Law Firm Seminar Participants Speak Out On The Chilling Effects Of Global Warming (Environmental)

Law Firm Seminar Participants Speak Out On The Chilling Effects Of Global Warming (Environmental)

The message at the climate change conference sponsored this morning by the Washington, D.C. law firm Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP was very clear--a progressive movement is afoot to effect monumental change in the way Americans think and in the way America runs its economy, and the proponents of individual rights and a free-market system had better get to the table and make their positions known before they become the main course on the menu.

Panel participants Jason Johnston (Director of the Program on Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School), Richard O. Faulk and John S. Gray (partners in the Gardere firm) were very critical of the green movement, not because they doubt that global warming is occurring in the world today, but because of the "go green" response to climate change, which involves an intense advocacy that has taken on a religious fervor and threatens to stifle all forms of debate and dissent.
The panel emphasized some disturbing developments and advocated a host of non-green (and therefore wildly unpopular) views.
Professor Johnston pinpointed critical weaknesses in a recent report on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability released this year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II. Apparently the report itself was not put online until July 2007, months after an executive summary of the report was released--a maneuver that Johnston felt was an attempt to make criticism more difficult. Johnston stated that the executive summary merely set out conclusions about what judges and policymakers must do with respect to climate change without clarifying (or even mentioning) supporting assumptions. He stated that the report also ignores the validity of the methodologies used to support quantitative analyses and exaggerates or incorrectly emphasizes cited facts.
Professor Johnston also dared to describe the enormous arguments of the other, non-green side by pointing to some very real benefits of climate change, such as the increase in productivity and overall health that comes with warmer, wetter weather, a factor important to policymakers that wasn't even mentioned in the IPCC report. 
John Gray was intrigued by current efforts to use the Endangered Species Act to protect global development from what are essentially local uses. He described attempts to regulate ambient air emissions in Arizona and California to protect the Siberian habitat of polar bears (a species that is not currently threatened with extinction) and attempts by the New York attorney general to require power companies to register the carbon-based impact of future plants that are not yet built and will not be constructed in the State of New York.
Richard Faulk focused on the various (and nefarious) ways that the climate change initiative being pursued in the United States and abroad threatens to circumvent legal reforms put in place to prevent courts from being used to effect social reform. Faulk referred to challenges brought by 23 cities against a power company on the renewal and issuance of permits for coal-fired power plants that diminished the company's stock value and paved the way for its purchase by a "green knight" who promised a green solution and got his permits. Each example that Faulk described showed repeated attempts by an organized trial bar to create massive controversies that involve no proven injuries to any one in particular and result in massive windfalls to contingent fee counsel.
Faulk suggested that constituents who have become complacent in not recognizing the breadth of this social movement: (1) insist on individual rights with respect to the large power of aggregate class actions and suits for injunctive relief; (2) stress the primacy of representative institutions and oppose giving broad policy issues to special interest groups for decision; (3) encourage patience and tolerance in scientific and political discourse; and (4) speak out, write and publish to counter the stifling of debate.
Today's panelists outlined a system of collective problems that they claim we need to start speaking out about to counter what they see as an attack on the very conscience of the American public. They are confident that the message will resound, but not unless it's sufficiently amplified.
Here's your chance to speak out. Where do you come down on this debate? Is climate change something that justifies turning judges and juries into arbiters of social change? Or are we the unwitting victims of hyperbole and rhetoric who are allowing our way of life to be transformed for no good (or green) reason? I look forward to hearing your views.