Scientists and experts skeptical that human activity will cause a climate catastrophe have filed briefs with the court, likely disputing claims from cities and oil companies about global warming.
A brief written by noted skeptic Lord Christopher Monckton and colleagues argues “the Court should reject Plaintiff’s case and should also reject those of Defendants’ submissions that assert that global warming is a serious problem requiring urgent mitigation.”
The U.S. District Court of Northern California will hear a five-hour “tutorial” on climate science on Wednesday. Parties in the lawsuit will answer eight questions put forward by Judge William Alsup on climate science. It’s the first time a federal court has ever put climate science on trial, and skeptics want to dispel the notion we know enough about global warming to hold companies liable for it.
“There have been no detrimental changes observed in the most salient climate variables and today’s projections of future changes are highly uncertain,” reads a separate brief filed by Princeton University physicist William Happer, New York University physicist Steven Koonin and Massachusetts Institute of Technology climatologist Richard Lindzen.
San Francisco and Oakland are suing five major oil companies, including ExxonMobil, for damages allegedly caused by man-made global warming, arguing Big Oil covered up the knowledge their products would change the climate and should pay for current and future damages.
Trial lawyers representing the cities — as well as six other California localities and New York City — stand to make billions of dollars in contingency fees should the court side with their clients.
Oil companies are expected to argue human greenhouse gas emissions were the main driver of recent global warming and that it is a problem, but their legal filings contest their liability and the use of courts to settle what’s considered a global matter. Exxon also pointed out that cities claiming climate catastrophe failed to mention those dire predictions in bond offerings, potentially committing fraud.
However, Happer, Koonin and Lindzen filed a brief that likely challenges assertions made by the defendants and plaintiffs in the court’s “tutorial.”
“[I]t is not possible to tell how much of the modest recent warming can be ascribed to human influences,” wrote Happer, Koonin and Lindzen, “and there have been no detrimental changes observed in most salient climate variables and projections of future changes are highly uncertain.”
Happer and his colleagues did not challenge that CO2 causes warming, but argued current warming was within the bounds of natural variability and that human additions of greenhouse gases were an extremely small share of what nature throws up every year. They also challenged climate models.
“Projections of future climate and weather events rely on models demonstrably unfit for the purpose,” the scientists wrote. “As a result, rising levels of CO2 do not obviously pose an immediate, let alone imminent, threat to the earth’s climate.”
In a separate brief, scientists and climate experts again challenged claims made by both parties in the lawsuit. “It is not a problem at all,” reads the brief filed by experts affiliated with the conservative Heartland Institute.
The Heartland brief, among other things, challenged the idea there’s a “consensus” that global warming is mostly man-made, answering the eighth question posed by Judge Alsup.
“[T]here is no agreement among relevant experts on the fraction of observed warming since 1950 that was anthropogenic,” reads the brief, written by experts including Monckton, astrophysicist Willie Soon, statistician William Briggs and former Delaware state climatologist David Legates.