UnScientific AntiAmerican Magazine
Posted by aogSunday, 19 January 2003 at 08:49 TrackBack Ping URL
We accidentally ended up with a subscription to Scientific American. I used to be a genuine subscriber until the growing political bias became too much for me. I glanced through it this month and immediately found an article that exemplified the political bias and sloppy writing that turned me off in the first place.

The article, Greenhouse Suits, comes with a subtitle that sets the tone: "Litigation becomes a tool against global warming". This presumes the reality of global warming and that the people litigating understand the problem well enough to successfully work against it and that those efforts are the correct response. The lead paragraph ends with a stronger restatement of this

Rather than treaties and regulations, litigation may soon be the weapon of choice for those concerned about human-induced global warming.
For those concerned, the assumption being that anyone who is concerned will of course agree on the appropriate response, which is litigation and restriction of human activity. No one concerned about that would ever favor a technological solution such as orbiting sun shades / power stations. This idea is undermined by the point that resorting to litigation as a "tool" is an indication of failure to achieve one's political goals by politics.

The suit highlighted by the article, where the plaintiffs

charge that the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the Export-Import Bank (ExIm) have provided $32 billion for [...] fossil fuel endeavors. In contrast the agencies provided only $1.3 billion for renewable-energy projects [...]
Ignoring that my first response to any mention of problems with the OPIC or ExIm is to say "fine, let's abolish them", it's not clear why this would be a basis for a lawsuit. Despite this lead up, what the lawsuit is actually about is getting OPIC and ExIm to produce "cumulative impact on the climate" statements for all funded projects. The claim is that this is required by the terms of the National Environmental Policy Act. The article then goes on to state some of the hurdles faced by the plaintiffs, the primary one being able to show harm to the plaintiffs from the agencies actions. Why would that be? If the actions of the agencies are really illegal, why would it be necessary to show harm? Are government agencies free to behave illegally as long as no citizen can show harm? There's clearly something left unsaid here.

But we get to the meat of the issue in the penultimate paragraph with a claim from Donald Goldberg of the Center for International Environmental Law: "Goldberg holds that U.S. courts can solve the problem of apportioning blame". Ah, the U.S. courts. Is this because only U.S. companies are evil entities bent on warming the globe? Or because only U.S. companies should bear the burden? Why is someone from an organization for "International Law" claiming that the solution to a global problem is using U.S. courts to rule on U.S. law against U.S. companies? A cynical person might view this as more motivated by punishing the U.S. than solving the problem.