Lawyers Should Listen to Scientists on Climate Change

As lawyers, one thing we know is the value of specialists and specialized knowledge, of all types. If you’ve got an ERISA issue, talk to an ERISA lawyer. If you’ve got a skin growth, talk to a dermatologist. We count on specialists to give us advice not based on their own quirky view of the problem, but instead based on the knowledge and learning of people in their field.

On climate change, we should listen to people like Richard Alley, Ph.D., of The Pennsylvania State University. Richard is a geologist who studies glaciers and climate change. He is widely recognized in the scientific community for his research and scholarship on climate change aka global warming.

Richard spoke to a meeting of lawyers in Philadelphia in the fall of 2014 and shared the basics about climate change. Video clips of Richard’s talk are available on our web site, but in case you don’t have time to review them, here is the quick recap:

  • “Yes it is getting warmer.” There is no reasonable doubt among scientists that the planet is getting warmer.
  • The Fifth Grade Version of Climate Change. The cause of the warming is carbon dioxide (C02) caused by human activity. C02 is invisible but it does have mass and weight, and the average American pumps 40,000 pounds of it a year into the atmosphere. “This cannot continue.”
  • “It’s physics!” People ask Dr. Alley whether he believes in global warming. He doesn’t believe it—he knows it because it’s physics. There is no scientific debate on the subject because the scientific facts are the scientific facts.
  • “The uncertainties are all on the downside.” During all the time humans have been on earth, we have never caused CO2 in parts per million to be anywhere near this high. The consequences for life on earth are projected to be very bad in the relatively near future, but they could be even worse sooner.

The insights that Dr. Alley shared in Philadelphia are not unique. Many other scientists have spoken out on these same points, and the world’s leading scientific organizations have recognized a broad scientific consensus on the cause and urgency of climate change. The inescapable conclusion is that we must reduce CO2 emissions. To find out how we can do that in a way in a way that will stimulate economic growth, check out Economists Agree on the Solution to Climate Change

We need the help of all people of all walks and calling, but lawyers and the legal community can and should take a leadership role. You can start by signing the Petition for Immediate Action On Climate Change.