The Global Warming Case–the cataclysm question

One comment from yesterday’s Supreme Court hearing that’s getting a lot of press is Justice Scalia’s question to the attorney for the petitioning states about the imminence of harm to the states: “I mean, when is the predicted cataclysm?”

The attorney answered: “The harm does not suddenly spring up in the year 2100; it plays out continuously over time.”

I suspect that this exchange will be portrayed, by some, as illustrating the gap between the scientifically uneducated and the scientifically erudite. After all, Justice Scalia himself later noted that he’s “not a scientist”, whereas counsel for the petitioning states was probably quite familiar with the underlying science.

But later in the argument that attorney said: “… our harm is imminent in the sense that lighting a fuse on a bomb is imminent harm ….”

That sounds pretty cataclysmic to me. If you’re delving into whether such a bomb exists, let alone whether its fuse has been lit, asking about when it will go off is a pretty important question.