Sunday, April 18, 2010

The War of the Warms

Yesterday Ecocosmology Blog had a post about a global warming scientist, a geologist, who had predicted, over 2.5 years before it erupted, the current volcanic eruption in Iceland that has shut down air traffic in Europe.

A while back Dredd Blog had a post about a lawsuit concerning global warming, where the plaintiffs won a temporary appellate victory against oil companies.

They had sued oil companies for causing global warming, which caused storms to increase in severity, damaging their properties when hurricane Katrina hit the coast.

They had lost in the federal district court, had won the appeal heard by three judges of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but had lost in their opposition to having it re-heard en banc (before all the judges on that court).

The case is now pending an oral argument hearing before all of the judges of the Fifth Circuit, while both sides prepare their briefs and prepare for that oral argument.

It seems to me that if the Fifth Circuit judges knew of the scientist who predicted catastrophe in the exact place it happened with the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, the case could be made stronger that environmental damage was foreseeable to oil companies, like cancer was foreseeable by tobacco and asbestos companies.

The tobacco and asbestos companies historically had lied under oath before congress, their lawyers had continually argued that the damage to individuals was not foreseeable, and therefore not a "proximate cause" of the injuries which the plaintiffs suing them had suffered.

The tobacco and asbestos companies eventually lost that argument so their practices were modified by the judicial system.

This would be a good time for that to happen to the oil complex because they are stuck in the exact same mindset as the tobacco and asbestos companies were ... "what damages ... what proximate cause".


  1. Good post, although law suits alone will never put a stop to the companies profiting from current energy arangements. There's just entirely too much profit in continuing business as usual. Besides, there's no other source of energy in the offing that would even remotely make up for fossil fuel shortages in the short term, so its really a moot point.

    As to long term effects and the prospect of getting government intervention, it will continue to play out like it is now. Energy companies will continue to dispute the evidence at every turn, demanding hyper unrealistic proof of global warming before acting, knowing full well the the public will go alonmg with whatever's best for them in term's of short term economics. Worse, as the evidence for global warming becomes incontrovertible, they'll react by saying, "Oh shit, you were right. Unfortunately, the damage has already been done. Better to switch our efforts to dealing with the negative effects." And in fact, they WILL be right at that point, the damage will already be done and the only remaining actions to take will be to deal the consequences.

    Three interlocking factors guarantee that all of this is going to end VERY badly. 1. Climate change is real and catastrophic effects are already locked in due to current and past emissions. 2. Peak oil is real, we've already passed it, and oil is only going to get more expensive and harder to come by from here on out. 3. Nearly every government on earth, and none more so than the US, is wedded to fractional reserve banking and MOUNTAINS of debt, and are slaves to the exponential growth equation finanacially. Therefore none can afford the mammoth amount of long term R&D and social support that would actually be required to get the world off of fossil fuels in any reasonable time. Most will never even try at all, meaning a showdown(s) over remaining fossil fuel reserves is inevitable, as are the full effects of global warming.

    Finally, the coming military showdowns over resource shortages will actually be an entirely rational act and a good thing from the earth's overall perspective. At 6B and counting, we've clearly exceeded the earth's carrying capacity for humans several generations ago, and the first logical step to getting a handle on our energy abuse will be to cull the heard by a few billion or so. It won't be pretty, but it's absolutely necessary. Here's hoping that it's the 1st world energy abusers who get culled first.

  2. disaffected,

    When catastrophes are predictable by scientists we are already there.

    Using denial to put it off in our minds does not change "the real world" around us that is now performing like a Toyota with a bad accelerator pedal.

    That denial is based on our fear of death:

    "A recent paper by the biologist Janis L Dickinson, published in the journal Ecology and Society, proposes that constant news and discussion about global warming makes it difficult for people to repress thoughts of death, and that they might respond to the terrifying prospect of climate breakdown in ways that strengthen their character armour but diminish our chances of survival. There is already experimental evidence suggesting that some people respond to reminders of death by increasing consumption. Dickinson proposes that growing evidence of climate change might boost this tendency, as well as raising antagonism towards scientists and environmentalists. Our message, after all, presents a lethal threat to the central immortality project of Western society: perpetual economic growth, supported by an ideology of entitlement and exceptionalism."

    (Dredd Blog, 3/7/10, emphasis added).

  3. I wonder why the tobacco and asbestos companies didn't argue that the cancer their products would cause would be good for the planet because it would reduce overpopulation?

    Hell, maybe they did, but if so that argument didn't work either.

  4. Yes, the psychological aspects are undeniable as well. I've seen this in action many times in discussions with co-workers and acquaintances who became irrational and visibly upset when the conversation turned to either global warming or peak oil. The very title "doomer" signifies the MSMs attitude toward those who holds those views.

    The irrational belief in technology to magically fix any problem great or small is this generation's sham religion, and like all the sham religions before it, it's guaranteed to disappoint. Especially when the science that precedes the technology is skewed by faulty preconceptions as well.

  5. disaffected,


    So many people do not know that scientists know the Sun will destroy the earth and all the planets out to Mars, at least, and therefore those scientists qualify as "doomers".

    Good point about the religious aspects ... we need to get busy with real, saving science and lose the 3,000 year old "rocket science" if we are to prevail long term.

    In the mean time preventing death is the best reaction to the fear of death IMO.