Human Exceptionalism

Global Warming Hysteria: Unleashing the Lawyer Pack!

So, now the weather is going to be blamed on industries thought to contribute to global warming. And if the weather causes damage, the industries will be made to pay! From the story:

From being a marginal and even mocked issue, climate-change litigation is fast emerging as a new frontier of law where some believe hundreds of billions of dollars are at stake. Compensation for losses inflicted by man-made global warming would be jaw-dropping, a payout that would make tobacco and asbestos damages look like pocket money. Imagine: a country or an individual could get redress for a drought that destroyed farmland, for floods and storms that created an army of refugees, for rising seas that wiped a small island state off the map. In the past three years, the number of climate-related lawsuits has ballooned, filling the void of political efforts in tackling greenhouse-gas emissions.

Eyeing the money-spinning potential, some major commercial law firms now place climate-change litigation in their Internet shop window. Seminars on climate law are often thickly attended by corporations that could be in the firing line — and by the companies that insure them.

This tactic needs to be stopped in its tracks by the force of law prohibiting such cases!

Think about the irrationality that would seep into law.  Verdicts would, by definition, be based on inadequately proven science about a matter of such complexity that true causality would be impossible to truly demonstrate. For example, should the people harmed by Katrina be able to sue Chevron? There is no evidence that Katrina was caused by Chevron (or global warming), but, hey–somebody has to pay! It would turn the law on its head because it would be based on theories, hypotheses, and consensuses, not direct and probative evidence.

As a lawyer, I am offended–and alarmed.  Allowing such cases would obliterate the legal concept of proximate causation–that is, there must be a direct cause between action and harm–as there was in tobacco litigation and asbestos litigation.  This is different: If a farmer loses a crop in Kansas in a gale blamed on warming, how can there be a proximate cause to a coal mine in West Virginia?  After all, CO2 can’t be traced to any individual source.  And while we’re at it, if one “carbon polluter” is sued, why wouldn’t it bring every other one on the planet into court as joint defendants?  The procedural implications are staggering.

Such lawsuits would stifle economic development. It would destroy incentive to invest. It would make it impossible to obtain insurance, which means, to do business. What about those jobs people keep saying they want? It would punish people and industries that haven’t done anything wrong. It would redistribute income, with much of it going into lawyers’ wallets. It would set lawyers off on a hunt–and I’m a lawyer, I know what we’re like when we get the scent of prey.  Heck, the prospects of being able to dig through industry files during discovery would get environmental lawyers salivating, even if a victory in court was unlikely.

That these lawsuits are becoming a realistic threat demonstrates how much we are driven by hysteria on the issue of global warming.  Time to get a grip!

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