James Hansen: The Wheels of Justice

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The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they turn.  The judicial branch of government can be agonizingly slow, yet lawsuits form a crucial front in the fight to assure a healthy climate and a bright future for young people and future generations.

Lawsuits against governments receive attention, deservedly so.  Our government is violating Constitutional rights of young people such as equal protection of the law and due process.

Dan Galpern, my legal adviser, and I argued at the recent COP25 meeting in Madrid that it is important to put increased emphasis on lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry.

My reason for such a focus is not to punish the industry, even though they may deserve it.  I am more interested in climate solutions, and the fossil fuel industry has the resources to become a big part of the solutions, if they redirect resources toward clean energy.

We cannot count on the government to do the investment and R&D fast enough.  Better innovation potential exists in the private sector, which the government should encourage.  An example is space launch capability.  NASA, predictably, became a government bureaucracy.  However, there were people in NASA smart enough to foster the private sector.  Result: we have innovative capabilities such as Space X, with launch costs reduced a factor of 10 – we no longer need to rely on Russia to launch our heavy payloads!

In my remarks at COP25, I pointed out that the President of Exxon Research and Engineering in 1982 correctly described the climate threat: the climate system is characterized by a delayed response and amplifying feedbacks.  Together these imply an urgency for anticipatory actions.

The obvious, crucial required action was development of carbon-free energy.  Instead, Exxon chose to invest in ‘fracking’ and continued reliance on fuels of ever greater climate footprint.  They complemented this with a disinformation campaign, including a pretense that they were working hard on clean coal and renewables, as I noted in Fire on Planet Earth, while knowing full well that global fossil fuel emissions would continue to rise.

How can we get industry to become a big part of the solution?  A combination of carrot and stick is needed.  A rising carbon fee will provide the carrot – momentum for that is growing – we even have Presidential candidates in the U.S. who actually understand carbon fee & dividend.

The stick can be lawsuits against the fossil fuel industry, for example as Dan Galpern discussed at COP25.  Dan and I have been working together for several years, via my non-profit CSAS.inc, which is separate from the CSAS (Climate Science, Awareness and Solutions) program that I direct within the Columbia University Earth Institute.  CSAS.inc permits us to pursue legal cases, such as the recent ones listed on the eyechart, and CSAS.inc also allows us to avoid overhead costs.    I will mention some of these cases in upcoming Communications.

Most of these past and ongoing cases tend to be defensive, e.g., efforts to block expansion of coal mining, tar sands development or deforestation.  We need to put more effort into offense.

Given the tremendous public support that we received recently (It’s A Wonderful Life) for CSAS, I am reluctant to seek support again in 2019 – but those who have not given, or who wish to contribute specifically to our litigation efforts, may wish to contribute to CSAS.inc. directly at https://donorbox.org/support-climate-science-awareness-and-solutions. Instructions for gift checks and wire transfers are available here.  Eunbi (ej2347@columbia.edu) can provide additional information if you have any questions on how to contribute.


 

Lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court seeks class action, damages against e-cigarette giant Juul

Claim says Juul targets minors and misleads with advertising that suggests its products are safer than smoking


A statement of claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court claims Juul targets minors and misleads with advertising that suggests e-cigarettes and vaping are safer and healthier than smoking. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

A notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court claims e-cigarette giant Juul targets minors with misleading advertising by claiming its products are safer and healthier than smoking.

In documents filed today naming Juul Labs Canada and Juul Labs Inc., plaintiffs Jaycen Stephens and Owen Mann-Campbell say they were 18 years old when they started using Juul e-cigarettes in 2018.

Both say they developed shortness of breath, chest pain, coughing, increased addiction to nicotine, anxiety and other harms, which their doctors connected to vaping.

The men claim they would not have bought or used Juul e-cigarettes had they “been provided with accurate information and/or warnings with respect to the possible health complications from vaping.”


A man exhales vapour from an electronic cigarette. (Eva Hambach/AFP/Getty Images)

The plaintiffs are seeking to have the lawsuit classified as a class action. None of the allegations has been tested in court.

In an emailed statement, Juul Labs Canada told CBC News, “We are currently reviewing the statement of claim and at this time are not able to provide any further comment.”

Juul products account for about three-quarters of all sales in the multibillion-dollar industry. MORE

Environmentalists take Nova Scotia to court over endangered species

Lawyers will return to court Oct. 1 to complete arguments


The Canada warbler is one species a group of environmentalists are highlighting in their case against Nova Scotia’s Lands and Forestry Department. (Jeff Nadler)

Environmental groups are asking a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge to order the provincial Lands and Forestry Department to do more to protect endangered species.

The groups argue that the government is in violation of its own legislation covering species at risk because it has failed to come up with concrete plans to protect species and help them recover.

To focus their arguments, the groups ⁠— including the Federation of Nova Scotia Naturalists, Blomidon Naturalists Society and the Halifax Field Naturalists ⁠— zeroed in on six species.

Those included the Canada warbler and the eastern wood peewee, both songbirds, the black ash and ram’s head lady’s slipper, both plants, the wood turtle and the iconic mainland moose.

All have been identified by the government as species at risk.

But lawyers for the groups argued Monday that the government has failed to adhere to its own requirements to appoint advisory groups and come up with specific plans to save these species.


Bob Bancroft says the government needs to act to protect species at risk. (CBC)

In most cases, the lawyers said, it has been years since the problem was identified and nothing concrete has been done.

In addition to the environmental groups, biologist Bob Bancroft added his name to those calling on the government to act.

“I mean, obviously something’s not working here,” Bancroft said outside court.

“I think it’s basically stewardship. We don’t have a land ethic in this province. And if I own land like I do, I can desecrate it and nobody can do anything. We have laws for driving on the highway so it all works. Why don’t we have laws for how you use the land?” MORE

 

Ford’s senior officials hoped to keep mandate letters away from public view ‘as long as possible’

CBC News plans to continue fight for marching orders to ministers as Ontario looks to keep them secret


Premier Doug Ford’s government has gone to court to fight an order to release mandate letters to his cabinet ministers. (Tijana Martin/The Canadian Press)

Senior officials inside the Ford government planned to keep letters to cabinet members about their mandates secret as long as they could, a CBC News freedom of information request reveals.

CBC News first filed a request for copies of the mandate letters sent by Ontario Premier Doug Ford to all of Ontario’s 22 ministries and two non-portfolio responsibilities in July 2018. Mandate letters are a premier’s overall marching orders to cabinet ministers.

The request was denied by the cabinet office, which claimed disclosing the records would “reveal the substance of the executive council or its committees.”

But in an email dated July 31, 2018 obtained by CBC News, the executive director of policy to the premier suggests it was the government’s position to keep the letters from public view.

“Here’s the letters. As I said, the intention is to keep them to ourselves as long as possible,” Greg Harrington said in the email to the chief of staff’s senior policy adviser, Derek O’Toole.

O’Toole’s response: “Thanks Greg ! Understood 😊. ”

Exemption doesn’t apply: privacy commissioner

The revelation comes after Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner Brian Beamish disclosed the government plans to go to court to prevent the release of the letters to CBC News.

I ordered their release because Ontarians have a right to know what the government’s policy priorities are.– Brian Beamish, information and privacy commissioner

“There is no persuasive evidence or argument before me that disclosure (of the letters) would give rise to a chilling effect on cabinet deliberations …To a great extent, the mandate letters bear a close resemblance to the detailed policy platforms often produced by political parties during election campaigns,” Beamish said in his ruling.

In a blog posted Wednesday, Beamish explained that after reviewing the mandate letters, he determined they did not reveal government deliberations, the substance of any meetings or discussions by the premier’s office.

“The purpose of our freedom of information law is to support the public’s ‘right to know.’ Unless government records are exempt, they should be disclosed to the public. In this case, the mandate letters do not qualify for exemption as cabinet documents,” he said, adding he directed the cabinet office to disclose the letters by Aug. 16.

Beamish learned of court challenge Aug. 14


In a blog posted Wednesday, Ontario privacy commissioner Brian Beamish explained that after reviewing the mandate letters, he determined they did not reveal government deliberations, the substance of any meetings or discussions by the premier’s office. (CBC)

“I ordered their release because Ontarians have a right to know what the government’s policy priorities are,” he said.

Instead, on Aug. 14, Beamish said, he learned the government planned to take his office to court to prevent the letters from being released.

Mandate letters are commonly used by provincial governments across the country. Every other premier who issues them not only makes the letters public as a matter of course, they also publish them online as a deliberate way to allow the public to understand what the government plans to accomplish during its term.

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Ford government sues privacy commissioner to block release of cabinet letters

WATCH: Investigative reporter talks about Bayer/Monsanto’s efforts to discredit her work

“I really was just doing my job as a journalist.”

Investigative reporter Carey Gillam sat down with nonprofit newsroom The Real News Network to discuss recent reporting on how Bayer/Monsanto attempted to discredit her reporting on the weedkiller glyphosate— the active ingredient in Roundup.

The interview comes on the heels of Gillam’s piece in The Guardian last week, I’m a journalist. Monsanto built a step-by-step strategy to destroy my reputation, that outlined how Monsanto had an action plan specifically to discredit her reporting and her award-winning book, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science.

“This campaign by Monsanto against me has been going on for a long time … well more than a decade certainly,” Gillam says in the Real News Network interview.

“And I really was just doing my job as a journalist. I was reporting on the new scientific evidence that was coming out about different risks—cancer risks and other health risks—associated with Monsanto’s herbicides.” SOURCE

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Canada Post spent over $21 million in legal fees fighting pay equity case

Gisèle Morneau, one of the original complainants in the pay equity case, said she’s disappointed Canada Post spent so much money “to fight equal rights.”

Canada Post spent over $21 million in legal fees fighting against correcting a wage gap between male and female employees in a pay equity case that dated back to the early 1980s, the Star has learned.

The amount has finally been revealed after the Crown corporation tried to keep it secret for six years, following an Access to Information request.

Gisèle Morneau, one of the complainants in the original pay equity case, chuckled when told about the dollar figure

“I am not surprised. But I am disappointed that this money was spent to fight equal rights,” she said, speaking in French over the phone from her Quebec City home.

“The amount is so high that I am overwhelmed.”

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, there was a marked pay gap between the salaries of mostly male letter-carriers and mail-sorters, and mostly female clerical workers like Morneau.

Her union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, first filed a human rights complaint on behalf of 2,300 clerical workers in 1983, but Canada Post resisted and took it all the way to the Supreme Court.

In 2011, the court ruled that it had to make up half of the all the lost wages to its eligible employees.

Canada Post began sending out cheques, with interest, in August 2013. But Morneau said by that time it was too late for some of her colleagues. Several had died. All of them missed out on the opportunity to get the pay bump they wanted back at the start of their careers.

“It would have been much better for us to have this money when we were younger,” said Morneau, and probably cheaper for Canada Post. SOURCE

Bills insulating Ford government from lawsuits show it’s ‘closed for business,’ experts charge

Immunity clauses undermine ‘our reputation for a predictable, safe business environment,’ expert says


Doug Ford told supporters on the night of his election win that Ontario is now ‘open for business,’ but some experts say recent moves by his government show the opposite. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

It’s not every day that the first two bills a government introduces have clauses that protect it from being sued, but in the past two weeks of the summer session at Queen’s Park, the Progressive Conservative government has done just that.

Bill 2, the Urgent Priorities Act, enacted back to work legislation for striking York University workers, introduced more transparency for compensation of Hydro One executives and the CEO, and cancelled the controversial White Pines wind turbine project in Prince Edward County. The bill passed on Wednesday it contained a clause that protects the government from civil liability.

Similarly, Bill 4 — tabled on Wednesday — cancelled cap and trade in Ontario and included a clause that says the government can’t be sued.

Despite Doug Ford’s election night pledge that Ontario is now open for business, some experts say the government’s move to protect itself from civil lawsuits by outside companies is a sign of exactly the opposite.

Open or closed?

“It’s unusual,” Nelson Wiseman, a political scientist at the University of Toronto, said of the use of the immunity clause.

University of Toronto political scientist Nelson Wiseman says two pieces of legislation meant to immunize the government from civil lawsuits send a message to companies that the province is closed for business.(Facebook) “It happens, but it’s not something that you want you want to do, certainly regularly. You’d only want to do it in extraordinary circumstance.

Wiseman said inserting an immunity clause into two major bills casts doubt on Ford’s assertion that the province is now putting out the welcome mat.

“It’s actually saying quite the opposite: Ontario is closed for business. If we don’t like your business we’ll do whatever we want to it and immunize ourselves from legal recourse by yourself.”

The White Pines wind turbine project — that was killed under Bill 2 — had been under development for nearly a decade.

Earlier this month, the president of WPD Canada, a subsidiary of the German company behind the project, said cancelling the project could cost more than $100 million. The compensation to the company will be limited to the direct cost it has incurred to this point. And the new bill prevents the company from suing.

“Spending 10 years and  $100 million to build this wind farm, only to have an election take place, a new government come in and be told they have to dismantle the project and leave the country: that sends a bad message” said Ross Laver, the senior vice president of policy and communications with the Business Council of Canada.


Cancelling the controversial White Pines Wind Project was one of Doug Ford’s key campaign promises. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

….”New governments are completely free to determine their own course. But this kind of sudden change in direction as a result of an election does have an unfortunate by-product,” said Ross.

“It undermines our reputation for a predictable, safe business environment.”

Whether the immunity clauses stand up in court, especially if they’re tested by international companies, remains to be seen. MORE