San Francisco and Oakland want to hold fossil fuel companies liable for sea level rise costs. In an unusual move, the judge ordered a climate tutorial for the court.
Judicial review is about to meet peer review in a federal courtroom in San Francisco, where sparring cities and fossil fuel companies have been called to brief U.S. District Judge William Alsup this Wednesday on the basics of climate change.
It's an unusual arrangement, seemingly borrowed from patent litigation, where judges commonly hear initial testimony from both sides on pertinent scientific details.
That's done because the U.S. Supreme Court has directed that the meaning of a patent's words is a matter of law, to be decided by a judge—not a matter of fact to be decided by a jury.
You wouldn't think the science of climate change was like that. No court finding can dictate whether man-made greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet and causing damage to people, ecosystems and cities. A jury, if this case reaches one, ought to be able to comprehend overwhelming evidence that explains these realities.