Chris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute is the author of the recent "Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed," and with his CEI colleagues has been reporting on the unauthorized release of documents from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) of East Anglia University. In a Monday op-ed in The Examiner, he touched on the legal elements of the scandal, "Climate-gate e-mails released by whistleblower, not hacker," commenting that the involved scientists "have likely retained counsel with defensive purposes in mind."
Major litigation is under way in which plaintiffs claim damages caused from global warming, a topic addressed in today's USA Today story, "Lawsuits put global warming on more dockets." Yet the implications of Climategate on these suits has drawn little attention. (See Point of Law post, "Climategate: So who sues whom?")
So we asked Horner about the legal issues. He responded:
I suggest that the biggest impact of these affirmations -- remember, they are not revelations as for years I and others have specifically been naming these names and describing these actions now admitted to -- could well be how no court will simply take judicial notice now of any claims attributed to the IPCC, for which the work at issue in these documents serves as a basic foundation.
That implicates the idea that the science must now be debated before proceeding. That bodes very poorly for plaintiffs and the legal strategy of the alarmist industry in general. For nuisance, ESA, you name it.
For the same reasons EPA's regulatory threat is now even less menacing or sincere than it was a week before.
From there you proceed into issues of potential legal liability, for transparency and other laws broken, possible RICO exposure, and other legal fallout for the principals.
In related developments, CEI on Nov. 24 filed three Notices of Intent to File Suit against NASA and its Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), for refusing to provide documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act. The CEI news release states: "The information sought is directly relevant to the exploding "Climategate" scandal revealing document destruction, coordinated efforts in the U.S. and UK to avoid complying with both countries' freedom of information laws, and apparent and widespread intent to defraud at the highest levels of international climate science bodies."