Next time, sue the weath­er­man

Fed­eral court blows away ‘global weird­ing’

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion -

Cli­mate alarmists have lost a ma­jor court case that had the po­ten­tial for turn­ing ev­ery weather emer­gency into end­less lit­i­ga­tion. It’s a vic­tory for the law, for sci­ence and for com­mon sense.

On Tues­day, Fed­eral Judge Louis Guirola Jr., in the South­ern Dis­trict of Mis­sis­sippi, dis­missed the case of Comer vs. Mur­phy Oil for lack of stand­ing. Gulf Coast prop­erty own­ers had sought to hold a grab bag of en­ergy com­pa­nies re­spon­si­ble for dam­age they suf­fered from Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in 2005. The plain­tiffs claimed the power com­pa­nies know­ingly had en­dan­gered them by emit­ting un­safe lev­els of car­bon diox­ide. The case was dis­missed in 2007, then res­ur­rected by the 5th Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in 2009. The lat­est rul­ing should put an end to it.

For the prop­erty own­ers to be able to claim dam­ages, the court would have had to ac­cept some vast log­i­cal leaps. First is the highly spec­u­la­tive ar­gu­ment that car­bon-diox­ide emis­sions con­trib­ute to cat­a­clysmic weather. There is no sta­tis­ti­cal ev­i­dence that hur­ri­canes, tor­na­does, cy­clones or other ex­treme weather events have been in­creas­ing in fre­quency. Nev­er­the­less, af­ter ev­ery dis­as­ter, cli­mate alarmists ex­ploit the suf­fer­ing by claim­ing it is an ex­am­ple of “global weird­ing.” Be­cause warm­ing has stopped, this vague no­tion — which can en­com­pass just about any weather fluc­tu­a­tion — is all they have.

Sec­ond, the court would have to link Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina specif­i­cally to car­bon-diox­ide emis­sions. It would have to ac­cept that the tim­ing, in­ten­sity and route of the hur­ri­cane were caused by — or at least un­duly in­flu­enced by — emis­sions enough to have caused the dis­as­ter. This would be spec­u­la­tive to the point of ab­sur­dity. Hur­ri­canes have al­ways been with us. Cli­ma­tol­o­gists still have an in­com­plete un­der­stand­ing of what causes them and the fac­tors that de­ter­mine their life cy­cle. Even uber-alarmist Al Gore said days af­ter the Ka­t­rina tragedy that “no sin­gle hur­ri­cane can be blamed on global warm­ing.” This may be the only thing about the cli­mate he has got­ten right.

Third, the court would have to be able to as­sess ex­actly how and to what de­gree the de­fen­dants con­trib­uted to Ka­t­rina. The alarmist ar­gu­ment rests on the pre­sump­tion that warmer ocean tem­per­a­tures will cre­ate more de­struc­tive storms. If that is true, it would be un­just to hold a group of Amer­i­can en­ergy com­pa­nies solely re­spon­si­ble. The plain­tiffs might as well have sued ev­ery­one in the world who drives a car, uses a dry cleaner or breathes be­cause all those ac­tiv­i­ties emit car­bon-diox­ide.

Em­pow­er­ing such ex­pan­sive law­suits was the prime mo­tive at work. Warmists sought to es­tab­lish a le­gal frame­work in which torts could be used as handy weapons to in­tim­i­date the en­ergy sec­tor or any­one they felt was stand­ing in their way. If the Comer case had gone for­ward suc­cess­fully, ev­ery ma­jor weather event — hur­ri­canes, floods, bliz­zards, you name it — would have been fol­lowed by a bar­rage of law­suits filed by af­fected par­ties and backed by en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist le­gal teams.

For­tu­nately, Judge Guirola un­der­stood that it takes more than shaky sci­ence, a cause cele­bre and a na­tional tragedy to make a com­pelling case. The sci­ence may not be set­tled, but hope­fully the law is.

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