Rough justice: the emerging denier tactic of abusing the courts and legislative process

There’s a war going on.

In courts around the globe at least.

I’m noticing an interesting trend, one that is clearly an emerging strategy of the denial movement.

Increasingly thank tanks, lobby groups and cranks are turning to the courts in their desperate attempts to wish away the science (and avoid being regulated).

The war in the court room

The US Chamber of Commerce is attempting to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s ruling that CO2 is a pollutant, and thus subject to regulation:

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the advocacy group Coalition for Responsible Regulation have asked a federal appeals court to review U.S. EPA’s decision that greenhouse gases endanger human health and welfare.

The endangerment finding, finalized in December, is the linchpin of the agency’s suite of climate regulations. It prompted regulations on greenhouse gases from cars and light-duty trucks, which themselves triggered the rules for stationary sources such as power plants, refineries and factories.

The U.S. Chamber and Coalition for Responsible Regulation have challenged EPA at each step of the process. Robin Conrad, executive vice president of the U.S. Chamber’s National Chamber Litigation Center, said her group’s lawsuit will not question the science behind the endangerment finding but rather the suitability of using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases.

In New Zealand the local deniers (who are clearly unbalanced) are attempting to have the NZ High Court “set aside” that countries temperature records (via Hot-topic):

In a bizarre twist to the tale of New Zealand’s climate sceptics and their strange obsession with the minutiae of the history of temperature measurement in New Zealand, it now emerges that they have lodged papers with the High Court [Stuff & NZ Herald, via NZPA], seeking to have the court rule that the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) should:

  • set aside NIWA’s decisions to rely upon its Seven Station Series (7SS) and Eleven Station Series (11SS), and to find the current NZTR [NZ temperature record] to be invalid
  • to prevent NIWA from using the current NZTR (or information originally derived from it) for the purpose of advice to any governmental authority or to the public
  • to require NIWA to produce a full and accurate NZTR [text from their press release]

The mind boggles. Just what is an “invalid temperature record”, and how on earth is a judge expected to rule on that? Given that NIWA has received funding to do a thorough re-working of the long-term temperature history of NZ, mainly as a result of the earlier kerfuffle, why are the cranks so keen to go to court now? Science is not done in law courts. Then there are questions to be asked about the organisation and funding of this legal effort, as well as questions about possible abuse of process and waste of taxpayer funds…

Climatologist Michael Mann is the subject of what is widely regarded as a “witch hunt”. Virginia’s conservative Attorney General is attempting to charge him with fraud (via PZ Meyers):

I  was shocked to see that the Virginia attorney general has filed papers against the climate researcher, Michael Mann. Mann had worked at the University of Virginia for 5 or 6 years, doing climate studies that cost the state about a half million dollars over that time. (To put that in perspective, that’s a middling sized grant; big biomedical researchers can get much more than that.) Cuccinelli is claiming that Mann committed fraud, and wants to demand all that money back.

In California, lobbyists are attempting to water down environmental laws with “Proposition 23“:

“Proposition 23 is a California ballot proposition which will be on the November 2, 2010 California state-wide ballot. If it passes, it will suspend AB 32, a law enacted in 2006 that is in extenso, legally referred to as the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006.Sponsors of the initiative refer to their measure as the California Jobs Initiative. The goal of the proposition is to freeze the provisions of AB 32 until California’s unemployment rate drops to 5.5% or below for four consecutive quarters…

…supporters and opponents view the battle over the suspension of AB-32 as symbolic in the larger national debate over global warming. Steven Maviglio, speaking for a group that wants to keep AB-32 intact, said, “…this could be a ground zero for the battle for the future of clean energy.”

I don’t for a minute suggest this is all part of one tightly coordinated conspiracy.

However it clearly shows how the denial movement is evolving, tyring new strategies and turning to every dirty trick in the book.

Apart from their assault on public opinion, it seems the movement is desperate to haul scientists in front of the courts – in order to intimidate them into silence – and shut down legislation they don’t like.

These people are well funded, organised and have no shame.

2 thoughts on “Rough justice: the emerging denier tactic of abusing the courts and legislative process

  1. J Bowers says:

    It’s a safe haven for scoundrels where the presentation of an argument holds as much weight as the truth of it. As much as it is the intent of a court, lawyers are not concerend with seeking the truth but only with winning, which is the usual framework deniers operate in anyway; winning the debate, not seeking the truth, and partly why they refuse to realise that they have so very little science to back up their point of view. If they can score a minor victory then, to them, that’s proof and confirmation that they are right. Complete detachment from reality.

    They have failed within the scientific framework, so they need to remove the argument from an arena where the truth is what matters to a more abstract one where the truth is proclaimed to belong to the winner of what is, to all intents and purposes, a rhetorical debate which allows cherry picking and quote mining to be presented as evidence.

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