Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Ignorance and the law

A few years ago, when a local organization filed a lawsuit against the federal government and the fossil fuel industry under the public trust doctrine, I didn't think that anything will be accomplished.  But, much to my surprise, the courts are siding with them.  Their claim, on behalf of a few named children plaintiffs, and on behalf of all children, is that the public trust doctrine "requires our government to protect and maintain survival resources for future generations."

The Oregon approach is now not the only one.  I didn't know, until I read this, that February 7th, the court heard "Juliana, et al v. United States of America, et al — a case a group of kids, young adults and environmentalists brought in 2015 against the U.S. government."  It is not the merits of the case that this post is about; there is no way I am going to pretend that I know the law.  I firmly believe in Charles Dickens's description that the law is an ass!

What caught my attention is this:
The lead attorney for U.S. manufacturers and oil and gas companies on a climate change lawsuit didn't know the answer to a measurement fact when asked in court two weeks ago, court papers show.
And what was that measurement fact?
Frank Volpe said he didn't know whether carbon dioxide levels had reached 400 parts per million, a measurement of atmospheric concentration.
A simple measurement fact.  About CO2 in the atmosphere.  The lead attorney defending the industry said he didn't know.

Of course Volpe knows.  Volpe is "representing the American Petroleum Institute, American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers and National Association of Manufacturers in the case."  Of course the industry knows.  They just do not want to admit that they know.

The judge didn't let him off the hook:
Asked by Judge Thomas Coffin whether the groups he represents “acknowledge that the CO2 levels in the atmosphere are currently at 400 ppm,” Volpe did not answer.
“Do you deny that, or do you not know?” Coffin asked, according to a transcript.
“I would say that as we said in our answer, we don't know,” Volpe said.
“You don't know,” Coffin replied. Volpe said that determination would be up to an expert witness.
If we watched such an exchange on Saturday Night Live, we might laugh our asses off.  But, this is for real, in a real courtroom.

The judge tried again.
“So as we sit here today, do you have an expert witness that the intervenors intend to call that you can identify that will opine that the CO2 levels are not 400 ppm, but are something other than that and, if so, what?” he asked.
“I don't know, your honor,” Volpe responded.
How screwed up are the fossil fuel industry and their attorneys!
Neither Volpe nor C. Marie Eckert, another attorney for the trade groups, responded to requests for comment about their clients' views on carbon dioxide concentrations.
Why would they!

You ask scientists the same question, and they will give you the answer even when they are piss-drunk at the unholy 3:00 am when this president starts tweeting.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tracks CO2 levels measured at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. The monthly averages for January this year and last were both greater than 400 ppm, according to the agency.
Reached by phone and asked of the possibility that CO2 levels aren't at 400, a spokesman for the agency laughed.
63 million Americans have voted for a man who denies climate change, and who has appointed to the EPA a man who would rather dismantle the EPA.  How messed up are these 63 million voters?  What a disaster!


Ramesh said...

That's just legal mumbo jumbo as you rightly observe. He is saying I don't know simply because he does not want to go on record with stating the Co2 levels. That's legal tactics.

Your fundamental point is valid, but you are going after the wrong guys. The industry is simply an enabler for meeting a consumer demand. The real culprits are the consumers (you and me) and the government. Consumers because we don't really care despite all the noise (witness the airmiles clocked by Al Gore) and governments because they refuse to ley a carbon tax .

Sriram Khé said...

Nope, we consumers are NOT the culprits nor the enablers.

The carbon-lobby is way too powerful--so powerful that ... well, I will tell you this way.

On Monday, Senator Whitehouse of RI was on a radio program. In response to a question on how the lobby goes after people in Congress, the senator said this about former Representative Bob Inglis:
"very conservative congressman who actually had kind of an epiphany on climate change getting wiped out by the fossil fuel industry in his next primary. The verb to be Inglis-ed (ph) became a thing for a while. It sent a message that you don't cross us on this."
Yep, the lobby got him out of Congress itself!

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