“Attribution” For Me, Not for Thee - Climate Litigation Watch

“Attribution” For Me, Not for Thee

There was a conference this past weekend on attributing severe weather events to individual defendants in litigation, attended by Andrew Montford of Bishop-Hill blog (author of several climate books, The Hockey Stick Illusion and Hiding the Decline).

As CLW previously wrote about attribution:

Several media outlets are in the process of helping out with “attribution” stories, which you should see published soon.

CLW has learned of the concentrated effort to enhance “attribution” claims, to make it appear less incredible when plaintiffs try to pin events on not only man but individual companies. This weakness was internally acknowledged early in the climate litigation industry as a major impediment to helping out the tort bar’s call for “a single sympathetic attorney general” to begin investigating and filing suit against energy companies.

“Attribution” efforts stepped up in earnest after a certain activist group recruited more AGs on the heels of New York issuing its first, requested subpoena.

As Andrew Montford wrote about the event for the Global Warming Policy Foundation:

Apart from the lawfare specialists, there were an economist and a couple of scientists involved too. Only one of these mattered though: Fredi Otto of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford, who was the star turn of the first day, opening proceedings with a presentation that showed how she used climate models to estimate how man had increased the risk of bad weather. I managed to ask her how her confidence in attribution of extreme events (including rainfall!) could be reconciled to the IPCC’s lukewarm statements on changes in such events and she said that this would change in the Sixth Assessment. Quite how this will work, I’m not sure, but she seemed to think that the models were adequate to back legal claims for damages in some parts of the world, but not others.

Prof. Otto runs “World Weather Attribution” — obviously, an organization dedicated to attributing weather to (as its website notes repeatedly) “human contribution”. (As CLW readers know, weather isn’t climate, except when it is). In fact, it was thanks to Prof. Otto that CLW learned of the event.

Prof Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at Oxford University, said the conference was a “crucial step” to determine how the science of attribution – research to ascertain the mechanisms of global warming – can be used in litigation.

‘Crucial concepts’

Prof Otto said: “It is by enhancing conversations between lawyers, judges and scientists that we can open a new avenue to speed up the world into achieving the temperature target of the Paris Agreement.”

Indeed, the conference emphasized the importance of getting what one might call unwitting ‘confessions’ from participating nations, then using these in court.

CLW first noticed the weather attributor Prof. Otto when she gushed to trade press outlet Climate Wire that “she talks “a lot with lawyers” about how attribution science could be used as a litigation tool”. No doubt.

For example, someone whose name is improperly redacted here writes:

(note that all identities except Prof. Otto’s are hidden, purportedly under the UK FOI Act’s privacy exemption…imagine if all correspondents and others cited in correspondence, not just personal information like home address, cell phone and private email addresses, really were exempt under FOI laws because “privacy”; that would be the end of such laws).

Given this clumsy effort to hide who it is over here in the States who litigation-organizer UCS is sending Prof Otto’s way — the reasonable conclusion is it is one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys driving the climate litigation industry — the mystery man or woman is of ever greater interest.