “Virginia Offshore Wind Conference,” sponsored by the Sierra club, included so many law firms. Perhaps they have the legal skills to make the two-to-three-time cost disadvantage of offshore wind energy disappear.

 


Charles Battig is a CFACT supporter and President of the Piedmont Chapter of Virginia Scientists and Engineers for Energy and Environment. He currently resides in the Charlottesville, VA area.

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