Manager Report

Climate Change moves to the Courts

After a very prolonged winter here in the Midwest in which thoughts of global warming never once even entered my mind, it appears that several environmentally conscious cities have been very busy planning their next move. While climate change proponents seem to have suffered some major setbacks regarding national policy and public opinion, several cities are now taking their argument to the next battleground, the courtroom.

You might be pondering much as I did, if this environmental issue is making its way to the criminal court system, then who would be the defendant?  It comes as no surprise that big oil and their deep pockets, are firmly in their sights. The likely suspects are BP, Chevron, Conoco Philips, Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell. They stand accused of knowingly and willingly suppressing information pertaining to the planetary destruction associated with fossil fuels. Inexplicably, coal companies have not been named in the lawsuits, but keep in mind that those that survived the Obama regulatory assault have just begun the long road to recovery so their pockets are somewhat empty.

The one thing that is perfectly clear is that money is clearly the motivation and further analysis of the cities who are preparing for this legal battle such as New York City, San Francisco, Oakland, and Boulder Colorado each are in desperate need of additional revenue sources. New York City alone has a pension shortfall of around $65 billion. It is also no surprise that these cities want to have these legal proceedings take place in state courts where they assume they will have much more sympathetic judges and juries, and where any rulings would include all possible perks such as compensatory damages, attorney’s fees, punitive damages and access to big oil company profits.

Let’s stop and think about that for a minute. Try to think of a product that has benefited society more than petroleum. These plaintiffs are focused on the highly objective and wildly unproven environmental costs of carbon-based fuels and carbon dioxide emissions while conveniently ignoring their enormous benefits. Think of those little items such as lights, heat, clothing, transportation, communication, healthcare and countless other marvels of science. Try to imagine how many lives have been saved with just the short- list of benefits provided.  If we could conduct an honest analysis, the benefits of carbon exceed their costs by at least 50:1, to as much as 500:1. Talk about proverbially shooting the horse we are all riding.

If there is any good news it lies in the fact that a Federal District judge has ruled that the case must be tried in federal courts, since the claims “depend on a global complex of geophysical cause and effect involving all nations of the planet.” Although never a complete certainty, a federal courtroom should make it much harder for these litigant happy cities to suppress what they deem inconvenient information or key witnesses. Lets all hope this is just another in the long-line of global change failures as we all know what happens when new costs are added to a business, the consumers end up paying for it.