Is climate change science "real science"? Can climate
change experts give expert evidence in court?
Canadian courts have not yet wrestled with this issue, but
American courts have. The leading case is Green Mountain Chrysler v.
Crombie. In 2007, the auto industry tried to
prevent leading climate change experts from giving expert evidence,
on the ground that their work was not reliable science, and did not
meet Daubert criteria (the legal test used to keep junk
science from cluttering up courtrooms). The case involved an auto
industry lawsuit to block Vermont from following California limits
on GHG emissions from automobiles. Judge Sessions ruled that Dr.
James Hansen, Dr. Barrett Rock and Mr. K.G. Duleep could
offer reliable expert evidence about greenhouse gas emissions and
climate change. About Dr. Hansen, for example, he ruled:
Hansen's testimony provides the Court with important
information on the nature and risks of global warming. As the
regulation at issue was crafted in response to a recognition of
these risks, understanding the nature of the regulation and its
effects depends on an understanding of the science that underlies
global warming. By explaining how such warming begins and grows, as
well as how it may be addressed at this point in time, Hansen
illuminated important background to the issues in this case. While
Hansen does not, as noted above, argue that the regulation will in
itself solve the global warming problem, his testimony provided
valuable context for the Court's consideration of the
Plaintiff's contentions that the regulation is essentially
useless. Therefore, the Court finds that Hansen's opinions do
assist the Court, as the trier of fact in this case.
Based on the evidence of these three experts, Judge Sessions
upheld Vermont's decision to adopt California limits on
greenhouse gas emissions from automobiles. In turn, this helped
pave the way for this year's historic compromise, in which what
is left of the American auto industry agreed to support major
improvements in automobile fuel efficiency.
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