On 17 September, Philippe Sands, QC and Professor of law at UCL, gave a public lecture (video here, slightly different text here) at
Kings College London the UK Supreme Court, as part of a two-day meeting on Climate change and the rule of law.
Robin Guenier has written a detailed and carefully referenced response to the lecture. Robin is a qualified barrister — there is a short biography at the end of his piece. Two previous articles by him have been posted here.
Other coverage of Philippe Sands’s lecture:
Adjudicating the Future: Climate Change & the Rule of Law. A ‘Storify’ of tweets.
See also the #climatecourts twitter tag.
In the introduction to the Philippe Sands lecture, Lord Carnwath says “The purpose of this conference is to stimulate such a debate…”. It will be interesting to see how Sands and others involved with the conference respond to the debate started by Robin’s piece.
Update 12 Oct:
There seems to be continuing interest in this story:
Of legal beagles and climate change views, from Hilary Ostrov, including links to comments from others who were at the meeting.
Judges plan to outlaw climate change ‘denial’, Christopher Booker in the Telegraph, with over 3000 comments.
Justiciable climate? Bishop Hill, with a link to an interesting article on the wisdom or otherwise of courts ruling on scientific matters.
No response yet from the learned professor himself though.
Who will watch the watchmen? A substantial response from the inimitable Christopher Monckton.
Update 29 Oct:
A significant new development: Lucas Bergkamp, a partner in a law firm and emeritus professor has written a paper
Adjudicating Scientific Disputes in Climate Science: The Limits of Judicial Competence and the Risks of Taking Sides which appears to be a direct response to Sands, who is mentioned several times. The Bergkamp paper is discussed at Climate etc. It’s nice to see that Bergkamp cites Robin Guenier’s “thoughtful comments” several times.
Bergkamp doesn’t mince his words. The abstract includes: “Courts should refrain from examining and ruling on climate science, since they are neither authorized nor competent to rule in scientific disputes. Even if judicial competence is assumed, climate science is not ripe for adjudication. To the contrary, the politicization of the science and the socio-political construction of scientific consensus in the climate area render any attempt to rule impartially on the key scientific disputes futile and suspect. Whether in the form of an advisory opinion or otherwise, a court judgment would be perceived as taking sides and, thus, would only aggravate an already badly politicized situation. Courts, including the ICJ, should uphold the rule of law and respect the limits of their authority. They should therefore refuse to opine on climate science and refer scientific disputes back to the scientific community, which is where they belong.”