Posted by: ericgrimsrud | November 18, 2017

James Hansen seeks a new way forward

Dr. James Hansen has proven to be the father of the climate change movement in the USA. While his research in this area has been of primary importance for about four decades, his efforts to engage the public and our government has also been the most substantial of all scientists. Unfortunately, those efforts have not yet been sufficient to generate the responses needed in our legislative bodies – even as the time allowed for effective action is quickly running out. Therefore, Dr. Hansen is now changing his focus to a different branch of government – the judicial branch. For an up-to-date account of these efforts, see:  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/nov/17/we-should-be-on-the-offensive-james-hansen-calls-for-wave-of-climate-lawsuits

Dr. Hansen’s change in tactics – to get needed actions via our court systems – is driven by his acknowledgement that our legislative and even executive branch is strongly and perhaps entirely controlled by the deep pockets of special interests, which in this case are the fossil fuel producers and users. If the fossil fuel lobbies ever suspect that some member of our legislative branches is starting the grow a conscience with respect to the damage fossil fuel use is doing to our environment, an alarm is promptly sounded alerting those industries of the need to replace that legislator in the next election cycle. Thus, both legislative houses in WDC have been essentially useless in addressing the greatest problem of our time.

Whether he will be proven correct or not, Dr. Hansen’s hope is that our judicial branches will be less vulnerable to the lobbying efforts of the fossil fuel interests and will consider their case primarily on its legal merits. Dr. Hansen and a group of young Americans will be seeking redress against those who are most responsible for the relentless advance of global warming. A result such as this would, of course, strongly affect future actions and non-actions in this area.

The problem of finding advocates for strong action on climate change is even much greater than that caused by the absence of such people in our legislative bodies. Because of the long financial reach of the fossil fuel industries, it is difficult for the likes of Dr. Hansen to find sufficient support even in the leadership of the academic institutions of our country – out of which has come the bulk of our understanding of climate change. On this website, I have provided an excellent example of this phenomenon in several posts dealing with the leadership of my own alma mater, St. Olaf College of Northfield, Minnesota. Their actions, if not words, have been difficult to distinguish from those who deny the reality of climate change. Thus, it appears that even our institutions of higher learning need help from our judicial branch in order to tell right from wrong.

Thus, I encourage you all to keep your eyes on the efforts of Dr. Hanson and his youthful group of plaintiffs as they seek to bring badly needed long-term environmental reason and intergenerational justice to our country.  Hopefully, by this mechanism they will not be defeated by the deep pockets and scientific misrepresentations of the defendants.


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