In Courtrooms, Climate Change Is No Longer Up for Debate

This article discusses how, in courtrooms, climate change is no longer debated. Increasingly, global warming science is going unchallenged in lawsuits seeking to curb fossil fuel use and hold companies to account.

IN SEPTEMBER 2017, San Francisco experienced its hottest day on record, with temperatures reaching a searing 106 degrees. Weeks later, the city joined Oakland to announce it would sue five major fossil fuel firms — BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and ConocoPhillips — for the costs of building sea walls and other infrastructure to protect residents from global warming.

When the case reached court the following year, federal district judge William Alsup ordered a tutorial on climate change in which he asked both sides a series of pointed questions, including what caused the planet’s ice ages and what the main sources of CO2 in the atmosphere were. In the news media, the trial was cast as a possible “Scopes” moment for climate change, a reference to the seminal 1925 Tennessee trial in which evolutionary theory was pitted against Biblical teaching.

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