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Alaskan Village Sues Over Global Warming 670

hightower_40 writes to mention that a small Alaskan village has sued two dozen oil, power, and coal companies, blaming them for contributing to global warming. "Sea ice traditionally protected the community, whose economy is based in part on salmon fishing plus subsistence hunting of whale, seal, walrus, and caribou. But sea ice that forms later and melts sooner because of higher temperatures has left the community unprotected from fall and winter storm waves and surges that lash coastal areas."
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Alaskan Village Sues Over Global Warming

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  • by DrLang21 ( 900992 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:32PM (#22576372)
    IANAL. It would seem to me that if you are going to sue someone for causing you harm, you would need to sue everyone involved. In this case, that would mean sueing almost everyone in the world. It's not fair to target one small group just because they have money. IANAL.
    • by KublaiKhan ( 522918 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:38PM (#22576472) Homepage Journal
      True, but bear in mind that lawsuits like this seem mostly intended not as an actual reparation of damages but to make a large public statement.

      Attention whoring, in a way.

      So they've already won what they wanted: to get attention for the difficulties that they and their neighbors have been having.

      IANAL myself, so take this comment cum grano salis.
    • by MyNymWasTaken ( 879908 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:41PM (#22576530)
      This parallels the "Big Tobacco" cases. The oil companies are the ones who have profited and lied about the side effects of their product.
      • by snarfer ( 168723 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:49PM (#22576662) Homepage
        In fact they're even using some of the same people and organizations that the tobacco compa nies used. "Doubt is our product" is the famous quote from a tobacco memo about their front-groups. They managed to put off a reckoning for decades by making people think that the science about cigarettes causing cancer was not clear.
      • by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @03:05PM (#22576878) Homepage

        This parallels the "Big Tobacco" cases. The oil companies are the ones who have profited and lied about the side effects of their product.
        In fact, it is burning coal, not oil, that is the main cause of the CO2 emissions that contribute to the anthropogenic component of global warming.
      • by zippthorne ( 748122 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @03:42PM (#22577420) Journal
        The main difference is that smoking tobacco doesn't really benefit anybody wheras burning coal and oil has literally driven the engines of production creating tremendous wealth for the whole world. We still have some distribution problems resulting in a number of people not being able to take full advantage of this wealth, but that number is decreasing all the time.

        Even if coal and oil use is causing noticeable and net deleterious effects, there is some argument that they should be forgiven past liability and even protected from some amount of current liability, as long as they are taking reasonable steps to mitigate deleterious effects, now.

        The earth can support 6 billion modern people. It already does. It cannot support 6 billion cave-men.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Bryansix ( 761547 )
        Oil companies don't try to defend against the argument that using petroleum based products for transportation and heating causes pollution. It does do that. What it doesn't do is CAUSE global warming. People should be moving away from oil because it FUNDS terrorists.
    • by pyat ( 303115 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:55PM (#22576752) Journal
      I'm not a lawyer either, but I had some law lectures during engineering school and one particular comment by the lecturer stuck with me and is quite apposite to your remark.

      He said "always follow the money". If someone doesn't have money, or at least insurance, don't waste your time and lawyers' fees suing them. Instead look for the richest parties who can be held responsible for the damage and sue them.

      I cannot comment myself on how valid my teacher's comments were, but he at least was a lawyer.
  • The funny thing... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:39PM (#22576482) Journal
    The funny thing is that villagers like these use enormous amounts of fuel and create tremendous pollution (per-capita, anyway) with their snowmobiles and poorly insulated houses. And how many times do you figure the lawyer pushing them into this suit has flown in from Boston?

    I do love the part where they're complaining that global warming is keeping them from hunting "whale, seal, walrus, and caribou". Maybe Leonardo diCaprio should make a movie about that!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      Yea I was wondering if they used any fossil fuels themselves? Are they taking any money from the State? In Alaska they pay you a reverse tax each year from all the oil that is exported from Alaska.
      If so I would say... If you are part the problem then why should you sue?
    • by z80kid ( 711852 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @03:25PM (#22577184)
      An Eskimo is driving when his car starts to make a noise. He takes it to the garage and the mechanic looks at it. "Hmm, looks like you've blown a seal."

      "No," says the Eskimo, "it's just frost on my mustache."

      (What the hell, I've got some karma to burn.)

  • by bagboy ( 630125 ) <neo&arctic,net> on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:39PM (#22576498)
    than anything else. I live in Alaska and can tell you the driving force behind this is actually "The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment and the Native American Rights Fund -- plus six law firms." The natives in the village use gas-powered vehicles for transportation and (generator) electricity for their homes, suing the people who provide the source for those items.

    Shoot, why don't we all climb on board. Oh, wait - I drive a car to work and use natural gas to heat my home, plus electricity to power my net activities...
  • by tjstork ( 137384 ) <todd DOT bandrowsky AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:41PM (#22576526) Homepage Journal
    I've been working so hard to warm the planet up, with my CO2 belching truck, but the lack of sunspots has made this year the coldest and snowiest winter since the 1960s....
  • Enjoin the Sun (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Migraineman ( 632203 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:41PM (#22576540)
    I hope they enjoined the Sun as a co-defendant.

    The lawsuit invokes the federal common law of public nuisance, and every entity that contributes to the pollution problem harming Kivalina is liable
    If anything is substantially responsible for increasing the earth's temperature, it's that nuclear-reactor-in-the-sky.
  • "Alaskan Village" (Score:5, Informative)

    by ajs ( 35943 ) <> on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:42PM (#22576552) Homepage Journal
    The term might mislead some Slashdot readers. Please see: []

    which established: []

    We're talking about the established tribal "village," which is a legal entity representing a group of natives for purposes of interacting with the Regional Corporations, not the traditional meaning of the word. The easiest comparison would be if you took recognized Native American tribes from the lower 48 and segmented them up into "villages" of roughly the size of a rural town.

  • nice timing (Score:3, Informative)

    by syrinx ( 106469 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:44PM (#22576568) Homepage
    Good (for some values of "good") timing on their part, what with the news that the world is actually cooling [], including the most snowfall in 50 years in North America, and record levels of Antarctic sea ice.

    Here we are, trying to keep our planet warm with a nice, insulating layer of carbon dioxide, and the darn ol' sun has to go and become less active.
  • by jamesl ( 106902 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @02:57PM (#22576778)
    Are they going to sue us back to the last ice age?
  • by Nexus7 ( 2919 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @03:05PM (#22576884)
    Exxon is presently trying to get the SCOTUS to overturn $2.5B punitive damages awarded to fishermen and other interests affected adversely by the Valdez spill (interesting story... drunk driver, I mean captain). Anyhow, it is related because punitive damages are weird.. they got $2.5B earlier, the court may reduce it, to what $1.25B? And Exxon wants to pay $0. How much is appropriate?

    At least in the oil spill, one defendant is involved, Exxon. In global warming, who is culpable, and to what extent? Who suffered, and what dollar amounts? And what is an appropriate punitive damages number? Adn think of the endless appeals.
    • Don't forget to mention the part where Exxon has incurred $3.4 billion in cleanup expenses and fines, and has already paid the compensatory damages (nearly $300 million) to the plaintiffs in the case. The point of punitive damages is (supposedly) to punish, not to be a windfall for the plaintiffs.
  • by wattrlz ( 1162603 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @03:11PM (#22576974)
    Will be created by clearcutting whole tree farms to make the paper a case of this magnitude requires.
  • Where the villagers win and the big corporations lose.

    Fight global warming with aikido!!!
  • by element-o.p. ( 939033 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @03:22PM (#22577122) Homepage
    I hope there IS global warming. This winter was frikken cold!
  • Climate Change. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Wednesday February 27, 2008 @05:01PM (#22578624)
    The big push for at least a decade was that we were being threatened by global warming. The ice caps were going to melt, the seas were going to rise and who knows what else was going to come with that. All we hear about is some impending doom initiated by humanity. Except that it never actually arrives; it's always going to happen some day soon.

    On now that evidence is arising that discredits the notion of global warming the terms get switched around on us. So now it's climate change. The nice thing about this term is that it's so all-encompassing. Any time we get weather a bit out of the ordinary it's chalked up to be due to climate change, specifically man-made climate change.

    Last month is snowed lightly in Baghdad for the first time anyone can recall. You'd think so impressive an event would be covered more than it was. I eventually found a brief Agence France-Presse story about it. Predictably they stick a bit in there about how this was due to climate change. Like there's a set temperature for any spot on Earth.

    I guess the implication is that the Earth's climate has always been static. I can't help but think that Creationists should be the most ardent believers of man-made climate change given that they're convinced the Earth is only 6000 years old.

    Forecasters can barely predict the weather into next week and I'm supposed to accept has fact incomplete computer models that predict the weather in the next 50 or 100 years. More importantly, I'm supposed to subscribe to the belief that a global temperature increase is inherently a bad thing.

    A while ago I was reading about the history of Japan, specifically the Jomon period. It turns out that between 4000BC and 2000BC temperatures tended to be several degrees Celsius higher then they are today and the seas are believed to have been 5m higher. The fascinating part was that the people living in Japan at the time thrived during this era, having developed rice-paddy farming and government control. When the climate cooled the population of these people declined dramatically. This trend is reflected around the world. Europe endured famines in the 1300s during periods of cooling and glacial expansion.

    Unfortunately, it seems to be taboo to argue against man-made climate change. Any evidence critics put forward is dismissed off-hand. The double-standards are laughable. A believer will use a localized event as evidence of climate change. A critic does the same and their argument is discredited for being based on local weather.

    So now we have these eskimo pulling what is essentially a publicity stunt. Well, it's worse than that. Behind them are a pack of scumbag lawyers looking to line their pockets.

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.