On April 18, 2019, a group of leading lawyers and law professors will convene in person at locations across the United States to discuss the problem of climate change and the role of lawyers in advancing solutions. The locations will all be linked by live video/audio feeds. This is the third year in a row for this national conference on this important subject. This year’s conference will feature leading experts addressing the most important aspects of the climate crisis from a legal perspective. The conference will also address ways in which lawyers can work to make a difference on this subject of grave concern to our well-being and future.Much of their petition is sane: recognition of GW-as-science1 and calling for carbon pricing. Their arguments for why lawyers-in-particular should be involved are weak, but never mind, they're a bunch of lawyers and can be expected to think that they're important. The bit that I'm less happy with is
Protecting society from harm is the most fundamental purpose of law and government. Faced with clear evidence of impending harm, we as citizens and lawyers have a duty to speak out on the need for effective government action to protect humans now alive and those to be born. We have no right to knowingly continue to inflict severe damage to the planetary ecosystem that sustains all life. To the contrary, we have a duty to protect it.Why would anyone object to that motherhood-and-apple-pie type stuff? Because as usual, as ever, as always when people talk about this stuff there's the dangerous sliding of words. GW does indeed risk harm to society. But then again, burning fossil fuels provides good to society. That's why people do it, after all. How do you balance the harm and the good? Ah, now we're back to the real problem.
And the problem of balancing harm and good isn't obviously one that is well suited to the all-or-nothing of a courtroom. Lawyers can be rather one-sided. To quote a well-known Alsup:
The benefits of fossil fuels are worldwide. The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a district judge or jury in a public nuisance case. While it remains true that our federal courts have authority to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming, courts must also respect and defer to the other co-equal branches of government when the problem at hand clearly deserves a solution best addressed by those branches. The Court will stay its hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches.
1. And they get credit for using videoconferencing, too.
* Economics, Law and Ethics
* Skolstrejk för klimatet
* The Climate Wars Can Get Rough At Times
* Global warming and common law
* And stuff like The destruction of the Earth is a crime. It should be prosecuted by George Monbiot doesn't work