Representatives from the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) will appear in two forums in Colorado today and continue to push for more baseless climate lawsuits against manufacturers, despite evidence that such litigation does not solve our most pressing environmental challenges.
Not only is UCS continuing to push for lawsuits, they are doing so in forums in which proponents of these lawsuits are the only voices represented, instead of having an open and honest discussion that includes manufacturers and other interested stakeholders to advocate for consensus-based solutions forged through partnerships with manufacturers and political leaders.
This morning, Dr. Brenda Ekwurzel, the Director of Climate Science for UCS, will speak before the Boulder County Commissioners and attempt to pin a significant portion of carbon dioxide emissions on a handful of energy manufacturers. This divisive attempt to cast blame instead of work together with key innovators to reduce emissions while meeting consumer needs is a missed opportunity for both UCS and the Boulder County Commissioners.
Later this evening, UCS and the Center for Climate Integrity will host a panel at the University of Colorado Law School entitled, “Holding Fossil Fuel Companies Liable for Climate Change Harms in Colorado.” According to UCS, the panel, “…will focus on the costs associated with local climate impacts, the legal and scientific bases for bringing the case, lessons learned from similar lawsuits, and community perspectives as to why this lawsuit is necessary to shift some of the burden from taxpayers to polluters.”
Sitting on the panel are Ekwurzel, David Bookbinder of The Niskanen Center, Jon Goldin-DuBois of Western Resource Advocates and Marco Simons of EarthRights International. In other words, the event only features speakers who are either counsel for the Boulder lawsuit (Bookbinder and Simons) or active proponents of the overall climate litigation effort. Not one neutral or pro-manufacturing voice is scheduled to participate.
It is disappointing to see the University of Colorado hold such a one-sided event when so many prominent Coloradoans, many of them legal experts, have come out publicly against the Boulder lawsuit.
For example, Colorado’s Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser—a former Dean of the University of Colorado School of Law—recently said he was “unconvinced” that litigation is the appropriate response to combatting climate change. Martha Rudolph, former Governor John Hickenlooper’s air and water quality regulator, and Ken Salazar, a former U.S. Senator from Colorado and a Secretary of the Interior under President Obama, both cautioned against such a heavy-handed approach last year.
Across the aisle, Salazar’s predecessor at the Department of Interior, former Colorado Attorney General Gale Norton, has stated that the Boulder lawsuit is “based on a dubious legal premise and is not a productive way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” And the Denver Post editorial board criticized the lawsuit, noting, “Such lawsuits are especially unfortunate in a state like Colorado where tens of thousands of people work in a vibrant energy industry,” adding, “the best way to move forward is through political consensus building, not grandstanding in the courts.”
This event will not expose students at the University of Colorado Law School to any laws or policy perspectives that explain why litigation is an inappropriate and ineffective way to combat climate change, such as the fact that this tactic is a misuse of judicial resources to argue an unfounded legal theory that has yet to bear fruit in court. Not having an expert there who can talk through the other side of this contentious issue does a disservice to CU students.
As the Manufacturers’ Accountability Project has said time and time again, innovation and collaboration are essential to making progress on the issue of climate change. Litigation against manufacturers only serves to delay action and distract resources from real solutions, all while failing to address the underlying problem.