Katrina Victims Have Standing To Sue Over Global Warming

From the WSJ:

The suit was brought by landowners in Mississippi, who claim that oil and coal companies emitted greenhouse gasses that contributed to global warming that, in turn, caused a rise in sea levels, adding to Hurricane Katrina’s ferocity. (See photo of Bay St. Louis, Miss., after the storm.)

For a nice overview of the ruling, and its significance in the climate change battle, check out this blog post by J. Russell Jackson, a Skadden Arps partner who specializes in mass tort litigation. The post likens the Katrina plaintiffs’ claims, which set out a chain of causation, to the litigation equivalent of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”

The central question before the Fifth Circuit was whether the plaintiffs had standing, or whether they could demonstrate that their injuries were “fairly traceable” to the defendant’s actions. The defendants predictably assert that the link is “too attenuated.”

But the Fifth Circuit held that at this preliminary stage in the litigation, the plaintiffs had sufficiently detailed their claims to earn a day in court.

The Green Hell Blog wrote:

I can’t wait to hear the plaintiffs argument as to why U.S. CO2 emissions versus Chinese were the proximate cause of the damage..

I would add that it will be interesting to see how oil companies will be held at fault rather than their customers who actually burned the oil and created the CO2.

It will also be interesting to see plaintiffs explain this graph of accumulated cyclone energy in the light of their theory that man-made global warming is increasing hurricane strengths and frequencies  (ACE is a sort of integration of hurricane and tropical storm strengths over time).  (from here via WUWT)

ace

  • ADiff

    Just another example of our foolish acceptance of the notion that all bad outcomes must result from malfeasance, as nature is, of course, itself benevolent. A perfect breeding ground for gold-diggers, pity-pursers and ambulance chasers.

    I’d be interested to know what ‘sea level’ data for the past few decades actually looks like. I’ve been hearing for some time that very low-lying islands are in imminent danger, but have yet to hear of abandoned cities or coastal regions flooded by rising ‘sea levels’…. Is ‘sea level’ actually rising? If so, how long has it been rising? So far as I can tell all the talk about sea level is speculative, as I’m unaware of any significant fluctuation in actual ‘sea levels’ over the past few decades. We’ve just come out of a localized period of rising temperatures (which ended in the late 90s, according to available data). Did ‘sea levels’ rise during or after that period?

    What’s the real ‘skinny’ here?

    Inquiring minds would like to know. And, perhaps, so would a torts court……

  • Fred

    Like Green Hell said, no one forced me to burn gasoline in my vehicle; can they sue me, too?

    BWAH HA.

  • hunter

    The power, fuel, transportation and other industries that utilize energy to supply power, products and services to the Plaintiffs, their attorneys, and the Judges who enabled this travesty should immediately experience what ‘0 carbon footprint’ really means.
    This should be provoided as part of a stipulation of acceptance that the defendants do in fact produce CO2.
    When the plaintiffs, their attorneys and judges are ready to rejoin the world, they can again access the internet, turn on their lights, drive their cars, have refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning, and air travel.

  • happyjuggler0

    Jury interviews during the selection process should be a hoot. Defendants’ attorneys should ask them if they use electricity, drive a car, travel on a bus, use anything but organic material as fuel to cook with, believe hospitals shouldn’t use electricity if they ever need to go to the hospital, whether police and the fire department should ride bicycles to their homes if they call 911, etc.

    But wait, there’s more. Defendants’ attorneys should demand that any judge that uses anything that emits greenhouse gases should be forced to recuse himself.

  • Didn’t a bunch of scientists-even those who think that AGW will effect Hurricanes-say “It is wrong to blame Katrina on Global Warming”?

    I tell you, it’s interesting that they are going the sea level route. The nearest gauge is in Grand Isle:

    http://www.tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/trends/8761724.png

    It definitely shows dramatic rise. But something is very wrong here as far as attributing this global warming goes. There is simply no way that such a large change can be due to the small ocean warming. The rate is absolutely huge compared to nearly every other gauge in the continental US. In fact, the rate is second highest in the world, next to Eugene Island, Louisiana!

    http://www.tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/sltrends/msltrendstable.htm

    What is causing all that sea level rise? Well, this:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_River_Delta

    Might be illuminating: “Dams, artificial channeling, and land conservation measures have caused a decrease in sediment carried into the delta region, decreasing the rate of build up of the Delta.”

    The article also cites subsidence increasing, which is a geological, not a climate issue.

    But let’s put that in context. The city’s elevation varies from -6.5 to 20 ft above sea level. In other words, much of New Orleans rightfully belongs to the sea and has since long before any rise in said level which is tiny compared to how deep it already is.

  • Michael

    I wonder if there is some legal maneuver that would let the oil and energy companies draw in all member countries of the WTO and OPEC.

  • RobTzu

    Just one more loop on our Country’s roller coaster ride to hell.

  • morganovich

    let’s have some real fun:

    there is zero question that higher CO2 levels increase plant growth and do longer growing seasons. so, in good pigouvian fashion, let’s tax the farmers, the clear beneficiaries of global warming, and use the fund to pay off those harmed.

    somehow, i have some real doubts that one is going to get off the ground.

  • sabril

    It seems to me that the Defendants would have the right to serve subpoenas on a lot of these global warming scientists and force them to produce their data. They may also have the right to depose these folks, i.e. question them under oath in a pre-trial proceeding.

    That alone is worth a lot. I’m an attorney and I’m pretty confident that if I could get Gavin Schmidt or James Hansen “in the box,” i.e. in a position where I could question them under oath with no opportunity to dodge, evade, or refuse to answer, I could completely humiliate them and demolish their positions.

    Also, I’m pretty confident that if there ever were an actual trial (which there won’t be because the claims will be dismissed on summary judgment), with a majority white jury, the Defendants would win pretty easily. That’s because there is surprisingly little evidence for CAGW.

  • Whaddaya bet?

    Well, just watch. It’s only a matter of time before a host of people who’ve been laid off in this downturn sue the major Wall Street firms for damages. It’s the American way.

  • ADiff

    Sabril,

    I was right there with you….right up to the point where you said “a majority white jury”. Wow! What on earth does the ethnicity of the auditors have to do with anything? Do us all a favor here, please desist injecting completely irrelevant positions, especially of such a objectionable character, into what’s otherwise a perfectly rational discussion. Your final comment makes me think your post is nothing other than a cleverly crafted attempt to discredit the entire discussion, and yourself actually a member of the faith-based AGW advocacy community rather than someone honestly pursuing an accurate understanding of the actual reality of the issue at hand.

  • George Edwards

    Before everyone dismisses this with hoots of derision, let me remind all that despite at least two NIH studies showing there to be no adverse health consequences to the use of silicone breast implants, several attorneys got seriously rich – one sterling fellow in a midwestern city known to me banked a reported $600MM. Not bad for an urban myth.

  • firefighter

    This is great news. I would subpoena Al Gore . He then would forced to Defend his theory
    on global warming for the first time in his life.

  • Steve Hanson

    Wow, I am glad that lawyers were mentioned as I believe they (as a group) are the 2nd most opportunistic group of professionals (2nd to so called pro-global warming climatologists). The layers take advantage of bad situations by making money from them (my reasoning being that if it was out of the kindness of their heart they would limit their rewards to a reasonable compensation (by reasonable I mean 2, 3, or even 500 dollars per hour on cases not a % of a multimillion dollar reward which they are very assured of before they even take a case). Global warming advocates are taking advantage of the fact that grants etc. are currently being given to pro global warming studies etc. as oppossed to non-biassed studies of the same)

  • Dan Pangburn

    It is becoming more and more apparent that climate change is natural. Lawsuits against nature are futile. All of the global average temperatures for the entire 20th century and on into the 21st century are readily calculated with no consideration whatsoever needed of changes to the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide or any other greenhouse gas. The method is a straight-forward application of the first law of thermodynamics and uses only the time-integral of sunspot count and 32-year long up trends and down trends that have an amplitude of 0.45 C and are probably related to the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Data sources, a graph that overlays the measured and calculated temperatures from 1880 to 2008 and a detailed description of the method are in a new paper at http://climaterealists.com/index.php?tid=145&linkbox=true . The standard deviation of the difference between concurrent calculated and measured average global temperatures is 0.064 C. There is no Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) (and therefore no human caused climate change) from added atmospheric carbon dioxide.

  • hunter

    Dan P,
    The climate, and the atmosphere, are not simple.
    CO2 does impact the the energy budget of the climate.
    The problem grows from there, with the AGW promotion industry making wild claims about positive feedbacks that have not been shown to eixst in nature.
    The physics of CO2 are well established. What AGW theory attempted to prove, and has failed to prove, is that relatively small changes in CO2 lead to huge changes in the energy budget.
    Humans have and do cause climatce change-
    When foliage and water flows are changed, the climate changes.
    When cities are covered in concrete and buildings, the climate changes.
    the fallacy of the AGW movement has been to claim that CO2 is *the* driver, and that it alone explains climate of the past ~100 years or so.
    The other fallacy is that the climate of the past ~100 years has been extreme, dangerous, and is portending great dangerous changes to come.

  • Dan Pangburn

    Hunter,
    All that you say may be true but the combined effect of all of these factors is so small that, as is shown, an excellent correlation with the measured average global temperatures is obtained when they are ignored and the only factors considered are time-integral of sunspots and a temperature oscillation (the oscillation is probably from ocean turnover).

  • ClimateSkeptic

    Steve is on the right track here. The facts don’t matter – any jury is going to feel sorry for the ‘victims’ and award damages. This is about using the law to rearrange wealth.

    The only thing ‘newsworthy’ here is that it’s (another) creative argument to rape the innocent (Oh surely any big company is evil! sez Polosi, but not until after they have donated.).

  • Jim Turner

    Sorry to be a little OT, this is the most relevant thread I could find. I spotted this link on the Google UK home page, and I don’t think anyone on climate blogs I read have picked it up yet. File under ‘you couldn’t make it up’.

    http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2009/11/03/52837/ex-employee-can-sue-for-unfair-dismissal-over-climate-change-beliefs.html