Global Warming On Trial: Federal Judge Orders the First Climate Change ‘Tutorial’ In Landmark Oil Case

Brittany M. Hughes | March 8, 2018
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For the first time ever, a federal judge has ordered a court hearing specifically focused on the science behind man-made global warming.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup has ordered both parties to present evidence for and against man-made global warming in a court case between several major oil companies like Exxon, Chevron and BP and the California cities that have accused them of intentionally lying to the public about their role in contributing to climate change.

McClatchy D.C. reports that “In the five-hour hearing, both the cities and the oil companies will have a chance to present Alsup with their views on the history of climate change science, and the most important recent findings in the field.”

McClatchy adds:

The proceeding, scheduled for March 21 by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup, will feature lawyers for Exxon, BP, Chevron and other oil companies pitted against those for San Francisco and Oakland — California cities that have accused fossil fuel interests of covering up their role in contributing to global warming.

“This will be the closest that we have seen to a trial on climate science in the United States, to date,” said Michael Burger, a lawyer who heads the Sabin Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia University.

Experts on both sides say Alsup’s call for a climate change “tutorial” is unlike anything they’ve heard of before.

Alsup ordered the tutorial on climate change to be presented in two parts.

“The first part will trace the history of scientific study of climate change, beginning with scientific inquiry into the formation and melting of the ice ages, periods of historical cooling and warming, smog, ozone, nuclear winter, volcanoes, and global warming. Each side will have sixty minutes. The second part will set forth the best science now available on global warming, glacier melt, sea rise, and coastal flooding. Each side will again have another sixty minutes,” the judge wrote in his order.

While several previous court cases have focused on whether government agencies were complying with existing environmental law based on supposed "climate change," (like the famous case last year in which children sued the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection), this will mark the first time the actual science itself has been put on trial in federal court.