Climate Public Nuisance as a justification for Climate Mitigation

Ron Clutz, at his Science Matters blog, has a penchant for producing some interesting articles that open up new areas outside of the mainstream of either climate alarmism or climate scepticism, some of which may challenge my own perspectives. With Critical climate intelligence for jurists and others, Ron has done this again.
There is a lot of ground covered here, and I am sure that it just touches on a few of the many issues. The first area covered is the tort of Public Nuisance, explained by legal scholar Richard O. Faulk. This touches upon areas that I have dealt with recently, particularly this section. (bold mine)

Generally in tort cases involving public nuisance, there is a term, which we all know from negligence cases and other torts, called proximate causation. In proximate causation, there is a “but for” test: but for the defendant’s activity, would the injury have happened? Can we say that climate change would not have happened if these power plants, these isolated five power plants, were not emitting greenhouse gases? If they completely stopped, would we still have global warming? If you shut them down completely and have them completely dismantled, would we still have global warming? 

I think Faulk then goes off the argument when he states.

Is it really their emissions that are causing this, or is it the other billions and billions of things on the planet that caused global warming—such as volcanoes? Such as gases being naturally released through earth actions, through off-gassing?

Is it the refinery down in Texas instead? Is it the elephant on the grasses in Africa? Is it my cows on my ranch in Texas who emit methane every day from their digestive systems? How can we characterize the public utilities’ actions as “but for” causes or “substantial contributions?” So far, the courts haven’t even reached these issues on the merits.

A necessary (but not sufficient) condition to be met for adverse human-caused global warming to be abated, is that most, if not all, human GHG emissions must be stopped. Unlike with smoke particulates, where elimination in the local area will make a big difference, GHGs are well-mixed. So shutting down a coal-fired power station in Oak Creek will have the same impact on the future climate change for people of South-East Wisconsin as shutting down a similar coal-fired power station in Boxburg, Ningxia, Mpumalanga, Kolkata or Porto do Pecém. That is in the range of zero or insignificantly different to zero depending on your perspective on CAGW.

Proximate causation was a term that I should have used to counter Minnesotan valve-turners climate necessity defense. As I noted in that post, to reduce global emissions by the amount desired by the UNIPCC – constraining future emissions to well below 1000 GtCO2e, requires not only reducing the demand for fossil fuels and other sources of GHG emissions, but also requires many countries dependent on the supply of fossil fuels for a large part of their national incomes, to leave at least 75% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground.

An example of proximate causation to be found in the post of 27 December Judge delivers crushing blow to Washington Clean Air RuleGovernor Inslee called the legislation “the nation’s first Clean Air Rule, to cap and reduce carbon pollution.” But the legislation will only reduce so-called carbon pollution if the reduction is greater than the net increase in other areas of the world. The will not happen as both demand and supply are not covered by global agreements with the aggregate impact

Kevin Marshall

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