2018-03-22

Alsup: today's news

The case continues to fascinate me. News on it over this side of the Atlantic is sparse, so if you have any nice links please put them in the comments.

The main outcome of the "tutorial" as I understand it was Chevron's lawyer essentially agreeing with the IPCC (for example, in their submission, the very first statement is “IPCC Fifth Assessment Report: It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”). The other oil companies didn't speak, and have been given not-very-long to say whether they disagree with anything he said. I hope they make no substantive disagreements, because then finally we could have a discussion about GW in which the important point is not the science - which all sane people are agreed on, to the degree needed - but questions of responsibility and perhaps economics. This would also relieve the court of the tedium of having to read Monkers' or HKL's screeds. Or the latecoming nonsense from the "Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council", aka an astroturf front for Joseph D’Aleo. What is it with these nutters?3

The Verge says "CHEVRON’S LAWYER, SPEAKING FOR MAJOR OIL COMPANIES, SAYS CLIMATE CHANGE IS REAL AND IT’S YOUR FAULT". That's rather foolishly phrased, as well as very shouty. It is also wrong: as far as I can see Theodore Boutrous was speaking only for Chevron2, and if he wasn't, Alsup's request would make no sense. The "it's your fault" bit is the point I've made many times before: "Fossil Fuel Companies Do Not Cause Carbon Emissions, We Consumers Do". I'm glad to see Chevron saying it in court, and it is fun to watch the Verge's head exploding as a concept that doesn't fit gets rammed home. Boutrous also (from the Verge; I can't find a transcript) appears to have sensibly tried to discuss exactly when the science was firmed up to the "well you really should have known it" stage. There's been a lot of deceptive PR about this recently, but I think they'll have no great trouble showing that even by the first IPCC report in 1990, attribution was at an early stage (in Chevron's presentation, the second substantive quote contains, in bold, Thus the observed increase could be largely due to this natural variability, which is from IPCC '90)1.

There are suggestions from the Daily Caller, Federal Judge Dismissed Claim Of A Conspiracy To Suppress Global Warming Science, but I'm dubious that is a WP:RS, and seems to be based on tweets. ClimateLiabilityNews provides a more nuanced Despite opening with a warning from Alsup “not to get political,” the tutorial ended on a political note. Boutrous referenced a paragraph in the plaintiffs’ complaint that accuses the defendants of colluding to suppress public information about climate change. “From what I’ve seen—and feel free to send me other documentation—but all I’ve seen so far is that someone went to the IPCC conference and took notes,” Alsup said. “That’s not a conspiracy.”

As you'd expect, the defendants have filed a motion to dismiss. Whether that's plausible or not, I've no idea. I suspect Alsup is having too much fun to just throw this away quickly, though.

Notes


1. From sciencemag, I find Speaking for the cities, Myles Allen, a physicist and climate scientist at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom told Alsup the science was clear enough more than 3 decades ago to realize global warming would be caused by greenhouse gas pollution, even if measurements hadn’t definitively picked it up. “It wasn’t necessary for scientists in the late 1970s to detect the warming in order for them to predict what was likely to happen next as a result,” he said. I don't think that will fly. It would be unreasonable not to allow the oil companies to rely on the authority of the IPCC reports.

2. Ah good, The Graun confirms my memory: Boutrous was indeed just speaking for Chevron, and said so. Which makes The Verge's drivel even harder to understand.

Update: and indeed, the transcript says: "I'm here representing Chevron here today, and
I'll be presenting the tutorial on behalf of Chevron." So why the bald-faced lying from The Verge?

3. Happily, the nutters aren't happy with Chevron for throwing them under the bus. They are going to be even sadder in two weeks time when the other oil companies agree with Chevron.

Refs


Who Should Pay For Climate Change? - 538. Measured, but nothing new.
The oil industry knew about climate change long before the American public did?
* Grist. Somewhat better than The Verge.
* #CaliforniaKnew and also The Debate is Over – 99% of Scientists believe Gravity and the Heliocentric Solar System so therefore.. from SOD.

22 comments:

JCH said...

BOOM! Federal Judge Dismisses Claim Of “Big-Oil” Conspiracy To Suppress Global Warming Science

In a rare event, sanity prevails in California – Climate skeptics rule, alarmists drool.

A federal judge overseeing a lawsuit dismissed a core section plaintiffs brought in the case — oil companies conspired to cover up global warming science ...
- WUWT

Always go straight to a reliable source!

Millicent said...

That from a website whose job is covering up global warming science?

William Connolley said...

Indeed; WUWT seems to have fallen for anything that fits their preconceptions.

dave said...

Thanks for that, interesting coverage, though didn't have the time and energy to read the court documents myself.

Tried clicking on the links, and don't think you'd included https://www.wired.com/story/courtroom-climate-science/ which, for me, had some useful thoughts on the purposes of the tutorial, perhaps rather pessimistic about the way it's going. Reminiscent of the ID case setting a "persuasive precedent", in this case getting the science on record from both sides so denial is more quickly sidelined in future cases.

The crux is now whether the fossil fuel producers can successfully argue that "China's been doing it too" so not all blame can be pinned on US oil producers, and thus completely get off the hook for funding denial while ignoring what they knew about relevant science. Interesting question of whether warming was known as the inevitable or probable outcome by the 1980s, or did it take until 2013?

In another take on this, the Graun seems to have a bit better than its earlier fail at answering some of Alsup's questions... https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/21/climate-science-lawsuit-san-francisco-sues-chevron

William Connolley said...

I didn't really like the Wired piece, for it's tone; but it has much the same info as some others. The Graun piece - thanks - confirms my memory of Boutrous speaking only for Chevron, so I've added that.

Phil Hays said...

Keeling curve put an end to any realistic doubt as to future warming by 1972 or so. At least for me.

Of course, only for those that make a habit of reading Nature rather than National Inquirer. (For the UK, that's the Daily Mail, only worse for making up stuff).

William Connolley said...

> Keeling curve

Really? Then it's a shame the IPCC failed to realise. Knowing future CO2 doesn't allow you to know future warming, at least not with 1972's science.

dave said...

1972 is a bit early, though Roger Revelle had been raising alarms since 1957.

In 1979 a panel of experts chaired by veteran computer meteorologist Jule Charney ... was quite confident that doubling of CO2 would bring substantial warming (1.5-4.5°C) by the middle of the coming century. Heat was already building up in the atmosphere-ocean system, they concluded, so that "A wait-and-see policy may mean waiting until it is too late."
In 1981, the Reagan presidency brought in a backlash; "Many conservatives denied nearly every environmental worry, global warming included" and the "administration laid plans to cut funding for CO2 studies in particular". Just like today's news. [refs. Weart]

From "Global warming: How skepticism became denial"; "by 1989 the scientific community had formed a rough consensus, which the public knew and largely accepted".
In that year, the Global Climate Coalition was formed by major fossil fuel and other industrial corporations to spread denial of that consensus, and their successors have largely prevailed, as seen with the current US administration.

Conveniently, the IPCC began reporting in 1990, hence legalistic arguments that the IPCC's cautious reporting justified fossil fuel industries in ignoring or denying the science. Which is where Alsup's hearing comes in.

dave said...

The 1979 date is also mentioned by Scott K. Johnson –
https://arstechnica.com/science/2018/03/in-court-oil-companies-accept-climate-science-but-rewrite-its-history/

He comments on Boutrous speaking only for Chevron, and how the judge responded to that point.

William Connolley said...

The AT piece makes obvious errors. It isn't at all surprising that Boutrous should speak only for Chevron; the other companies have their own lawyers, for obvious reasons. I think they also misread IPCC '90; and to state the commonplace that the central estimate hasn't changed much is to miss the far more important hardening of the science around the certainty. In other words, I think AT's "rewrite its history" is wrong. What he actually did is present some elements of the history that a good many people have forgotten, or never knew; and those people have some unpleasant surprises coming.

But it is an interesting topic, that calls for a post of its own.

dave said...

It's not surprising that Boutrous should speak only for Chevron; the surprise is that the other companies decided not to make any statement to the "tutorial" session, whether by their lawyers or by any scientists they might find lying about.

A battle of different selective accounts of the history does indeed look interesting, but Weart seems to indicate that the basics were pretty firm by 1989, which is when the fossil fuel industry organised denial got obvious. Look forward to seeing those little-known elements.

Rob Dekker said...

In the "motion to dismiss" you can already see how the oil companies try to weasel their way out of this one.
Here, from Royal Dutch Shell :


Royal Dutch Shell is a holding company....It conducts no operations of its own; in particular, it does not produce, transport, market, or sell fossil fuels and has never produced, transported, marketed, or sold fossil fuels.


Let's see what Judge Alsup thinks of that.

Russell Seitz said...

Move over, Trump University :

In his brief to Judge Alsup, Monckton ( BA Journalism, Swansea) seems to have awarded himself a Cambridge Pseudo-MA

https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2018/03/blog-post.html

Anonymous said...

Are you sure about that? I don't know where all this 'Classical Architecture' stuff comes from but he does seen to have graduated from Cambridge. If I have understood them correctly, the Times listings for 1972 have a C W Monckton getting a 2nd class BA in Classics ('Classical, Part 1', 'CLASS 2'). He should have got a postcard a couple of years later inviting him to upgrade to an MA.

-VB

William Connolley said...

I can't find anything definitive. If you've got the times listings, dywanna screenshot them or summat?

Russell Seitz said...

I bow to The Times if that's what it says - Good on Monckton for passing the Classics Tripos !

But what's that , or his Swansea journalism diploma got to do with climate science ?

Does the Worshipful Company of Broderers set an annual resume' embpoidery quota on its liverymen?

Anonymous said...

Here it is.

http://tinypic.com/r/b47zo6/9

That's from p14 of The Times on 26/6/72.It looks like he got a 2:2.

The only maths connection I can find is a book review by him that appeared in the 1971 issue of Eureka, the journal of the Cantab maths society. No idea what the book was.

- VB

William Connolley said...

Ta. Now also available in slightly less spammy form as https://www.flickr.com/photos/belette/40961913452/in/dateposted/

Anonymous said...

I cocked up. That 1972 Monckton listing was for his end-of-2nd-year exams. (He didn't go to Cambridge until 1970.) That was my initial interpretation, honest, but I decided that the Times probably wouldn't have wasted space publishing intermediate exam results. But it did.

I can't find a finals (Part 2) listing for him in the Times so either he didn't graduate or he got a Third. Or there's an OCR mistake and he's in there somewhere passing his finals under a mangled name.

- VB

Anonymous said...

The position that consumers bear the blame for CO2 emissions rather than producers is not inherently unreasonable - as the economy as it stands depends on fossil fuels I don't consider oil companies an inherently unethical investment. But to the degree that their sponsorship of denialism has changed the actions of consumers and governments they share the blame.

Russell Seitz said...

VB, Is Third is as fungible into a hat trick MA as a Second or First?
The wiki says he's MA '74, but then, hereabouts they hand out MA's with faculty appoinments.

Anonymous said...

AFAIK 3rds are equally fungible.

But here's Who's Who, which one would presume (perhaps foolishly: I worked for a similar tome that generally took publication anywhere as proof of publishable fact - Wiki before its time) checks its stuff: "Education Harrow; Churchill Coll., Cambridge (BA 1973, MA 1977); University Coll., Cardiff; Dip. Journalism Studies (Wales), 1974"

- VB