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Warmism Gets a Courtroom Thrashing

Warmism gets a courtroom thrashing

While professed journalists were taking dutiful dictation from local alarmists keen to blame bushfires on global warming, a telling court case has been unfolding in California, where catastropharians set out to sue Big Oil for wrecking the planet. It hasn’t gone as planned

The current tactic of global-warming catastrophists is to sue major oil companies for wrecking the planet — never mind that fossil-fuel energy has lifted billions from squalor and back-breaking toil during the past 150 years and continues to do so. The most advanced of these cases is now playing out in a US federal court in San Francisco before Judge William Alsup. Because he’s insisting on evidence about human causation of warming, the case has tested the soundness of orthodox climate science and so far found it wanting.
Leading sceptic scientists have also submitted briefs, opening up a climate debate warmists have been desperate to avoid for the past decade. This article will look at the court case and then at the history of climate debates.

In the US there’s a rash of lawsuits by green/liberal plaintiffs against the federal government and oil majors, with one echoing the ‘children’s crusade’ of 1212. The plaintiffs, 21 kids the youngest no more than ten, have been marshalled to sue the US government for allegedly fostering climate warmth  and degrading the kids’ “rights to life, liberty and property”.[1] One plaintiff, 19-year-old Sophie Kivlehan, is the granddaughter of James Hansen, godfather of the global anti-CO2 jihad and a man who has obscenely compared coal trains with those that transported Jews to Nazi extermination camps.[2] [3]

But the big excitement last week was the so-called “Exxon knew” lawsuit brought by the cities of San Francisco and neighbouring Oakland against  five  oil majors.[4] The two plaintiffs claim the oil producers conspired Big Tobacco-style to conceal the climate harm of their products. The majors are supposedly responsible for the local sea level rise and should therefore pay billions of dollars for sea walls, dykes, whatever.

Well, yes, it’s all ridiculous. The San Francisco tide gauge (1854-2016) shows an upward trend complicated by some sinking of the land — the city is, after all, in an earthquake zone, and has been rocked repeatedly — but the “rise” is still a mere eight inches over the past 100 years. The plaintiffs’ lawyers are nevertheless making their song and dance about the rise, savouring a reported 23% of any damages to be paid by Big Oil. Their case relies by necessity on future sea-damage forecasts by the shaky CMIP5 suite of climate computer-models, and then they need to demonstrate that the oil majors are responsible, as distinct from, say, car and truck drivers who actually pump out the emissions. Another six Californian counties and cities are trying to run similar cases and in New York, the city wants $US20 billion restitution from the oil majors (less, of course, a hefty cut for the lawyers).

Keep in mind that the San Francisco establishment is a cat’s cradle of loopiness. Power prices have risen at five times the rate in the rest of the US while California leads the US (like SA here) in generation from renewables. Ex-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose beefiness apparently extends to his brain, is preparing his own lawsuit suing the oil majors for first degree murders of the populace.  While posturing about Big Carbon’s lethal climate vandalism Schwarzenegger continues commuting in his king-sized Hummer and helicopter.[5]

In the San Francisco-Oakland case, the two cities were immediately wedged by Big Oil’s lawyers, who noticed that they had issued billions of dollars worth of civic bonds with no alerts to investors about the watery peril they now claim to be facing. Ergo, these bond issuers either deceived investors or their current protestations about the peril of rising seas is intended to deceive the judge. That has been far from the only embarrassment. One example: Professor Gary Griggs, of University of California Santa Cruz, warned the court of  San Francisco being engulfed by ten feet of water. This was countered by Chevron’s lawyer, who noted that in a recent state government document the very same Professor Griggs put the chance of California seeing a ten-foot sea level rise at just 0.1%.

What’s more exciting is that the case has become a trial of the warmist orthodoxy which insists most of the global warming of the past 50 years is anthropogenic. In the recent past warmist zealots have argued for  punitive fines, jail and even the death penalty for those disputing their catastrophism.

Judge Alsup is a Bill Clinton appointee, which might at a glance suggest a likely affinity with the plaintiffs’ cause. But he is also a former engineer and, before that, a B.Sc. in mathematics. Moreover, he has a reputation for personally probing complex non-legal issues, rather than relying on rival expert witnesses’ to-and-fro. While presiding in Uber v. Waymo, for example, he asked for a tutorial on self-driving car technology. In Oracle v. Google, he taught himself some Java programming language, to help understand the case. This time Alsup asked the climate-case parties to each give him tutorials on the science of global warming. Of the majors, only Chevron did so. Leading sceptics also presented their own case as amicus curiae or “friends of the court”.

The warmists’ top academic presenter was  Oxford physicist Myles Allen. He has long been itching to see oil majors sued, telling the BBC in 2003,

“The vast numbers affected by the effects of climate change, such as flooding, drought and forest fires, mean that potentially people, organisations and even countries could be seeking compensation for the damage caused…
“Some of it might be down to things you’d have trouble suing – like the Sun – so you obviously need to work how particularly human influence has contributed to the overall change in risk.
“But once you’ve done that, then we as scientists can essentially hand the problem over to the lawyers, for them to assess whether the change in risk is enough for the courts to decide that a settlement could be made.”
Judge Alsup handed down a list of nine questions, some sagacious (What are the main sources of heat that account for the incremental rise in temperature on Earth?) and some naive (Given the increase in human population on Earth [four billion], is human respiration a contributing factor to the buildup of CO2?). When the five-hour tutorial unfolded in court last Wednesday he had done such massive homework that he could correct the experts.  At one point a discomfited Myles Allen confessed, “You may know more of this history than I do.”

The judge had a good  grasp of climate issues: “Nuclear would not put out any CO2, right? We might get some radiation as we drive by, but maybe, in retrospect, we should have taken a hard look at nuclear?” Alsup asked plaintiffs. “No doubt solar is good where you can use it, but do you really think it could be a substitute for supplying the amount of power America used in the last 30 years?” Alsup also created a flurry by commenting from the bench that the “conspiracy” of oil companies (to disguise the climate harm of their products) looked far-fetched: “From what I’ve seen, and feel free to send me other documentation, but all I’ve seen so far is that someone [from an oil major] went to the IPCC conference and took notes. That’s not a conspiracy.” He hasn’t dismissed the lawsuit (as often misreported) but the plaintiffs now have an uphill battle.

Reporter Phelim McAleer reports that Alsup also mocked the numerous times IPCC predictive models got the current climate trends wrong, the judge saying to Chevron’s lawyer: “So your point is that [IPCC] models overstate the problem. Instead of doom and gloom, it’s just gloom”.

Chevron endorsed the IPCC orthodoxy but enjoyed citing the many caveats in the body of the 2013 report that were glossed over in the Summary for Policymakers.[6] One example: climate models run hot compared with actual temperatures. This has forced the warmist plaintiffs into “denying” the IPCC itself. Katherine Heyhoe, a Texas Tech University climate scientist, now argues the 2013 IPCC report has been made obsolete by newer climate models. Predictably she now says everything is all much worse than we were formerly told to believe.

The sceptic case was presented in briefs by one team – Christopher Monckton, Willie Soon, David Legates, and William Briggs — and another from William Happer, Steven Koonin and Richard Lindzen. Another sceptic-like brief was from the

Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council. The Happer team’s summary is
1. The climate is always changing; changes like those of the past half-century are common in the geologic record, driven by powerful natural phenomena
2. Human influences on the climate are a small (1%) perturbation to natural energy flows
3. It is not possible to tell how much of the modest recent warming can be ascribed to human influences
4. There have been no detrimental changes observed in the most salient climate variables and today’s projections of future changes are highly uncertain

The Monckton team case is here, with summary:

There is no “consensus” among scientists that recent global warming was chiefly anthropogenic, still less that unmitigated anthropogenic warming has been or will be dangerous or catastrophic …
Even if it be assumed [for the sake of argument] that all of the 0.8 degC global warming since anthropogenic influence first became potentially significant in 1950 was attributable to us, in the present century little more than 1.2 degC of global warming is to be expected, not the 3.3 degC that the   IPCC had predicted.

Put side by side, the pro and anti IPCC cases create a high-level “climate debate” which warmists have long fought to prevent. “Do not debate!” has been warmist policy  ever since their talent was trounced by the sceptic team in a two-hour New York public debate at Radio City Hall in 2007.[7] The audience initially polled 57.3% to 29.9% for a “Global Warming Crisis”, but after the debate that flipped 46.2% to 42.2% in favour of the sceptics.

US warmist “experts” subsequently refused even to share platforms with sceptic rivals if informed critics of their shtick are given equal standing. In March, 2013, Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA/GISS climate group, fled the TV interview room (from 6.20 mins) when he learned Roy Spencer, an expert on earth temperature readings from satellite, was arriving and would subject him to questions. A year later Dan Weiss, the director of climate strategy at the liberal Center for American Progress, did an equivalent runner rather than face sceptic Marc Morano in debate, as did Hollywood icon and “Titanic” director James Cameron in 2010.

In a recent exception, warmist Jon Christensen (UCal LA) and sceptic Willie Soon (Harvard) went head to head at a Comedy Club in Los Angeles in January. The result was not scored but the audience jeered whenever Christensen denied California’s soaring power prices were hurting low-income families.

Several debates have been run in the UK, although BBC Scotland in 2014 banned broadcasting them because they would “be in breach of the editorial guidelines on impartiality”.[8] The BBC, notoriously, lied for years and fought FOIs in the courts to maintain that its policy to muzzle sceptic views on climate had been recommended in 2005 by a panel of top science experts. It was finally revealed that 25 of the 28 panel members were green activists and journalists. Only three were current scientists (all alarmists).

The ABC’s Robyn Williams on the Science Show last June 24 purported to run the sceptics’ case under the teaser header “Has ‘Denying’ Won?” but in multiple ways stacked the deck to ensure warmist Andy Pitman had the last word on all sceptic propositions.  Those points, in any event had beenpicked and snipped by Williams.

Gillian Triggs, former head of the Human Rights Commission, last Friday backed the ABC’s one-sided handling of the climate debate, saying,

“Should we give equal time and weight for ignorance? Interviewers often employ the technique to put an opposing view and asking the interviewee to comment. The consequence of repeating the ill-informed view as a provocative question has quite the opposite effect in giving air time, oxygen and apparent credibility to a false view.” [9]

It is remarkable that, despite all the warmist establishment’s efforts to suppress criticism of the tattered Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming narrative, most of the Australian public (54%) has seen through it or aren’t convinced.

Don’t believe me? Believe this CSIRO survey.

Judge Alsup will throw out the San Francisco City’s lawsuit, for sure. But, meanwhile, the case is shedding delightful light on the wobbly warmist case, and putting sceptic science on to the world stage.

[1] The kids or their mentors demand that CO2 be brought down from 400ppm now to 350ppm in 2100.
[2] ”Extreme weather events, including Hurricane Sandy, have caused Sophie to miss school on many occasions; hailstorms have damaged her house; floodwaters often inundate roads to her house; and Sophie has even been forced to prepare for tornado warnings, which are very unusual for the area where she lives.”
[3] This case is rolling along, with an appeal court this month requiring the Trump administration to submit to trial, likely some time this year.
[4] Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, BP and Royal Dutch Shell
[5] As a Republican and governor, Schwarzenegger signed into law in 2006 an Act for the State to cut emissions by 2050 to 80% below 1990 levels.
[6] Exxon’s official position is: “The risk of climate change is clear and the risk warrants action. Increasing carbon emissions in the atmosphere are having a warming effect. There is a broad scientific and policy consensus that action must be taken to further quantify and assess the risks.”
[7] The warmist team: Gavin Schmidt (NASA),  Richard C.J. Somerville (Scripps), Brenda Ekwurzel (Union of Concerned Scientists). Sceptics: Richard Lindzen (MIT), Philip Stott (U. London), Michael Crichton (physician/novelist).
[8] The BBC refuses any balance between warmists and sceptics because sceptics’ views are  “based on opinion rather than demonstrable scientific validity”.
[9] Integrity/Jim Carlton  Annual Lecture at Melbourne Law School.


Read more articles on Quadrant.

{ 18 comments… add one }
  • luk1955 01/04/2018, 7:19 am

    Firstly and most importantly, the planet’s ecosphere is so large and complex that it can never be in balance. For billions of years the ecosphere has been trying to balance itself but it never can. And then there are cycles, and cycles within the cycles, and cycles within the cycles within the cycles, …………………. Get the picture?
    It is good the judge has credentials and has been willing to learn outside of court time to understand the fraud being perpetrated in his court.
    And the last line in the footnotes shows integrity in the same line with law. That’s a real joke. Total impossibility.
    And Griggs must be charged with perjury for lying under oath. However corrupt the courts are now, lying under oath is still taken seriously.
    I was a member of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute for many years and was told by the president 4 years ago that I was the only member who did not believe in “global warming caused by mankind.” Needless to say I am not a member now and I am hoping for some vindication by this trial.
    Do keep covering this trial, MM. Let’s hope the judge doesn’t throw out the case as a win for the skeptics will be huge and may deal this scam movement a huge blow.

    • Maryanne 01/04/2018, 7:25 pm

      Exactly. The earth’s climate is a chaotic and complex system. To claim that a trace gas in the atmosphere – CO2 – drives the climate is absurd. Even James Lovelock, father of the Gaia movement, has admitted that climate scientists are scared of the physics because they don’t know anything about physics. He added that they don’t know much about clouds either. Other sceptics have noted the inadequate scientific education of most climate ‘scientists’. Just look at Tim Flannery: no relevant expertise at all. As for Al Gore, what a charlatan yet I bet moronic lefty teachers are still lauding him in our schools.

  • Jack Richards 01/04/2018, 7:19 am

    Sooooo … Gillian Triggs is now an expert on Climate Science as well as everything else. And, as usual, anyone who disagrees with that disgusting old crone is “ignorant”, “ill-informed” “provocative” and spreading a “false view”.

    • Lorraine 01/04/2018, 7:42 am

      Gillian has no shame, being left is being right, I know all, you know nothing you utter underling. Much as Hilary Clinton thinks people like her and trust her, she is rejected her speaking fee is down from 150 thousand to just 25 thousand. Triggs would be smart to keep her mouth shut on all topics. There is plenty of proof now that puts what the alarmist would have you believe, there is a place for COAL, it would be good if the Greens get reality in their brains

  • Clarion Call 01/04/2018, 7:24 am

    At last! some sensible and far reaching legal debate about this climate change scam. When the judge gives these zealots the right royal boot up the khyber pass things may change somewhat for the next brazen attempt by these climate crooks to fool the world on the dynamics of weather, world wide.

  • Graham Richards 01/04/2018, 10:42 am

    The warmists need a really devastating event for shock them back to reality.
    What the oil companies in California should have done is pleaded guilty as charged & in repentance immediately shut down the wicked oil & gas supplies in the whole state.revert to horse & cart, candles & smoke signals for communication.
    Murder of warmists would also become legally acceptable.
    All the above would need about 3 weeks to rid most of the country of warmists. Problem solved and panic in the rest of the western warmist world.

  • Aktosplatz 01/04/2018, 11:00 am

    I’ have always wanted this – the AGW case tested in a court of law, where plaintiffs are under oath to tell the truth for once and not fake the results of any tests.

    Perjury is a serious crime and I would like to see the likes of Tim Flannery in court to substantiate his claims and to show cause why he should not be ordered too pay back much of the money he has obtained through Climate Alarmism.

    Likewise I would like to see a public apology from the JCU in Townsville to the late Prof.Bob Carter and to the current victim, Prof. Ridd.

    This may have to go through a court of law first – I say,”Bring it on.”

  • OPA 01/04/2018, 11:34 am

    But besides all that our stupid politicians, from Turnbull down stubbornly keep on believing this idiotic scam and keep on dismantling our coal fired power supply in favour of covering the nation in bird murdering wind mills. WHY, BLOODY WHY??

    • Biking Voter 01/04/2018, 4:03 pm

      Simples. It’s called the U.N.

  • Graham 01/04/2018, 12:35 pm

    Must have been a hell of a brain fart to take the oil companies to court and not realise that you need to present valid evidence for what you are claiming.
    All the alarmists have managed to do is set themselves up as a bunch of boneheads.

  • Albert 01/04/2018, 1:11 pm

    Gillian Triggs, Luigi Di Natale and Sarah Hanson-Mungbean were all cast in the same mold.

    • Biking Voter 01/04/2018, 4:04 pm


      • Neville 02/04/2018, 1:13 am

        Well, not exactly, as such.
        With a nod to CC, below, ‘mold’ is generally US; ‘mould’ is typically english. But there’s a bit of a language drift going on, where ‘mold’ is starting to refer to a cast or a die, etc, and ‘mould’ remaining the word more applicable to the fungus, or rotting leaf litter, etc.
        Funny how language creeps; and politicians, too. And catastropharians.

  • Clarion Call 01/04/2018, 2:10 pm

    Yes, and they had to break that mould to hopefully ensure no more deluded and really dislikeable humans like those three can be reproduced to change the face of Australia with their ultra-left wing ideology.

  • Clarion Call 01/04/2018, 4:40 pm

    BV: Mould is the English spelling . Mold is the American version of the same thing. Both
    words can be used today without the language purists going ape. Colour v color is yet another example of spelling crossover. Would never have been accepted in my early days of churning out copy for inflexible subbies/editors.

    • Neville 02/04/2018, 1:23 am

      Tru enuf, A wot? (LOL)
      Interesting though; there’s a reasonably persuasive argument to embrace the drift to shorter, more phonetic spelling. Over time, of course, so it doesn’t confuse people, and get the purists’ noses all out of joint!
      Truly wonderful examples of English abound due to extensive imports over the centuries. This pearler: “I loughed my plough in the slough through hitting a bough; a bit rough though, as I had to cough up more dough to fix it. Tough!”.

  • angry 03/04/2018, 8:32 am




  • angry 03/04/2018, 8:35 am

    Imagine a path of 1 kilometre of atmosphere and we want to rid it of human carbon pollution. We’ll have a walk along it:

    The first 770 metres are Nitrogen. The next 210 metres are Oxygen.

    We’ve travelled 980 metres of the 1 kilometre path with 20 metres to go.

    The next 10 metres are Water Vapour — 10 metres left.

    9 metres are Argon —- Just 1 more metre to go.

    A few gases make up the first bit of this last metre.

    The first 38 centimetres of the kilometre – a bit over a foot- is CARBON DIOXIDE. The heaviest of them all.

    97% of this CO2 is produced by Mother Nature. It’s natural and essential for life on earth and the sea.

    So, out of our journey of one kilometre, there are just 12 millimetres left (about half an inch — just over a centimetre) which is produced by man.

    This small amount of carbon dioxide constitutes the total amount which ‘Global’ human activity puts into the atmosphere and of those 12 millimetres, Australia puts in .18 of a millimetre — less than the thickness of a human hair, an insignificant portion of the kilometre.

    As a hair is to a kilometre – so is Australia’s contribution to what Mr Turnbull calls Carbon Pollution.

    Imagine Brisbane’s new Gateway Bridge, ready to be officially opened by Turnbull. It’s been polished, painted and scrubbed by an army of workers till its 1 kilometre length is surgically clean. But wait a moment, Mr Turnbull says we have a huge problem, the bridge is polluted – there’s a human hair on the roadway. We’d laugh ourselves silly.

    There are plenty of real pollution problems to worry about.

    It’s hard to imagine Australia’s contribution to carbon dioxide in the world’s atmosphere is one of the more pressing ones. And I can’t believe a new tax on everything is the only way to blow that pesky hair away.

    Perhaps we all need to just take a few deep breaths.

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