Three strikes: Expert witnesses challenged by judge over graph, climate history, and claims of a “smoking gun”.
Last week I noted that U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California is overseeing the lawsuit that the cities of Oakland and San Francisco filed last fall against six fossil fuel giants. The two cities are seeking to hold the oil companies liable for the cost of infrastructure upgrades and remediation expected as they deal with effects of rising sea levels.
Alsup requested both sides present information related to the science of climate change, in the form of a tutorial, so he could become verse on the science and terminology. My first report on the tutorial featured the sound analysis offered by Team Big Oil.
Climate change activists are used to having their assertions accepted by an unquestioning media. So, it is likely they thought they were safe from detailed inquiry in a Northern California court. However, when Team Climate Change was up at bat, and it appears they might have stuck out.
During the tutorial, the judge pointed to several inaccuracies in the data and materials provided by the plaintiffs, sometimes to the embarrassment of climate change activists.
Alsup also castigated the plaintiff’s claims of a “smoking gun” document that would prove the conspiracy claims true. The plaintiffs pointed to a report that the companies had in their possession as proof they knew about the nefarious effects of climate change in 1995.
The “smoking gun” document in question proved to be a regurgitated summary of a 1995 report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. At the time of its release, the report was subject to significant scrutiny by many in the scientific community because it was riddled with huge uncertainties.
“There was a conspiratorial document within the defendants about how they knew good and well that global warming was right around the corner,” Alsup said. “Well, it turned out it wasn’t quite that. What it was, was a slide show that somebody had gone to the IPCC and was reporting on what the IPCC had reported, and that was it. Nothing more.”
Perhaps the part of the exchange that warmed my skeptic’s heart was when Alsup chided one expert witness about his graph and asked another about the cause of the Ice Age.
…Judge Alsup started quietly. He flattered the plaintiffs’ first witness, Oxford physicist Myles Allen, by calling him a “genius,” but he also reprimanded Mr. Allen for using a misleading illustration to represent carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and a graph ostensibly about temperature rise that did not actually show rising temperatures.
Then the pointed questions began. Gary Griggs, an oceanographer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, struggled with the judge’s simple query: “What do you think caused the last Ice Age?”
The professor talked at length about a wobble in the earth’s orbit and went on to describe a period “before there were humans on the planet,” which “we call hothouse Earth.” That was when “all the ice melted. We had fossils of palm trees and alligators in the Arctic,” Mr. Griggs told the court. He added that at one time the sea level was 20 to 30 feet higher than today.
Mr. Griggs then recounted “a period called ‘snow ballers,’ ” when scientists “think the entire Earth was frozen due to changes in things like methane released from the ocean.
Legal Insurrection readers may remember my piece on mass extinction events, which show that catastrophic climate change has occurred several times prior to the worldwide use of fossil fuels. I suspect it is going to be difficult to convince the judge that Team Big Oil has significant liability for a small change in the level of carbon dioxide, an essential plant nutrient.
It appears that the legal umpire did some homework before the tutorial, and called the factual strikes as he saw them.DONATE
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