US Chamber of Commerce Wants their Day in Court on Climate Science

The US Chamber of Commerce filed papers this week in Federal Court seeking to put climate science “on trial - based on many of the same arguments that have been making the rounds for years.

Here is a quick run down of the legal theory that they want to present before a judge:

1) Higher temperatures will reduce human mortality.

Documents filed by the Chamber state “ that the net impact of the UN/IPCC’s forecasted temperature increases will result in lower net mortality rates in the United States.”

In contrast a recent report from the UN showed that climate change is already responsible for 300,000 additional deaths each year around the world. An additional 330 million are “seriously affected” by even the beginnings of climate change, with monetary costs currently at $125 billion per year and rising.

By 2030, the UN estimates that annual deaths associated with climate change will hit 500,000 per year; with up to 660 million people affected (about 10% of the planet’s population), with an annual economic cost around $340 billion.

Of course the Chamber’s brief is only concerned with the US. Living in a developed nation, Americans will be able to cope better than most due to greater wealth, but that does not affect the weather outside.

Dr. Christopher Field, of the Carnegie Institution for Science recently testified before the US Congress that scorching temperatures in an altered climate could result in cities like Sacramento experiencing heat waves for up to 100 days a year.

“We are close to a threshold in a very large number of American cities where uncomfortable heat waves make cities uninhabitable,” Field told the Senate’s environment and public works committee. That doesn’t sound very healthy.

2) Climate Change is good for you

The Chamber of Commerce brief states “…higher temperatures will have a beneficial impact on efforts to reduce fine particulate matter if those higher temperatures lead to increases in precipitation…” Basically, they are stating that an altered climate may have increased rainfall in some areas, reducing smog.

A recent report from the EPA found exactly the opposite for many parts of the country. The researchers reported: “These findings also indicate, that, where climate-change-induced increases in (smog) do occur, damaging effects on ecosystems, agriculture, and health will be especially pronounced, due to increases in the frequency of extreme pollution events.” 

3) Temperature Increases Would Overall Benefit Human Welfare And The Environment

The Chamber maintains, “The impact of the higher temperatures …would be net-beneficial for agriculture and forest growth.”

A recent report in Science showed instead that climate change has already doubled the rate of tree mortality throughout the western United States – reducing the size of existing forests. “Our long-term monitoring shows that tree mortality has been climbing, while the establishment of replacement trees has not,” said study author Dr. Phil van Mantgem of the U.S. Geological Survey.

A recent survey also found the majority of countries are “extremely concerned” that increased temperatures will lead to increased levels of disease in agricultural animals.

4) Extreme Weather and Disease

Their brief states “The Chamber believes that the “total weight of the evidence” requires EPA to discount the claims that climate change will have the effects on extreme weather events and disease in the United States.”

Some scientists do not agree:

“The widespread appearance of dengue in the continental United States is a real possibility,” Drs. David Morens and Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases wrote in the Jan. 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“You might say that increased commerce and travel plus global warming are creating a ‘perfect storm’ that allows these and other pathogens to move around the world more effectively,” said William K. Reisen, a research entomologist at the University of California Davis Center for Vectorborne Diseases.

A recent report from 13 government agencies and research institutions concluded that climate change is already have a significant effect on extreme weather and this will get worse in the future.

Even in areas where precipitation is projected to increase, higher temperatures will cause greater evaporation leading to a future where drought conditions are the normal state. In the southwest United States, water resource issues will become a major issue,” said Dr. Michael Wehner.

5) The EPA is Suppressing Information

The Chamber brief states: “An EPA study by Dr. Alan Carlin, with assistance from Dr. John Davidson, asserted that the agency had relied on outdated studies, and that the current state of climate science refutes the proposed endangerment finding.”

Desmog blog readers will recall that the Carlin “study” was authored by a non-scientist, and included unreferenced verbatim sections from the website of Patrick Michaels. This report was not apparently requested by Mr. Carlin’s supervisors, was not part of his duties, and was well outside his area of expertise. However, it has been very useful to those opposing carbon regulation due to its strange timing that coincides with cap and trade legislation moving through the Senate, and now this unusual court case.

It will be interesting to see if this case is heard in court and whether the Chamber will have a chance to advance these arguments outside the usual confines of the media.


If the arguments are advanced in open court, defense will have a chance to demolish them. I think the specious arguments will go down in flames. Can you say “bark beetle”?

It is unclear what court this would go to. The usual remedy in dealing with a government agency is to go to administrative court. Administrative judges tend to side with the complainant; the objective is too counterbalance the heavy power of the feds. I havent gotten the feeling that the judges are of top caliber either. Decisions from these courts are not readily available.

A case like this would be in an administrative court would be extraordinary. The only thing I can think of that compares is the “Osteen decision” questioning an EPA report reviewing the science on the danger of second hand tobacco smoke. The tobacco flacks had a field day with this one, which was overturned because the judge didnt know the law.

It seems like legally this case would go to: Did EPA follow the normal steps of soliciting inputs from concerned parties, etc., that precede a policy decision?

The Chamber of Commerce wants much more out of this than simply chastizing the EPA, which is only one of the five items in the above. The Chamber wants nothing less than to put climate science itself on trial–as if it were possible to discern scientific truth in a courtroom. This is just “Why won’t Al Gore debate global warming in a public debate?” with legal briefs. They don’t seem able to understand that debate on climate science occurs (and has been occurring for decades) in the scientific literature, not in courtrooms or town hall debates, and certainly not by laypersons.

There’s quite a fuss about this by the informed citizenry over at Fox Nation. They not only think that a lay court is a good place to debate science, but also that Scopes was a trial of evolution. It wasn’t, of course; it was the criminal trial of a teacher for _teaching_ evolution. It was fundamentally an attempt to invalidate the Tennessee law that prevented teaching evolution in public schools. (Scopes, with the support of the ACLU and others, intentionally violated the law in order to bring about the trial.)

And for those who insist on viewing Scopes as a trial of evolution, it should be noted that Scopes was convicted, which would mean that evolution “lost.” So much for courts being a good place to put science on trial.