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Climate Change Questions

Edward A. Reid Jr.
Posted On:
May 1, 2018 at 6:53 AM
Climate Change

Judge William H. Alsup of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco Division will hear the case “The People of the State of California vs. B.P. P.L.C., et al. This case is a civil suit against five major oil companies for alleged present and alleged potential damages caused by global warming and climate change.

The judge has invited a tutorial on the best science available on global warming and climate change as a prelude to the trial. This tutorial is to be provided by both the plaintiff(s) and the defendants. The court has also received an Administrative Motion for leave to submit a tutorial presentation from climate scientists William Happer, Stephen Koonin and Richard Lindzen. The Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP) is pursuing the possibility of filing an amicus brief with the court as well, since it believes it has been slandered in the City of Oakland complaint which is part of the suit.

The Happer / Koonin / Lindzen (HKL) presentation responds point by point to the questions raised by the judge to be responded to in the tutorial. The overview section of the HKL presentation makes the following points:

  1. “the climate is always changing; changes like those of the past half century are common in the geological record, driven by powerful phenomena;
  2. human influences on the climate are a small (1%) perturbation to natural energy flows;
  3. it is not possible to tell how much of the modest recent warming can be ascribed to human influences; and,
  4. there have been no detrimental changes observed in most salient climate variables and projections of future changes are highly uncertain.


The presentation then provides detailed responses to the questions posed by the judge.


The SEPP brief would likely focus on the “standards of evidence: direct or indirect; physical or bureaucratic.”


“Physical evidence is hard data showing CO2 is the primary cause of global warming. Increasing emissions, changing climate, etc. are not physical evidence of cause. Bureaucratic evidence includes global climate models that fail basic testing, and group think such as organizations that fail to address the key issue in their reports, etc. The key issue is: do carbon dioxide emissions cause dire warming of the atmosphere? SEPP’s answer is no, and CO2 emissions are beneficial to humanity and the environment.”


SEPP would be expected to stress that:


  1. there are no hard data on the contribution of anthropogenic CO2 emissions to recent climate warming or sea level rise;
  2. the available temperature data are of questionable accuracy and provide incomplete global coverage;
  3. the available climate models are unverified, are acknowledged to be unrepresentative of the actual climate and have demonstrated no predictive ability; and,
  4. the available sea level rise data show no acceleration during the period of interest (post 1950).


Viscount Christopher Monckton of Brenchley and a group of scientist colleagues also filed a brief with the court, asserting that: ““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.” This brief is most likely based on a recent scientific paper the group has submitted for publication.


Dr. Judith Curry has posted a detailed response to the eighth question posed by the judge for the tutorial at her website. It is unclear whether Dr. Curry intends to file a response with the court.


There is no current information regarding potential filings by other skeptical climate scientists, though that is certainly a possibility. Since much of the concern expressed by the plaintiff regards the potential future impacts of sea level rise, separately and in combination with more frequent and stronger storms, a presentation on these issues by Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr. might be a significant contribution.


“I don’t know of any judge who has asked for a tutorial like this,” said Steven E. Koonin, a physicist and former Energy Department undersecretary known for his contrarian views on global warming research. “I think it is a great idea. Anybody having to make a decision about climate science needs to understand the full spectrum of what we know and what we don’t know.”


“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.”, Donald Rumsfeld