Ludicrous ambulance chasing

People affected by worsening storms, heatwaves and floods could soon be able to sue the oil and power companies they blame for global warming, a leading climate expert has said.

By comparing the weather now with that which would be extant if the industrial revolution had never happened they say that they can tell you whether a particular flood, drought, heatwave, was caused by climate change or not.

Hmm. One point: the oil companies don\’t in fact have very large carbon footprints. It\’s their customers (ie, you and me) that do, so that would be where the legal liability, if any, lay.

There\’s also the point that Mr. Sen\’s water buffalo that he uses to plough his rice paddy contributes (as does the rice paddy) so we should be suing him as well.

It just ain\’t gonna work, is it?

11 comments on “Ludicrous ambulance chasing

  1. OK. As long as they’re forced to then live in a stone house with a thatch roof with no central heating or lighting, work on the land with a scythe, have no TV, no electronic toys for their kids, no holidays ever, and never go anywhere outside of a 10 mile radius of their home, I think they should be allowed to sue for destroying their world.

  2. No legal action resulted, but Allen said that was partly because most of the deaths were in France, where the legal system makes such cases difficult.

    IIRC, most of the deaths were in France because the heat wave happened in August, when most of the staff who should have responded to the crisis were off on holiday.

  3. disrupted power supplies and led to train services being cancelled, motorways closed

    People are going to sue oil and power companies because of interruptions to service of power supplies and oil-fueled transport (allegedly) caused by the environmental effects of power companies providing power, and oil companies selling oil?

  4. Alternatively we could sue all producers of CO2, such as every person on the planet who breathes out.

    But seriously, since we all produce CO2 by breathing, how could a law be framed or judicial decision be made that makes it ok to sue some CO2 producers such as oil companies but not everyone alive ?

  5. It’s impossible to know what the climate would have been doing without human influence because there’s no way of knowing this. There’s no control.

    Here’s Carl Wunsch on the website of the Royal Society:

    “So now we come to the modern climate problem. We know that it is capable of remarkable changes without human intervention. We also know that it has elements with very long memory times (the ocean, the ice caps, and some land processes including the biota). There is the possibility of solar fluctuations about which we know very little. The instrumental record only goes back about 300 years (being very generous) and global coverage is only really available following World War II. In many cases, we have no direct evidence for the spatial structures of natural variations and so find it almost impossible to compare observed changes with those known not influenced by human activities.

    Many scientists therefore rely upon numerical models of the climate system to calculate (1) the nature of natural variability with no human interference, and compare it to (2) the variability seen when human effects are included. This approach is a very sensible one, but the ability to test (calibrate) the models, which can be extraordinarily complex, for realism in both categories (1) and (2) is limited by the same observational data base already describe. At bottom, it is very difficult to determine the realism by which the models deal with either (1) or (2)

    Thus at bottom, it is very difficult to separate human induced change from natural change, certainly not with the confidence we all seek.”

  6. If we’re worrying about the c.30,000 who lost their lives ‘unnecessarily’ in the 2003 heatwave, shouldn’t we take into account that an average winter kills many more.

    Since we’re more likely to die from cold than heat, shouldn’t we sue the Greens for causing Granny’s death from catching a lurgy in winter?

  7. Two points already touched on in comments are (a) that the greenhouse effect is generally accepted to be of positive benefit to the world until it’s 1 degree C warmer. Most productive parts of the world are relatively cool. And (b) how much worse is the climate compared to say 1900. There has been no discernable increase in hurricanes, droughts or heatwaves even with the insufficient timescale available to us.

    It could be looked at from an externality point of view also. Put a price of say $7 per ton of Co2 (Nordhaus and IPCC 2007), the ‘social cost of carbon’ and just let society take things from there. But as Tim has argued we are already comfortably covering this through existing environmental taxes.

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