But I still think Loretta Lynch is wrong and very misguided.
I'm at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society. There was a very interesting session today titled Science and the Perception of Climate Change. The first speaker was Andrew Hoffman of the University of Michigan. He's the Professor of Sustainable Enterprise, "a position that holds joint appointments at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business and the School of Natural Resources & Environment. Andy also serves as Education Director of the Graham Sustainability Institute." He once worked for EPA, and the Amoco Corporation.
I asked him what he thought of Lynch's idea. Here are some of his reactions, paraphrased:
"Who is the aggrieved party [from climate change]...? What are the monetary damages...? Lynch's suit would be unlike the tobacco settlement because there states were paying out large amounts of money for the health care of smokers.... [They had clear standing as an aggrieved party who suffered financially from the tobacco company's lies.]And he said
"demonizing people" would be a mistake.In a panel discussion in the last half-hour of the session I asked the panel for their reactions to Lynch's testimony. Hoffman was on the panel and called it a "horrible idea," "a similar tactic to what was done to Michael Mann," and that people are surely already coming up with "metaphors to Copernicus."
ExxonMobile now admits the reality of climate change, and is in favor of a carbon tax. From December of last year:
As I have mentioned on a number of occasions in this space, we believe the risks of climate change are real and those risks warrant constructive action by both policymakers and the business community.though who knows what ExxonMobile is saying (and doing) out of the other side of their mouth. A couple of decades ago, perhaps they thought the science was too uncertain to mention (and, despite what any of their internal scientists were saying, it was according to IPCC assessments I and II). Or they thought that any damage was small, or would be small, and offset by agricultural gains and other benefits. They might say that their oil used for personal and public transportation was and is a huge benefit to society? Or, in the time before electric cars, are people suffering an attack of appendicitis supposed to ride their bike to the ER? They could argue on all these points and more that their product gave more benefit than harm.
Attributing climate change harm to ExxonMobile, or any other big fossil fuel company, is nearly impossible -- just what is the damage from burning oil, per barrel? Richard Tol's ever-changing graph? It shows a benefit up to about 2 C. And don't its consumers share part of the blame? We all use fossil fuels, every day, even though we know the risks and potential consequences. I flew to San Diego and will fly back home. According to this calculator, my share of the emissions comes to 0.58 metric tons of CO2. Whose fault is that?
The drought in California -- whose fault is that? Where is the proof it is caused by AGW? Very warm temperatures certainly augment the drought by increasing evaporation rates. How much and where? Were these warm temperatures in California the result, in part or in whole, of AGW? What have been the monetary damages and to whom? Ten thousand farmers? How much each? Do we put ExxonMobile on trial, or its customers, or BP or Royal Dutch Shell or all of them? Chinese fossil fuel companies? Do we put the government on trial, for leasing land and sea for drilling and mining?
Why shouldn't we first hold the oil companies liable for the ground-level ozone created from car exhaust, or the health damages from burning coal, which causes 7,500 deaths each year attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. power plants?
Finally, Lynch's suit would be exactly what climate contarians have been warning about for years -- the heavy hand of government putting a boot on their neck. That's the real issue surrounding climate change -- many people's set of values include suspicions of governments, of environmentalists, of scientists, of elites. Are they not allowed to have those values? (Of course they are.) Suing the likes of ExxonMobile or The Heartland Institute would make their case and exponentially increase the attention they get, the support they get, and the donations they get. I might even donate myself.
Loretta Lynch's idea is a big loser all around. She should drop it immediatly.