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Federal Judge Dismisses Climate Change Damage Lawsuits Against Big Oil

Is it really fair for we who benefited from fossil fuels to blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded?

ExxonMobliTimBinghamDreamstimeTim Bingham/DreamstimeA federal district court has dismissed the nuisance lawsuit filed by the California cities of Oakland and San Francisco against five major private oil companies seeking to obtain climate change damages. As I argued earlier, the court made the right decision.

The five companies—BP, Chevron, Conoco-Phillips, ExxonMobil, and Royal Dutch Shell—collectively are responsible "for over 11 percent of the carbon dioxide and methane pollution that has accumulated in the atmosphere since the industrial revolution." The cities asserted that they were entitled to billions of dollars in compensation on the grounds that companies knew that their sales of fossil fuels were damaging the climate. As a result of rising global temperatures, municipalities argued that they will be forced to pay for changes in infrastructure required to adapt to consequences of this warming, such as rising sea levels.

Judge William Alsup of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California had earlier ordered both the plaintiff cities and defendant oil companies to brief him on the scientific background of man-made climate change as well as the costs and benefits of burning fossil fuels. In his opinion, Judge Alsup provides a succinct history of the evolution of science with regard to climate change and notes: "The issue is not over science. All parties agree that fossil fuels have led to global warming and ocean rise and will continue to do so, and that eventually the navigable waters of the United States will intrude upon Oakland and San Francisco. The issue is a legal one—whether these producers of fossil fuels should pay for anticipated harm that will eventually flow from a rise in sea level."

Alsup observes that the cities' claim "rests on the sweeping proposition that otherwise lawful and everyday sales of fossil fuels, combined with an awareness that greenhouse gas emissions lead to increased global temperatures, constitute a public nuisance." The judge then does a close analysis of federal public nuisance law and prior court decisions. In order to find that a defendant's activities amount to an actionable public nuisance under federal common law, courts must find they have engaged in an "unreasonable interference with a right common to the general public."

Judge Alsup noted that legal commentary on public nuisances requires that courts consider a balancing test aimed at "determining whether the gravity of the interference with the public right outweighs the utility of the actor's conduct." To conduct that test, "it is necessary to consider the extent and character of the interference, the social value that the law attaches to it, the character of the locality involved and the burden of avoiding the harm placed upon members of the public."

In his decision, Alsup observed:

With respect to balancing the social utility against the gravity of the anticipated harm, it is true that carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels has caused (and will continue to cause) global warming. But against that negative, we must weigh this positive: our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal. Without those fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible. All of us have benefitted. Having reaped the benefit of that historic progress, would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded? Is it really fair, in light of those benefits, to say that the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable?

This order recognizes but does not resolve these questions, for there is a more direct resolution from the Supreme Court and our court of appeals, next considered.

In his review of prior relevant Supreme Court and other federal court decisions, Alsup concludes that applying federal common law in this case is legally inappropriate. First, because Congress, through the Clean Air Act, has vested in the Environmental Protection Agency the problem of greenhouse gases and given it plenary authority to solve the problem at the point of emission. And second, because man-made climate change is a global problem, it necessarily involves foreign affairs which are properly under the purview of the Executive and Legislative branches of our government.

As Alsup writes:

This order fully accepts the vast scientific consensus that the combustion of fossil fuels has materially increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which in turn has increased the median temperature of the planet and accelerated sea level rise. But questions of how to appropriately balance these worldwide negatives against the worldwide positives of the energy itself, and of how to allocate the pluses and minuses among the nations of the world, demand the expertise of our environmental agencies, our diplomats, our Executive, and at least the Senate. Nuisance suits in various United States judicial districts regarding conduct worldwide are far less likely to solve the problem and, indeed, could interfere with reaching a worldwide consensus.

Quite right.

The judge further noted that neither city has so far spent any money on building seawalls or other infrastructure to guard against rising sea levels.

John Coté, a spokesman for the San Francisco city attorney, told The New York Times: "This is obviously not the ruling we wanted, but this doesn't mean the case is over," he said. "We're reviewing the order and will decide on our next steps shortly." However, Mr. Coté added, "We're pleased that the court recognized that the science of global warming is no longer in dispute," he said. "Our litigation forced a public court proceeding on climate science, and now these companies can no longer deny it is real and valid. Our belief remains that these companies are liable for the harm they've caused."

Here's hoping that other judges who are hearing similar lawsuits against oil companies, brought by New York City among others, will heed this decision.

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    • BestUsedCarSales||

      Ugh.

    • Cy||

      Disney feel good movies = Science!

    • ||

      "This order fully accepts the vast scientific consensus that the combustion of fossil fuels has materially increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which in turn has increased the median temperature of the planet and accelerated sea level rise."

      It has?

      Personally I like this better:

      "...With respect to balancing the social utility against the gravity of the anticipated harm, it is true that carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels has caused (and will continue to cause) global warming. But against that negative, we must weigh this positive: our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal. Without those fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible. All of us have benefitted. Having reaped the benefit of that historic progress, would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded?"

    • Ron Bailey||

      R: Both are quoted in my article. Just saying.

    • ||

      I know. That's where I got them!

    • Agammamon||

      What article?

    • ||

      Ok. Now I'm getting really woozy.

    • ||

      vast scientific consensus that the combustion of fossil fuels has materially increased atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, which in turn has increased the median temperature of the planet and accelerated sea level rise

      And allow me to point out that we're again, as usual, equivocating about this "vast scientific consensus." The "vast scientific consensus" is that the planet is warming and that human activity in some form may be contributing to that warming.

      That the warming is primarily caused by CO2 from burning fossil fuels and is causing catastrophic sea level rise has considerably less "vast consensus" behind it.

    • BYODB||

      ^ Exactly this.

      The consensus is always cited in ways that are clearly disingenuous, are we to seriously believe that everyone is too stupid to actually read said consensus?

      And, with that said, there is at least some reasonable questions about how significant the temperature rise is when you use raw measurements instead of 'adjusted' values even though there are reasonable arguments for why they're adjusted on a site-by-site basis. The satellite record is also questionable, and at the very least doesn't span a statistically significant length of time. (Which, by the way, a 'statistically significant' length of time exceeds the lifespan of our species.)

      The fact of the matter is that H2O is a far more significant greenhouse gas, and the feedback that climate change disciples claim will happen has never been observed to be real. There's also no way to significantly control H2O in our atmosphere, let alone CO2, so it's something of a fools errand that will probably end with some lunatic geoengineering us into a real problem.

    • sharmota4zeb||

      According to the maps I've seen, it will end with my town having beachfront property. I'm not worried.

    • damikesc||

      Yeah. Those studies of this overwhelming percentage of support for this have always been utter bullshit.

    • MoreFreedom||

      Seems to me, these government entities suing Big Oil, should be suing people who buy gasoline or diesel. The oil companies aren't burning the fuel, the drivers are. Might as well sue gun and car manufacturers because people use guns to rob banks then use cars to get away.

      But then, these governments and their employees would have to quit using cars, along with their lawyers and families, and switch to horses and buggies. Then people can sue them for not cleaning up the horse poop and creating a hazard on the roads. Plus they'll have a hard time getting to their horses given how governments don't allow them to be kept in cities. The whole thing is ridiculous.

      Bailey is too kind in calling these lawsuits "distractions". They're really nothing more than government jurisdictions trying to use the court to steal like they did with the Big Tobacco lawsuits. Imagine if they'd won: gas prices would go up for everyone essentially taxing people for more government (including people who don't even own cars because most still use gasoline to get around with public transportation or Uber, and we all pay for transporting goods/services to our homes).

    • Number 2||

      Is a Rule 11 Motion coming?

    • Tony||

      "Sure the defendant murdered all those people, but think of how much money the surviving family members will save at Christmas!"

    • Ron Bailey||

      T: Obama or Trump should have submitted the Paris Agreement to the Senate for ratification. District courts are not the proper venue for addressing a global commons problem.

    • Last of the Shitlords||

      Ron, Ron, Ron.......

      Trying to 'Reason' with Tony, while commendable, is sadly a fruitless endeavor.

    • damikesc||

      Why would Trump, who opposed it, submit anything to the Senate for ratification if he does not want it ratified? Obama alone should have. Trump was right to just kill it dead, given that Europe won't honor it anyway.

    • BYODB||


      Trump was right to just kill it dead, given that Europe won't honor it anyway.

      Correction: Has not honored it to date.

      Expecting them to suddenly give a shit about it tomorrow seems...unlikely unless we're all suggesting that maybe Russia should reacquire lots of those little border states and become the primarily supplier of electricity for Europe. (Someone has to burn something 'dirty' to get that power, so logically off-shoring generation is the fastest way to 'decarbonize')

      I'm sure there will be no bad ends there given what Russia has already done to fuck over Europe with energy production and transmission.

    • sharmota4zeb||

      Now that we've switched from coal to natural gas in many power plants, there might be a net global reduction in CO2 production if companies bring manufacturing back the to USA from China as a result of a trade war.

    • JFree||

      Unless we pay for it in bitcoin

    • BYODB||

      Indeed, it would be a little unusual to hold an American corporation liable in American courts for the actions of Indian or Chinese corporations in other countries. Especially when, by all accounts, America leads the entire planet in actually increasing the costs of our electricity for the sake of unknown or ill-defined goals.

      I suspect that, eventually, things like CO2 emissions could be a part of a declaration of war on another country. When you start to view developing nations as polluters who are trying to kill the planet itself, it really could end up in some pretty deranged places.

    • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

      It was the Paris "agreement", not the paris "treaty, ratified by the people via their duly elected representatives in the Senate".

      One of those two is much easier to sign on to and get sycophantic slobbering from the media.

    • Just Say'n||

      I think that type of unhinged "logic" lost the day

    • Sevo||

      "Sure the defendant murdered all those people, but think of how much money the surviving family members will save at Christmas!"

      I used to think you were just dishonest; it has become obvious that you certainly are, but you're stupid, besides.
      Hint: A dishonest assertion is not an an argument.

    • ||

      "Sure the defendant murdered all those people, but think of how much money the surviving family members will save at Christmas!"

      Not that the functioning retards playing the character of Tony Clifton would every attempt to assemble an honest argument, but the better analogy is along these lines:

      "Sure your child died from VDPV but think of how much money the families of the children who won't get polio will spend at Christmas."

      It's a crass thing to say but it is true. Life is full of trade-offs and cost-benefit analyses. Sockpuppeting the character of a progressive means you are completely incapable of putting that much thought into taking a position.

    • Plow Horse||

      "As a result of rising global temperatures, municipalities argued that they will be forced to pay for changes in infrastructure required to adapt to consequences of this warming,..."

      Give me a break. Suing for damages you might incur in the future? I've been to San Francisco; the ocean's pretty much in the same place it's always been.

    • stuartl||

      To the west?

    • Sevo||

      "But questions of how to appropriately balance these worldwide negatives against the worldwide positives of the energy itself, and of how to allocate the pluses and minuses among the nations of the world, demand the expertise of our environmental agencies, our diplomats, our Executive, and at least the Senate."

      Or, perhaps those with skin in the game: the market.

    • Z565||

      I think it's a reasonable posture to argue for a new taxation of fossil fuels to offset the collateral damage we now are aware they have been causing. The alternative is selfishly enjoying the benefits of fossil fuels while passing off the enormous costs to a future generation. The best outcome would be getting to use the most cost efficient energy and avoiding climate problems by finding a way to undo the damage done by fossil fuels.

    • Sevo||

      "...The alternative is selfishly enjoying the benefits of fossil fuels while passing off the enormous costs to a future generation..."

      Facts not in evidence.

    • Gilbert Martin||

      Get back to me when you can quantify the "enormous costs" exactly as definitively as I can prove that my car has 4 wheels attached to it.

      Otherwise they don't exist.

      There are only two categories of proof of affirmative condition claims: absolutely definitive proof or absolutely nothing.

    • AIZombie||

      " I can prove that my car has 4 wheels attached to it."

      Incorrect.
      There are 5 wheels attached.

    • Sigivald||

      Selfishly!!

    • Agammamon||

      Ah, ah, ah - 'aware they have been causing' is an assertion not supported by this judgement.

      All we 'know' is that human activities have increased atmospheric CO2 to some extent and this has, to some extent, caused an increase in median surface temperatures.

      1. Exactly how much of the current atmospheric CO2 is due to human activities is not known.

      2. Exactly (even to a very loose accuracy) how much the increase in median surface temperatures is due to that increase in CO2 is not known.

      3. There is no damage due to '*anthropogenic* climate change' that anyone can point to. So we're *not* aware of any collateral damage they're causing. In fact, a major point of that judgement was that SF couldn't actually point to any harms suffered, let alone any remedial actions taken to guard against future harms that they're 100% certain are going to happen. If you *say* you're certain something is going to happen and you take no action to mitigate the consequences - then you don't really think its certain, do you?

      So, no, I don't think its a reasonable posture.

    • JFree||

      1. Exactly how much of the current atmospheric CO2 is due to human activities is not known.

      Oh for fucks sake. The current CO2 reading is 410 ppm. The reading when that data series started in 1958 was 310 ppm. The estimate for pre-industrial is 160 ppm. The progression since 1958 is as steady and predictable as you can possibly get.

      The atmospheric O2 reading shows an identical decline from its starting point in 1990.

      The only thing that's 'natural' in those series is the seasonal blips each year. EVERYTHING else is human and the combo is direct evidence of what part of the CO2 increase is due to fossil fuel combustion (burn O2 to produce CO2) and what may be due to other human factors (deforestation, land use, etc).

      Exactly (even to a very loose accuracy) how much the increase in median surface temperatures is due to that increase in CO2 is not known.

      So what? We ARE producing the CO2 change. We are doing so by consuming a resource that we did not and cannot produce. The consumption of that resource is a THEFT from future generations and is a violation of usufruct. It doesn't matter what the damage may or may not be since future gens can't recover anything from us anyway (and we're not going to pay for any damages either). What we should be doing is try to reduce that theft going forward

    • damikesc||

      LIBERTARIANS AGAINST PROGRESS!!

      WE WANT THE STONE AGE BACK, DAMMIT!!!

    • JFree||

      LIBERTARIANS FOR LOOTING!!

      WE WANT OUR SUV!!!

    • NotAnotherSkippy||

      Stop breathing, you're using up all the oxygen!!!!

    • JFree||

    • BYODB||


      The estimate for pre-industrial is 160 ppm.


      Curious, then, that any life exists on Earth given that ~170 PPM CO2 is known to be an end-of-the-world scenario as plant-life can not survive, generally speaking, in CO2 concentrations that low (PPM = Parts Per Million genius).


      Prehistoric levels of CO2 have been at least as high as ~1500- ~3000 PPM, and no one seriously disputes that data or that life was exploding during that period of time (circa 500 million years ago).


      If you're going to spout bullshit, I'd suggest making it less obvious that you have no idea what you're talking about.

    • JFree||

      Yeah I read the wrong data point. From Scripps which tracks the CO2 and O2 series, it was 280 or so pre-industrial.

      Prehistoric levels of CO2 have been at least as high as ~1500- ~3000 PPM, and no one seriously disputes that data or that life was exploding during that period of time (circa 500 million years ago).

      That accumulation of dead matter since life came ashore is what we are burning now. And yes there is likely a difference between CO2 changes that are exogenous (any fast change is the result of something geologically catastophic) and CO2 levels that are endogenous (the fast change is the result of us).

      The Eocene Age (56 million - 34 million years ago) (in reverse) is the best climate proxy for where we are headed with life-created CO2. The shorter Paleocene (66-56 million years ago) which preceded it is merely the recovery from a mass extinction.

    • JFree||

      The only previous life-created CO2 change - during the Eocene - was the azolla event. Which produced a massive drop in CO2 - from roughly 3000ppm (the Arctic was roughly comparable in climate to rice-growing areas today) - to 650ppm (roughly the current Earth with polar ice) over 800,000 or so years.

      Our timeframe of impact so far (for admittedly much smaller changes) ain't 800,000 years. It is VERY fucking reasonable for us for us to figure out how to change our fossil fuel impact - BEFORE we discover those azolla deposits (assuming they have turned into fossil fuel) and just burn them.

    • ||

      I agree that it's worthwhile to find ways to reduce CO2 emissions. I disagree with the hyperbolic certainty that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are the exclusive cause of warming and that immediate drastic government action is the only solution.

      I also posit that there may be other ecological issues in the world besides CO2 emissions that aren't being addressed because of the political fixation on fossil fuels.

    • JFree||

      I disagree with the hyperbolic certainty that anthropogenic CO2 emissions are the exclusive cause of warming and that immediate drastic government action is the only solution.

      Nor am I making either assertion. The only assertion I am making is that the CO2 growth IS anthropogenic. And it most certainly is.

      My other assertion has little to do with the current climate discussion and is more of general philosophy that I take to be quite libertarian. Which is - just because everyone in the world is looting doesn't mean its either a)ok or b)not really looting.

    • BYODB||

      This seems to amount to question begging since it's obvious that fossil fuels are finite in nature, much like how we already know there are alternative fuel sources that would already be in play if not for fear mongering by the very same groups that now want to cut the nuts off of fossil fuels.

      How strip mining for solar panel materials and/or windmill materials is significantly different in nature is anyone's guess.

    • NotAnotherSkippy||

      Carbon sequestration is primarily geological and has been heading in the wrong direction for millions of years. The idea that it's all hiding in coal beds and oil fields is laughable.

    • ||

      The consumption of that resource is a THEFT from future generations

      By that logic, isn't the consumption of any non-renewable resource theft from future generations? Even theft from current people who aren't using the resource because you are?

    • JFree||

      By that logic, isn't the consumption of any non-renewable resource theft from future generations?

      If it is chemically altered to be unrecoverable - yes. If it is merely pulled out of the ground and altered in form - no.

      Fossil fuels fit the former. Metals/etc fit the latter. We may mine copper/iron - but whatever we make from it can either be recycled by us or deposited into a convenient landfill for future generations to mine.

      And I'm not an extremist at all with that logic. I am merely saying - that is the ACTUAL direction we need to go re the resources we use. All the crap about trying to predict/model/fearmonger the future is just that - crap.

      What we should be doing more of is figuring how to recycle or contain combustion or at minimum UNDERSTAND exactly what we are doing with those resources at an elemental level. And the cost of doing that is absolutely a cost that must be incorporated into the prices of those resources.

      Even theft from current people who aren't using the resource because you are?

      idk what this means.

    • NotAnotherSkippy||

      What we should be doing more of is figuring how to recycle or contain combustion or at minimum UNDERSTAND exactly what we are doing with those resources at an elemental level.

      Jesus Christ. We aren't doing anything at an elemental level. This isn't a nuclear reaction, dumbass. And yes, we CAN make any hydrocarbon fuel we want from water and carbon (the latter usually in the form of CO2). But there is no POINT of recycling because we're interested in the energy and not the materials.

    • JFree||

      Then try to CONTAIN the combustion you fucking dumbass

      there is no POINT of recycling because we're interested in the energy and not the materials.

      Well that's the whole point you cretin. What WE'RE interested in is something for nothing and screw the impact of any externalities. I could use the same argument to bash you over the head and steal your house - because I'M interested in it and not the animals occupying it. Your argument rationalizes everything including - drumroll - THEFT.

    • BYODB||

      It seems the only solution to stealing from non-existent people is to kill the one's doing the stealing today since notably they're the only tangible in this equation.

      It's probably not coincidence that this has already been suggested. Suggested a lot, in fact, even while most of the time it's carefully couched language so you don't notice what depopulation actually represents.

      The biggest irony, to me, are people like JFree who use electricity while imploring the government to make sure they can't have it. Where does voluntarism go, exactly, when you start down this road? Do you just strangle it and leave it in a ditch?

    • NotAnotherSkippy||

      it isn't something for nothing, dipshit. WE. GET. THE. ENERGY. That is the whole damn point. And precisely what externalities? You realize that by breathing YOU are consuming chemical energy and producing water and CO2. Do you contain that? Why do you hate children?!!

      Your argument rationalizes everything including - drumroll - THEFT.

      From whom? Oh, that's right, "future generations" who, when THEY use the resources that we didn't, will be "stealing" from generations after their own. Are you truly so stupid as to not realize that your logic literally means that no one can EVER consume ANY resource on this planet?

    • JFree||

      Oh, that's right, "future generations" who, when THEY use the resources that we didn't, will be "stealing" from generations after their own. Are you truly so stupid as to not realize that your logic literally means that no one can EVER consume ANY resource on this planet?

      No. What I understand is that you don't actually understand what abusus is - and how it is different from usus - so you simply combine them into the word 'use'. Which means you don't actually understand what PROPERTY and OWNERSHIP is either.

    • Sevo||

      JFree|6.26.18 @ 10:24PM|#
      "Oh, that's right, "future generations" who, when THEY use the resources that we didn't, will be "stealing" from generations after their own. Are you truly so stupid as to not realize that your logic literally means that no one can EVER consume ANY resource on this planet?"
      --------------------------
      "No. What I understand is that you don't actually understand what abusus is - "

      No, asshole, making up definitions to justify your religion leaves YOU unable to understand the argument.
      There is no logical defense for your claim that use of resources of unknown reserves has anything to to with abusus; that is simply your nonsense on stilts.

    • NotAnotherSkippy||

      You're a moron. That "theft" would be caused by future generations when THEY consume and in turn deprive further future generations from consuming. And future generations do more than "recover" from us today. They INHERIT.

    • JesseAz||

      And weve had higher co2 levels in Earth's history dummy.

    • Sevo||

      "...The consumption of that resource is a THEFT from future generations and is a violation of usufruct..."

      You claim this is 'others' property'?
      Whose?
      I claim bullshit.

    • JFree||

      You claim this is 'others' property'? Whose?

      The same entity that creates 'natural rights'.

    • Sevo||

      JFree|6.26.18 @ 10:18PM|#
      "You claim this is 'others' property'? Whose?"
      -----------------------
      "The same entity that creates 'natural rights'."

      So you hope your dishonesty or stupidity in claiming they are 'natural rights' will go unquestioned? You are a slimy piece of shit:
      'Natural rights' are simply the liberties all humans are born with; they are not 'created'. As a human, I can do whatever I please, until, in society, I cause harm to another human being.
      Only an idiot or a bleever would presume the use of a resource of unknown reserves would claim any connection to 'natural rights'.
      Idiot of bleever?

    • JFree||

      'Natural rights' are simply the liberties all humans are born with

      ALL HUMANS. Not merely humans of this generation

      they are not 'created'

      Of course they are since they can be destroyed

    • Sevo||

      JFree|6.27.18 @ 12:33AM|#
      "'Natural rights' are simply the liberties all humans are born with
      ALL HUMANS. Not merely humans of this generation"

      Uh, how many generations in advance do we need to deal with in your religion, asshole?
      -------------------------------------
      "they are not 'created'
      Of course they are since they can be destroyed"

      And purple is stuff since green.
      Did you have anything other than bullshit?

    • JFree||

      Uh, how many generations in advance do we need to deal with in your religion, asshole?

      Sufficient to cover YOUR use of the term ALL HUMANS. If you want to destroy natural rights of some humans - then why should I trust that that will merely be future generations that you choose to destroy?

    • Social Justice is neither||

      Do you mean something like a gas tax? if only we had one of those.

      Or maybe if only we had one of those used for the actual purposes it was intended instead as a slush fund of extra cash for vote buying projects while leaving actual road maintenance & construction to be funded by future bonds.

    • JFree||

      I agree. But only if that taxation going forward is NOT spent by us. The harm is going to be done to the future - and we already have 20 trillion reasons not to trust this current generation at all.

      and I really don't know how we could save those taxes in a form where we can pay it forward in REAL (not some bullshit like the SS 'trust fund') terms. Maybe rebuilding the commodities stockpile which we used to have (since those require energy/carbon to produce) via some way of monetizing them. Or setting aside carbon-sink land.

    • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

      Yeah, let's take ourselves back to the Stone Age. I'm sure our descendants will love that lifestyle.

    • JFree||

      Our descendants won't inherit our lifestyle. They will only inherit the fossil fuels we don't combust - and the climate and weather patterns that result from the fossil fuels we ourselves burned.

      What you're really saying is - What's the problem looting from our kids and grandkids? They can't stop us so fuck em.

    • ||

      So if you leave the fossils fuels in the ground for future generations, aren't they then looting from us? Why do they have more of a right to them than we do?

    • NotAnotherSkippy||

      They need to be saved for the last generation of course.

    • JFree||

      So if you leave the fossils fuels in the ground for future generations, aren't they then looting from us? Why do they have more of a right to them than we do?

      They have as EQUAL a NATURAL right to them as we do. The resource preceded both generations and is created by God/nature/etc not by either of us.

      Think of it like this - using Thomas Jeffersons quote about usufruct - I set out on this ground which I suppose to be self evident, "that the earth belongs in usufruct to the living;" that the dead have neither powers nor rights over it. The portion occupied by an individual ceases to be his when himself ceases to be, and reverts to the society.

      The generations are merely people standing in line. God creates all the bounty of the Earth and places it before the first gen in line. Says the Earth itself is MY creation (property) but you can use it (usus) and gather the fruits of it (fructus). Property in a legal sense involves usus AND fructus AND abusus. Abusus is what the first generation in line does if it consumes the resource in the sense I'm talking about. But God/nature didn't grant the Earth to that first generation as full property/ownership - only as usufruct while they live. The following generation has the EQUAL right of usufruct.

    • ||

      I put forth by that same logic that those not yet born have no more rights than those who are now dead. Your logic says no one has the right to use fossil fuels, or any finite resource, ever. I just don't agree with that.

    • JFree||

      Your logic says no one has the right to use fossil fuels, or any finite resource, ever.

      That's not where the logic goes at all. You yourself said - right to use. Usus. That's not the same as right to abuse. Abusus.

      The stuff that comes out of a crude refinery is usus. Burning some of those products the way we do is abusus. But it is quite possible that, with knowledge/technology, something that is abusus today can be usus tomorrow. UNTIL that change occurs however, we cannot claim the right of abusus because we don't own nature. Nature owns itself. We only have rights of usufruct.

      Abusus is really an important legal concept that has huge implications for dealing with environmental stuff (and actually any intergenerational stuff - like say public debt). Dumping toxins in a river is per se abusus. Enslaving our children's labor to our debt is per se abusus. Neither of those require that someone else prove the harm to us in a court of law to constitute abusus. They ARE abusus.

    • JFree||

      Even Locke indirectly addresses the issue of abusus - Nor was this appropriation of any parcel of land, by improving it, any prejudice to any other man, since there was still enough and as good left, and more than the yet unprovided could use. So that, in effect, there was never the less left for others because of his enclosure for himself. For he that leaves as much as another can make use of, does as good as take nothing at all.

      Those bolded bits constitute abusus if they are violated. And when violated, they constitute a taking, a theft.

    • ||

      So what you're saying is that we have no right to use anything that will be consumed by use? What about food, or lumber? Are those okay to use because they are replenished so much faster than fossil fuels are? What if some people in the world are starving? You could be eating food that could be feeding them - are you stealing from them?

      How is it that we can be morally wrong to use fossil fuels today because people in the future might want them? Why aren't the people in the future immoral for wanting them? Can't we save them the immorality of using them by using them all up first so that they aren't tempted?

      And lastly, do you realize that what you're saying in the end is that we can't burn any fuel but wood, which will compound the CO2 emissions problem that you're looking to solve by at least an order of magnitude?

    • JFree||

      What about food, or lumber?

      Those are fructus. Eliminating entire species - that's abusus.

      The rest is just nonsense you're spouting and quite consciously conflating use and abuse as if they are the same thing.

    • Sevo||

      JFree|6.26.18 @ 10:13PM|#
      "Those are fructus. Eliminating entire species - that's abusus."
      Because your religion says so?

      "The rest is just nonsense you're spouting and quite consciously conflating use and abuse as if they are the same thing."
      Your dishonesty or stupidity in claiming one or the other is noted.

    • NotAnotherSkippy||

      since there was still enough and as good left,

      You mean like US oil reserves for instance? Ehrlich lost his bet. But more to the point, the universe is dying whether you want it to or not. Resources don't have an infinite shelf-life, so the foolish notion that we can save this for future generations who will then somehow be able to magically violate the second law of thermodynamics requires a special kind of stupid.

      Further, the debt that we pass along to our children is accompanied by the assets that we pass along as well. Funny how you never mention that part. Per capita income ain't falling, nor is wealth.

    • Sevo||

      "Further, the debt that we pass along to our children is accompanied by the assets that we pass along as well. Funny how you never mention that part. Per capita income ain't falling, nor is wealth."

      JFree is full of shit on many levels:
      Let's start with the presumption on his part that 'our decedents' own anything at all. That is a religious concept with no basis in logic at all, and anyone using it in a debate has immediately proven his argument to be so much emotional whining.
      Fuck off, JFree; take your religion with you.

    • JFree||

      Further, the debt that we pass along to our children is accompanied by the assets that we pass along as well.

      Ah yes. The massive government deficits are good so big government is good wing of libertarianism

    • Sevo||

      JFree|6.26.18 @ 10:16PM|#
      "Further, the debt that we pass along to our children is accompanied by the assets that we pass along as well."
      --------------------------
      "Ah yes. The massive government deficits are good so big government is good wing of libertarianism"

      Ah, yes, the stupid and dishonest JFree once again posts wilful ignorance!
      Way to go, asshole!

    • Sevo||

      JFree|6.26.18 @ 3:04PM|#
      "Our descendants won't inherit our lifestyle. They will only inherit the fossil fuels we don't combust - and the climate and weather patterns that result from the fossil fuels we ourselves burned."

      So whines the simple-minded and dishonest neo-Malthusian, totally without a shred of evidence to support his religious bleefs.
      --------------------------------------
      "What you're really saying is - What's the problem looting from our kids and grandkids? They can't stop us so fuck em."

      What I'm saying is that you're a pathetic bleever, whining about your bleefs without a bit of evidence.
      And, to make it worse, in your stupidity and dishonesty, you want to use the government to support your religion.
      Fuck off, scumbag.

    • damikesc||

      These enormous costs are...where?

    • uunderstand||

      The best outcome would be getting to use the most cost efficient energy . . .

      So you support the use of nuclear energy.

    • sharmota4zeb||

      American home buyers are starting to prefer properties that are not next to the ocean. We're already taking the appropriate steps to mediate our damages.

    • Sevo||

      "American home buyers are starting to prefer properties that are not next to the ocean. We're already taking the appropriate steps to mediate our damages."

      I've yet to see evidence of that, but let's discuss how a population can adapt to changes over the span of 50 years, when the modes of transportation were foot, hoof and (latterly) railroads:
      http://physics.bu.edu/~redner/projects/
      population/cities/chicago.html

      Chicago population:
      1840 92 4470
      1890 2 1099850
      Now, this was not driven by a 'natural disaster', nor was it in any way 'assisted' by government fiddling; this was simply people opting for what they saw as an opportunity and going there.
      But now there is no way people can choose to live elsewhere, cause *TRUMP!!!!*, I guess, or some such bullshit, and we need the government to tell us where and when we should go.

    • Flinch||

      I'm thinking several SF and Oakland legal minds should be disbarred after this stunt which amounts to pre-emptive damages [aka "imagineering"]. The suit is an official act of fraud deserving a RICO case. I suppose it all dovetails with so called "hate crimes", where what is not as important as the governments assertion that society/government has both the right and the means to read peoples minds and examine the results in court without a mechanism to first arrive at a sentencing hearing with a guilty verdict on something that actually took place. In a normal case, anyone seeking a judgement has to... show damages.
      Like others here, I am also maddened by the judge tipping his hat to the "consensus" narrative [alongside blindly accepting the GIGO produced by computer models] - that's a talking point invented by political hacks [the only group who is collectively stupid enough to think science is up for a vote]. If government grants got stripped away tomorrow, we would find anything but consensus, and scientists bitterly divided even where the majority maintain an intellectual concern.
      Next up? SF sues Hawaii for the gas emissions of its recent volcanic events. They can go to hell on that one too.

    • Gozer the Gozarian||

      RICO standards are so high, that RICO is rarely if ever used or allowed to be used in legal cases.

    • Flinch||

      I know. But there is one serious flaw in how they are generally applied that seems to be in need of a remedy: when government initiates some kind of inside/outside game, should we care who birthed a criminal conspiracy? The standard practice of looking at private individuals first, then looking at government particpants second could be construed as unequal application of the law/professional bias. Anyway, asking for damages before any have occurred is a shakedown, and if the judge was awake he could at least thrown some sanctions at the attorneys attempting to present with an effectively empty valise. Put another way, the court was planned to be used to exercise a plan of fraud/theft by city attorneys with an end game of imbuing grand theft with legitmacy with the help of a judge - they do not deserve a pass. Perhaps the starting point could be attempted wire fraud/conspiracy, and the US atty office can dig from there to forge some much needed case law stripping the defacto immunity wrongly enjoyed by government lawyers abusing process like the ethical cripples they are.

    • Flinch||

      One footnote for anyone that might not have spotted it: a political shakedown procedure is generally not attempted without some private entities already being lined up to get a part of the settlement on the front end. It could be contracts, or grant instruments, or programs that are predestined to go to a party/parties that will generate something beneficial [as in outright campaign contributions] to the government parties involved. Some might disagree with that notion, so for them... ask where did the tobacco settlement monies go? Most states would be hard pressed to account for real value enjoyed by the people in excess of 50%.

    • Gilbert Martin||

      "Our belief remains that these companies are liable for the harm they've caused."

      If there is any harm, it was caused by all the drivers, farmers, boat owners, etc. etc. who actually burned the fossil fuels.

      Try suing every one of them individually and see how far you get.

      All these government attorneys are merely partisan political hacks engaging in ever sillier stunts.

      Just like that nonsense about suing the feds claiming that the FCC ending net neutrality was "unconstitutional" It's no more "unconstitutional" to repeal it than it was to enact it. In fact I don't recall seeing anything in the Constitution that authorizes the creation of anything like the FCC at all to begin with.

    • Hank Rearden||

      Shame someone hasn't pointed out all the money they spent on this that they could have used for "affordable housing" in San Fran. The world needs more independent cost-benefit analysis. If we spend $XM on attorney fees then we can't spend $XM on whatever other...

    • CE||

      Isn't there also the small legal technicality of proving that some sort of harm actually occurred?

      Plaintiff: "Your honor, it's 0.6 degrees warmer than it was 40 years ago! And the defendants made this happen!"

      Judge: "So you're suing for higher air conditioning bills?"

    • ||

      Judge: "So you're suing for higher air conditioning bills?"

      Unfortunately, the warming has manifested in milder winters rather than hotter summers. I'm having a hard time finding the damages angle on that.

    • BYODB||

      The damages angle seems to be 'oh no, we'll be able to grow crops in Greenland again. The horror.'

    • NotAnotherSkippy||

      Just like we did 1000 years ago. Fucking time traveling CO2.

    • BYODB||

      Yeah, never before has a basic element of air been blamed for so much while doing so little.

      Science as religion is a really bad look on people.

    • Sigivald||

      Our litigation forced a public court proceeding on climate science, and now these companies can no longer deny it is real and valid

      Does he really think that's how that works?

    • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

      Yes.

    • Flinch||

      Spot on. After the dow/corning orchestrated panic using the courts, anyone thinking lawyers have any place in matters of science need to pay more attention.
      What the public proceeding comment reveals is that... they are surprised that the case wasn't tossed at the outset, which does in fact make it a victory of sorts. The hacks are doing an end zone dance, because now that thiis absurdity can get an audience, they just need to line up the right arguments to go with a little judge shopping for a big payday.

    • Gozer the Gozarian||

      Holy crap, this ruling can also be used against cities suing firearms manufacturers. Their whole legal argument has just collapsed.

      Awesome ruling!

    • Paul L.||

      Reason still part of the catastrophic anthropogenic climate change cult.

    • perlchpr||

      So, I know it would never happen, because coordinating everyone would be impossible and even if not, they'd probably all get arrested if they tried, but I'd honestly like to see the oil and gas companies just say, "Ok, fine, you hate us. We quit." And then shut down for a week. And watch all the usual suspects start screaming when all of a sudden they actually get what they're asking for, good and hard.

    • Let freedom ring||

      Did anyone mention solar ir radiance theory of climate change? If correct the major influence on climate change is solar activity, not greenhouse gases. Did the judge get to review a parallel but very alternative theory?

    • BYODB||

      It's sort of just taken as a given that solar output is fixed even while it's well known that it is absolutely is not and, furthermore, we don't fully understand it's cycles. At all.

    • perlchpr||

      Look, everyone knows that it's just foolish to think that the sun might have any impact on the global temperature.

    • Hank Phillips||

      "Al parties" do not agree climate is warming, and thermometers flatly deny the allegation. Nearly 32000 scientists signed the Petition Project successfully persuading the Senate to not ratify the Kyoto Capitulation. These are the 97% of people with science degrees who are on record as affirming that physics (measurement) knows no global warming trend and plots a slight cooling trend for all thermometer stations this past century. Realclimatescience shows how to get the data and chart the graphs.

    • Duelles||

      Thank you Judge! It's bit like suing your mother for giving birth to you knowing all the time that that would ultimately lead to your death.

    • Migrant Log Chipper||

      I'm using this.

    • markm23||

      JFree|6.26.18 @ 2:24PM|#
      "I really don't know how we could save those taxes in a form where we can pay it forward in REAL (not some bullshit like the SS 'trust fund') terms."

      We _are_ paying it forward - not by government taxation and fiat, but by private enterprise. We are continually developing new technology, which will enable our descendants to accomplish more per unit of energy used, to drill deeper and recover more oil and natural gas, to not only mine where we can't mine today, but to refine lower grade ores until we can just drop ordinary rocks in the hopper and extract iron, aluminum, and glass, and eventually to be able to mine landfills and recover materials we now throw away as having no further use. And hopefully, some day governments will get out of the way and allow development of fusion power.

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