Careful What You Wish For

As over 100 judges from around the world at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) call for more lawyers to file more environmental lawsuits, Greenpeace files a lawsuit that truly puts the mental in environmental law. The latter makes the prima facie case that there are at least a few too many lawyers, already. As WSSD got underway this week, the United Nations hailed “jurists unanimously adopting the Johannesburg Principles on the Role of Law and Sustainable Development.” The goal, said South Africa's Chief Justice, Arthur Chaskalson is to strengthen the legal profession in developing countries, so as to cure “the lack of effective implementation, development and enforcement of environmental law.” To ensure this outcome, he said access to courts should be made easier and the rules of standing should be relaxed. There's plenty out there they'd like to see you sue under. UN Environment Programme Executive Director Klaus Toepfer crows “We have over 500 international and regional agreements covering everything from the protection of the ozone layer to the conservation of the oceans and seas.” Still, the UN lamented, “There are inherent limitations on the judiciary, according to South Africa's Deputy Chief Justice, Pius Langa. He explained that courts can't take up matters on their own. 'Matters must be brought to the court,' he said, and the issue, then, is a matter of access to the courts 'so NGOs and private people can come to the courts and exercise their rights. Judges can't do everything.'” That's right, people, these lawsuits ain't gonna just file themselves. Some judges apparently desire a particular outcome, and just need someone to ask them for it. And some of those someones have just reared their heads in U.S. federal court. Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the City of Boulder Colorado have filed for their constituents a “global warming” lawsuit against the U.S. government, seeking to “stop causing global warming” by applying an environmental assessment law to overseas loans and guarantees involving energy projects. The Greenpeace press release is revealing. “We all feel nervous about climate change,” says anxious Greenpeace Plaintiff and Vermont resident Arthur Berndt. “If we have no maples we have no farm income and the aesthetic value of the land will be devastated.” One obvious problem here is basing this lawsuit, on a fear, in 2002, that particular trees “will no longer be dominant in the northeastern US by the late 21st century.” Their “standing” issue of what damage they have suffered seems to require refinement. “[Some other plaintiffs] bought land on John's Island, in South Carolina in 1999 and are building a home there now approximately 5.5 miles from the ocean and on land eight feet above sea level. Climate change is causing rising sea levels, increased storm severity, and increased storm frequency. As a result, Phillip and his family are building the home higher and stronger than required by current code even though the home is over five miles from the ocean. This is costing him a significant amount of money. His insurance for the new home is more expensive, which Phillip believes is attributable to the effects of climate change.” This is absurd. A global warming alarmist knowingly purchases land on an island and now sues in surprised anticipation of the prospect of what his kind constantly prophesies. Though it hasn't happened (nor will it) he wants relief. He thinks his insurance is too high. He's voluntarily exceeding code specifications expressly because of his particular anxieties, but wants relief. At the rate of sea level rise (8 inches per century) it would take approximately a millennium to obtain beachfront property. By which time the world will doubtless have entered, and likely exited, the next ice age and his above-code abode will still be 5.5 miles from the ocean. The complaint faces other problems. The greenhouse theory of warming says that ultimately the sun's radiation will accumulate in the atmosphere, warming it, which will then warm the earth itself. But NASA has 22 years of satellite and independent, corroborating weather balloon data showing the atmosphere has not warmed (those instruments were put up in response to the 1970s' global cooling panic). The climate is always changing; it has always been getting warmer or cooler, wetter or drier, and always will. As a result, over time plant and animal species migrate to their comfort zone. Viewed in perspective the earth is currently slightly cool, 3 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than during the Medieval Climate Optimum. Climate catastrophists – plaintiffs included—warn that global climate change will result in increased frequency and severity of storms and a rapid rise in sea levels. But University of Virginia Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Sciences Fred Singer notes: “The empirical evidence displayed in the IPCC report shows a decline in hurricanes over the last 50 years in both frequency and intensity.” Singer adds that sea-level rise (it recedes during ice ages), is found to slow during periods of temperature increases. This suggests that a possible modest warming should slow down, not accelerate, the ongoing rise of sea levels. All of this would make a compelling case in court, which the UN's favorite judges apparently would like to see. So would we as, if it moves forward, it would set back global warming alarmism irreparably.