Courting Climate Comedy

Courting Climate Comedy

The descent of climate science into the surreal is about to take another comedic slide. A judge has ordered the State of California and a handful of oil companies to present to him on 21 March “a two-part tutorial on the subject of global warming and climate change.”

Why? The cities of San Francisco and Oakland representing California are suing. They claim that British Petroleum and a group of other oil companies have created a “nuisance”. How? By not admitting, or hiding, or fibbing about what they knew about their product’s influence on global warming.

Of course, as we’ll see in a moment, nobody knows how much influence oil sales have on global warming. But the judge says he can learn all he needs to know about these kinds of attributions in court. Over four short hours.

The judge ordered that his first lesson should “trace the history of scientific study of climate change, beginning with scientific inquiry into the formation and melting of the ice ages, periods of historical cooling and warming, smog, ozone, nuclear winter, volcanoes, and global warming.”

Lawyers from California, or whatever experts they pay to be their honest mouthpieces, get one hour. Then oil companies, or their experts, get an hour.

Lesson two “will set forth the best science now available on global warming, glacier melt, sea rise, and coastal flooding.” Another hour for each side.

It’s anybody’s guess what the judge will make of the information he receives, or how it will play in the remainder of the trial. But given the state of disagreement among the world’s top experts, four hours isn’t enough to do justice to the subject.

Now if anybody tells you he can peg the exact contribution any company has made to global warming, he is either lying or a lunatic, or he is too in love with his slide rule.

The temptation to lie, perhaps by omission, when there is lots and lots and more than lots of money that can be taken from rich oil companies cannot be underestimated. Lunacy is unlikely, but can’t be dismissed, especially if any of the people involved in the trial are convinced the world is doomed unless we give up fossil fuels.

The slide-rule quip must be explained. In order to attribute a change in the climate to click here to read the rest.


  1. Lee Phillips

    It’s certainly true that the collision of science with the practice of jurisprudence invariably leads to all kinds of mischief. But Briggs’ passing comment about

    “the state of disagreement among the world’s top experts”

    is misleading. Serious estimates on the level of agreement among actual climate scientists on the rough facts of anthropogenic global warming range from 97% to 99.99%:

    This near-unanimity doen’t mean that the scientists are right, of course, but to deny the consensus itself is simply to deny Reality.

    “Now if anybody tells you he can peg the exact contribution any company has made to global warming, he is either lying or a lunatic, or he is too in love with his slide rule.”

    This is true, and a separate issue, of course.

  2. Sheri

    The 97% statistics indicates a complete failure of this sight to educate people about statistics—or a person so invested in their religion they cannot learn. Sad.

  3. Joy

    Anybody who hears these kinds of statements about percentage certainty and who has a small amount of interest and ability to think critically will know there’s something fishy about such a statement. People may not know how to describe why this sounds wrong without the help of a statistician and a more careful look at the details but a good proportion aren’t so silly. They’re just too busy, disinterested or trusting of science and it’s advocates to care to argue or investigate.

    Lee Philips
    1. why do you push the fallacy that a consensus is a safe verdict in science?
    I thought you had conceded this point some time ago.

    This, all before the consensus itself is actually inspected as to how it is formed and characterised in reality. The so called consensus isn’t one. Just the illusion of one. Point one is still more important though.

    There is a consensus in North Korea about many things. (To exaggerate to illustrate.)
    So there’s that peer pressure as opposed to peer review, element in the mix which is now so toxic that mistrust reigns. Very unhealthy.

    The money is the biggest driver and is therefore the easiest solution.

    The whole thing’s duller than ditchwater. It’s time to drain the lifeblood from the system.
    Saying no to Europe was a big part of that process. Thousands of six figure salaried people out of work when that finally falls. Who would not be noticed as much as the outman to coming for more than week!

  4. Joy

    Who would not be noticed as much as the dustman not coming for a couple of weeks!”
    Fake spell check on board again! I noticed Will Nischke (my spelling) complaining about this a while ago during some heated discussion. Very strange.
    Why can’t people just be honest?

  5. DMA

    It seems that the judge my possess more wisdom than we give him credit. If the law suit is to regain damages, the existence of uncertainty should preclude defined damages and thus be reason to drop the case. The plaintiff in a damages suit cannot claim any damage they wish without meeting a burden of proof required by the court. In addition the damage is surely not the result of selling the oil but that of burning it. So the court is required to find evidence that the oil companies withheld knowledge of the damage their product would cause if used duping the state into allowing the use of the product indiscriminately resulting in proven damages. Doesn’t the state have a duty to understand the potential damage they cause by allowing the burning of the oil companies products? Isn’t it the states business to protect it’s people? A finding of shared responsibility could cause the case to be dropped.

  6. Joy

    You may also already know about the court case in England brought by a Welsh Lorry Driver, if I remember correctly, who did not want his child indoctrinated on the subject in school.

    Regarding the Inconvenient Truth film. The judge ruled on nine major errors or problems with it. There were more noted. The movie cannot be shown in British schools now without the errors being pointed out. Material which contains the opposing arguments must also be provided.

    There are laws in England on indoctrination in school and on religious teaching in school. Teachers MUST provide some religious content in their school. Religious education is on the curriculum.

  7. Ray

    Fortunately they don’t have this judge. I followed the Microsoft antitrust case and judge Jackson was a technical incompetent. His findings of fact in this case were hilarious if you know anything about computers and operating systems. I think his shortcomings became apparent to everybody and that’s why he was replaced.

  8. Milton Hathaway

    About the only thing I am absolutely certain about in the CAGW debate is that atmospheric concentration level of carbon dioxide will continue to rise on the current trajectory in the future, unaffected by what groups of humans decide to do or not do about it. Simple economics and immutable human nature.

    Given that belief, this court case seems particularly silly, like a group of self-important fleas holding court on the future of the dog upon which they reside.

  9. Kalif

    Greetings to all,

    Debating the % of scientists who agree/disagree is irrelevant, as nature doesn’t care. What matters are the observable events.
    New Your City has the best subway system in the country, more than 100 years old, designed by some very smart people. Nevertheless, during one of the recent hurricanes, water spilled into subway tunnels, flooding some parts and even the electrical switches (transformers?) were affected and power went out.

    Now, if things like these were happening on fairly regular intervals when it was built, they would have never built it in the first place (engineering was much smarter in some respects back then-less red tape and less waste). Similar things are happening in some places around the globe, and even though they are fairly infrequent, the consequences are noticeable. Regardless of the cause of the climate change (we only know we are adding to it, but not to what extent), the potential consequences are very real and any future building projects etc., should have that in mind. Not that it guarantees any success, but pretending the business as usual is somehow going to magically solve it all is ridiculous.

    Again, nature does not care what we think or do.

  10. Joy

    There isn’t a problem.
    Flooding subways isn’t evidence of anything on a global scale.
    Floods happen and always will.
    One hundred years is a blip in the timescales of Earth.
    One red dot on your tummy isn’t evidence of small pox. .

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