From Applied Ethics: A Sourcebook


James Fieser





1. Classic Philosophers on Environmental Responsibility—Augustine, Locke, Thoreau, Marsh, Muir

2. Supreme Court Cases on the Environment—Sierra Club v. Morton; Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council; Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency

3. Is the Global Warming Problem that Serious: Pro and Contra  — Al Gore and Bjørn Lomborg

4. Political Interference with Global Warming Science: Pro and Contra —Roger A. Pielke Jr. and Francesca T. Grifo

5. Eco-Terrorism: Pro and Contra — Craig Rosebraugh and Richard Berman









Augustine, Locke, Thoreau, Marsh, Muir


Augustine (354–430) was Bishop of the North African city of Hippo, and is among the most influential early Christian theologians and philosophers. One such view is that of the Manichean Gnostic religion, founded in Iran by Mani (b. 216 CE) in the third century CE. Few Manichean texts survive, and much of what we know about their views comes from written attacks on their doctrines, such as the selection below from Of the Morals of the Manicheans (388) by Augustine (354-430). According to Augustine’s description, Manicheans believed that God dwells in plant life, especially before plants wither, die and decay. By nature, God is good, and the earth is evil. However, to lessen the evil nature of the earth, God infused part of his good self into the earth, thereby making it at least a little better than it would be otherwise. The roots of plants suck up this divine component from the soil. When the plant dies, this divine portion is released from the plant and drifts back to heaven. The divine component of plants also returns to heaven when animals grind and chew plants for food. Manicheans were vegetarians since animals such as cows swallow only the evil portion of plants, once the divine portion is released through chewing. Animal flesh, then, is all evil, and should not be ingested by humans. Augustine exposes several logical flaws in this theory. Although few today would hold to a theory like the Manichean’s, their theory vividly illustrates how some thinkers from antiquity held that plant life has inherent value independent of human interests.

            In more recent times, we find another glimmer of eco-centric thinking in the writings of American naturalist Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), such as in the passage below from his book Maine Woods (1864). The book chronicles a trip that he made in 1846 from Concord Massachusetts to Bangor Maine. In one passage Thoreau describes his encounter with a natural forest clearing, and his subsequent feeling of awe concerning the primeval power of raw nature. For Thoreau, the physical stuff of nature feels like a distinct force of its own, which is independent of -- and even hostile to -- our human interests. Although Thoreau implies that nature has an inherent worth not derived from human interests, he stops short of stating that nature has rights.




Why the Manichaeans Prohibit the Use of Flesh

It is worthwhile to take note of the whole reason for their superstitious abstinence, which is given as follows:--Since, we are told, the member of God has been mixed with the substance of evil, to repress it and to keep it from excessive ferocity,--for that is what you say,--the world is made up of both natures, of good and evil, mixed together. But this part of God is daily being set free in all parts of the world, and restored to its own domain. But in its passage upwards as vapor from earth to heaven, it enters plants, because their roots are fixed in the earth, and so gives fertility and strength to all herbs and shrubs. From these animals get their food, and, where there is sexual intercourse, fetter in the flesh the member of God, and, turning it from its proper course, they come in the way and entangle it in errors and troubles. So then, if food consisting of vegetables and fruits comes to the saints, that is, to the Manichaeans by means of their chastity, and prayers, and psalms, whatever in it is excellent and divine is purified, and so is entirely perfected, in order to restoration, free from all hindrance, to its own domain. Hence you forbid people to give bread or vegetables, or even water, which would cost nobody anything, to a beggar, if he is not a Manichaean, lest he should defile the member of God by his sins, and obstruct its return.

            Flesh, you say, is made up of pollution itself. For, according to you, some portion of that divine part escapes in the eating of vegetables and fruits: it escapes while they undergo the infliction of rubbing, grinding, or cooking, as also of biting or chewing. It escapes, too, in all motions of animals, in the carriage of burdens, in exercise, in toil, or in any sort of action. It escapes, too, in our rest, when digestion is going on in the body by means of internal heat. And as the divine nature escapes in all these ways, some very unclean dregs remain, from which, in sexual intercourse, flesh is formed. These dregs, however, fly off, in the motions above mentioned, along with what is good in the soul; for though it is mostly, it is not entirely good. So, when the soul has left the flesh, the dregs are utterly filthy, and the soul of those who eat flesh is defiled.


Disclosure of the Monstrous Tenets of the Manichaeans

Tell me then, first, where you get the doctrine that part of God, as you call it, exists in corn, beans, cabbage, and flowers and fruits. From the beauty of the color, say they, and the sweetness of the taste; this is evident; and as these are not found in rotten substances, we learn that their good has been taken from them. Are they not ashamed to attribute the finding of God to the nose and the palate? But I pass from this. For I will speak, using words in their proper sense; and, as the saying is, this is not so easy in speaking to you. Let us see rather what sort of mind is required to understand this; how, if the presence of good in bodies is shown by their color, the dung of animals, the refuse of flesh itself, has all kinds of bright colors, sometimes white, often golden; and so on, though these are what you take in fruits and flowers as proofs of the presence and indwelling of God. Why is it that in a rose you hold the red color to be an indication of an abundance of good, while the same color in blood you condemn? Why do you regard with pleasure in a violet the same color which you turn away from in cases of cholera, or of people with jaundice, or in the excrement of infants? Why do you believe the light, shining appearance of oil to be a sign of a plentiful admixture of good, which you readily set about purifying by taking the oil into your throats and stomachs, while you are afraid to touch your lips with a drop of fat, though it has the same shining appearance as oil? Why do you look upon a yellow melon as part of the treasures of God, and not rancid bacon fat or the yolk of an egg? Why do you think that whiteness in a lettuce proclaims God, and not in milk? So much for colors, as regards which (to mention nothing else) you cannot compare any flower-clad meadow with the wings and feathers of a single peacock, though these are of flesh and of fleshly origin. ...

            Is your reason for thinking the bodies of trees better than our bodies, that flesh is nourished by trees and not trees by flesh? You forget the obvious fact that plants, when manured with dung, become richer and more fertile and crops heavier, though you think it your gravest charge against flesh that it is the abode of dung. This then gives nourishment to things you consider clean, though it is, according to you, the most unclean part of what you consider unclean. But if you dislike flesh because it springs from sexual intercourse, you should be pleased with the flesh of worms, which are bred in such numbers, and of such a size, in fruits, in wood, and in the earth itself, without any sexual intercourse. But there is some insincerity in this. For if you were displeased with flesh because it is formed from the cohabitation of father and mother, you would not say that those princes of darkness were born from the fruits of their own trees; for no doubt you think worse of these princes than of flesh, which you refuse to eat. ...

            Again, the notion that it is unlawful for anyone but the elect to touch as food what is brought to your meals for what you call purification, leads to shameful and sometimes to criminal practices. For sometimes so much is brought that it cannot easily be eaten up by a few; and as it is considered sacrilege to give what is left to others, or, at least, to throw it away, you are obliged to eat to excess, from the desire to purify, as you call it, all that is given. Then, when you are full almost to bursting, you cruelly use force in making the boys of your sect eat the rest. So it was charged against someone at Rome that he killed some poor children, by compelling them to eat for this superstitious reason. This I should not believe, did I not know how sinful you consider it to give this food to those who are not elect, or, at any rate, to throw it away. So the only way is to eat it; and this leads every day to gluttony, and may sometimes lead to murder.




Sec. 30. Thus this law of reason makes the deer that Indian’s who has killed it; it is allowed to be his goods, who has bestowed his labor upon it, though before it was the common right of everyone. And amongst those who are counted the civilized part of mankind, who have made and multiplied positive laws to determine property, this original law of nature, for the beginning of property, in what was before common, still takes place; and by virtue thereof, what fish anyone catches in the ocean, that great and still remaining common of mankind; or what ambergris anyone takes up here, is by the labor that removes it out of that common state nature left it in, made his property, who takes that pains about it. And even amongst us, the hare that anyone is hunting, is thought his who pursues her during the chase: for being a beast that is still looked upon as common, and no man’s private possession; whoever has employed so much labor about any of that kind, as to find and pursue her, has thereby removed her from the state of nature, wherein she was common, and has begun a property.

            Sec. 31. It will perhaps be objected to this, that if gathering the acorns, or other fruits of the earth, etc. makes a right to them, then anyone may engross as much as he will. To which I answer, Not so. The same law of nature, that does by this means give us property, does also bound that property too. God has given us all things richly, 1 Tim. vi. 12. is the voice of reason confirmed by inspiration. But how far has he given it us? To enjoy. As much as anyone can make use of to any advantage of life before it spoils, so much he may by his labor fix a property in: whatever is beyond this, is more than his share, and belongs to others. Nothing was made by God for man to spoil or destroy. And thus, considering the plenty of natural provisions there was a long time in the world, and the few spenders; and to how small a part of that provision the industry of one man could extend itself, and engross it to the prejudice of others; especially keeping within the bounds, set by reason, of what might serve for his use; there could be then little room for quarrels or contentions about property so established.

            Sec. 32. But the chief matter of property being now not the fruits of the earth, and the beasts that subsist on it, but the earth itself; as that which takes in and carries with it all the rest; I think it is plain, that property in that too is acquired as the former. As much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cultivates, and can use the product of, so much is his property. He by his labor does, as it were, enclose it from the common. Nor will it invalidate his right, to say everybody else has an equal title to it; and therefore he cannot appropriate, he cannot enclose, without the consent of all his fellow-commoners, all mankind. God, when he gave the world in common to all mankind, commanded man also to labor, and the penury of his condition required it of him. God and his reason commanded him to subdue the earth, i.e. improve it for the benefit of life, and therein lay out something upon it that was his own, his labor. He that in obedience to this command of God, subdued, tilled and sowed any part of it, thereby annexed to it something that was his property, which another had no title to, nor could without injury take from him.

            Sec. 33. Nor was this appropriation of any parcel of land, by improving it, any prejudice to any other man, since there was still enough, and as good left; and more than the yet unprovided could use. So that, in effect, there was never the less left for others because of his enclosure for himself: for he that leaves as much as another can make use of, does as good as take nothing at all. Nobody could think himself injured by the drinking of another man, though he took a good draught, who had a whole river of the same water left him to quench his thirst: and the case of land and water, where there is enough of both, is perfectly the same.

            Sec. 34. God gave the world to men in common; but since he gave it them for their benefit, and the greatest conveniences of life they were capable to draw from it, it cannot be supposed he meant it should always remain common and uncultivated. He gave it to the use of the industrious and rational, (and labor was to be his title to it) not to the fancy or covetousness of the quarrelsome and contentious. He that had as good left for his improvement, as was already taken up, needed not complain, ought not to meddle with what was already improved by another’s labor: if he did, it is plain he desired the benefit of another’s pains, which he had no right to, and not the ground which God had given him in common with others to labor on, and whereof there was as good left, as that already possessed, and more than he knew what to do with, or his industry could reach to. . . .

            Sec. 45. Thus labor, in the beginning, gave a right of property, wherever anyone was pleased to employ it upon what was common, which remained a long while the far greater part, and is yet more than mankind makes use of. Men, at first, for the most part, contented themselves with what unassisted nature offered to their necessities: and though afterwards, in some parts of the world, (where the increase of people and stock, with the use of money, had made land scarce, and so of some value) the several communities settled the bounds of their distinct territories, and by laws within themselves regulated the properties of the private men of their society, and so, by compact and agreement, settled the property which labor and industry began; and the leagues that have been made between several states and kingdoms, either expressly or tacitly disowning all claim and right to the land in the others possession, have, by common consent, given up their pretences to their natural common right, which originally they had to those countries, and so have, by positive agreement, settled a property amongst themselves, in distinct parts and parcels of the earth; yet there are still great tracts of ground to be found, which (the inhabitants thereof not having joined with the rest of mankind, in the consent of the use of their common money) lie waste, and are more than the people who dwell on it do, or can make use of, and so still lie in common; though this can scarce happen amongst that part of mankind that have consented to the use of money.




Perhaps I most fully realized that this was primeval, untamed, and forever untameable Nature, or whatever else men call it, while coming down this part of the mountain. We were passing over “Burnt Lands,” burnt by lightning, perchance, though they showed no recent marks of fire, hardly so much as a charred stump, but looked rather like a natural pasture for the moose and deer, exceedingly wild and desolate, with occasional strips of timber crossing them, and low poplars springing up, and patches of blueberries here and there. I found myself traversing them familiarly, like some pasture run to waste, or partially reclaimed by man; but when I reflected what man, what brother or sister or kinsman of our race made it and claimed it, I expected the proprietor to rise up and dispute my passage. It is difficult to conceive of a region uninhabited by man. We habitually presume his presence and influence everywhere. And yet we have not seen pure Nature, unless we have seen her thus vast and drear and inhuman, though in the midst of cities. Nature was here something savage and awful, though beautiful. I looked with awe at the ground I trod on, to see what the Powers had made there, the form and fashion and material of their work. This was that Earth of which we have heard, made out of Chaos and Old Night. Here was no man’s garden, but the unhandselled globe. It was not lawn, nor pasture, nor mead, nor woodland, nor lea, nor arable, nor waste-land. It was the fresh and natural surface of the planet Earth, as it was made forever and ever, -- to be the dwelling of man, we say, -- so Nature made it, and man may use it if he can. Man was not to be associated with it. It was Matter, vast, terrific, -- not his Mother Earth that we have heard of, not for him to tread on, or be buried in, -- no, it were being too familiar even to let his bones lie there, -- the home, this, of Necessity and Fate. There was there felt the presence of a force not bound to be kind to man. It was a place for heathenism and superstitious rites, -- to be inhabited by men nearer of kin to the rocks and to wild animals than we. We walked over it with a certain awe, stopping, from time to time, to pick the blueberries which grew there, and had a smart and spicy taste. Perchance where our wild pines stand, and leaves lie on their forest floor, in Concord, there were once reapers, and husbandmen planted grain; but here not even the surface had been scarred by man, but it was a specimen of what God saw fit to make this world. What is it to be admitted to a museum, to see a myriad of particular things, compared with being shown some star’s surface, some hard matter in its home! I stand in awe of my body, this matter to which I am bound has become so strange to me. I fear not spirits, ghosts, of which I am one, -- that my body might, -- but I fear bodies, I tremble to meet them. What is this Titan that has possession of me? Talk of mysteries! -- Think of our life in nature, -- daily to be shown matter, to come in contact with it, -- rocks, trees, wind on our cheeks! the solid earth! the actual world! the common sense! Contact! Contact! Who are we? where are we?




The object of the present volume is: to indicate the character and, approximately, the extent of the changes produced by human action in the physical conditions of the globe we inhabit; to point out the dangers of imprudence and the necessity of caution in all operations which, on a large scale, interfere with the spontaneous arrangements of the organic or the inorganic world; to suggest the possibility and the importance of the restoration of disturbed harmonies and the material improvement of waste and exhausted regions; and, incidentally, to illustrate the doctrine, that man is, in both kind and degree, a power of a higher order than any of the other forms of animated life, which, like him, are nourished at the table of bounteous nature.

            In the rudest stages of life, man depends upon spontaneous animal and vegetable growth for food and clothing, and his consumption of such products consequently diminishes the numerical abundance of the species which serve his uses. At more advanced periods, he protects and propagates certain esculent vegetables and certain fowls and quadrupeds, and, at the same time, wars upon rival organisms which prey upon these objects of his care or obstruct the increase of their numbers. Hence the action of man upon the organic world tends to subvert the original balance of its species, and while it reduces the numbers of some of them, or even extirpates them altogether, it multiplies other forms of animal and vegetable life.

            The extension of agricultural and pastoral industry involves an enlargement of the sphere of man's domain, by encroachment upon the forests which once covered the greater part of the earth's surface otherwise adapted to his occupation. The felling of the woods has been attended with momentous consequences to the drainage of the soil, to the external configuration of its surface, and probably, also, to local climate; and the importance of human life as a transforming power is, perhaps, more clearly demonstrable in the influence man has thus exerted upon superficial geography than in any other result of his material effort.

            Lands won from the woods must be both drained and irrigated; river banks and maritime coasts must be secured by means of artificial bulwarks against inundation by inland and by ocean floods; and the needs of commerce require the improvement of natural, and the construction of artificial channels of navigation. Thus man is compelled to extend over the unstable waters the empire he had already founded upon the solid land.

            The upheaval of the bed of seas and the movements of water and of wind expose vast deposits of sand, which occupy space required for the convenience of man, and often, by the drifting of their particles, overwhelm the fields of human industry with invasions as disastrous as the incursions of the ocean. On the other hand, on many coasts, sand hills both protect the shores from erosion by the waves and currents, and shelter valuable grounds from blasting sea winds. Man, therefore, must sometimes resist, sometimes promote, the formation and growth of dunes, and subject the barren and flying sands to the same obedience to his will to which he has reduced other forms of terrestrial surface.

            Besides these old and comparatively familiar methods of material improvement, modern ambition aspires to yet grander achievements in the conquest of physical nature, and projects are meditated which quite eclipse the boldest enterprises hitherto undertaken for the modification of geographical surface. . . .

            Apart from the hostile influence of man, the organic and the inorganic world are, as I have remarked, bound together by such mutual relations and adaptations as secure, if not the absolute permanence and equilibrium of both, a long continuance of the established conditions of each at any given time and place, or at least, a very slow and gradual succession of changes in those conditions. But man is everywhere a disturbing agent. Wherever he plants his foot, the harmonies of nature are turned to discords. The proportions and accommodations which insured the stability of existing arrangements are overthrown. Indigenous vegetable and animal species are extirpated, and supplanted by others of foreign origin, spontaneous production is forbidden or restricted, and the face of the earth is either laid bare or covered with a new and reluctant growth of vegetable forms, and with alien tribes of animal life. These intentional changes and substitutions constitute, indeed, great revolutions; but vast as is their magnitude and importance, they are, as we shall see, insignificant in comparison with the contingent and unsought results which have flowed from them.

            The fact that, of all organic beings, man alone is to be regarded as essentially a destructive power, and that he wields energies to resist which, nature--that nature whom all material life and all inorganic substance obey--is wholly impotent, tends to prove that, though living in physical nature, he is not of her, that he is of more exalted parentage, and belongs to a higher order of existence than those born of her womb and submissive to her dictates.

            There are, indeed, brute destroyers, beasts and birds and insects of prey--all animal life feeds upon, and, of course, destroys other life,--but this destruction is balanced by compensations. It is, in fact, the very means by which the existence of one tribe of animals or of vegetables is secured against being smothered by the encroachments of another; and the reproductive powers of species, which serve as the food of others, are always proportioned to the demand they are destined to supply. Man pursues his victims with reckless destructiveness; and, while the sacrifice of life by the lower animals is limited by the cravings of appetite, he unsparingly persecutes, even to extirpation, thousands of organic forms which he cannot consume.

            The earth was not, in its natural condition, completely adapted to the use of man, but only to the sustenance of wild animals and wild vegetation. These live, multiply their kind in just proportion, and attain their perfect measure of strength and beauty, without producing or requiring any change in the natural arrangements of surface, or in each other's spontaneous tendencies, except such mutual repression of excessive increase as may prevent the extirpation of one species by the encroachments of another. In short, without man, lower animal and spontaneous vegetable life would have been constant in type, distribution, and proportion, and the physical geography of the earth would have remained undisturbed for indefinite periods, and been subject to revolution only from possible, unknown cosmical causes, or from geological action.

            But man, the domestic animals that serve him, the field and garden plants the products of which supply him with food and clothing, cannot subsist and rise to the full development of their higher properties, unless brute and unconscious nature be effectually combated, and, in a great degree, vanquished by human art. Hence, a certain measure of transformation of terrestrial surface, of suppression of natural, and stimulation of artificially modified productivity becomes necessary. This measure man has unfortunately exceeded. He has felled the forests whose network of fibrous roots bound the mould to the rocky skeleton of the earth; but had he allowed here and there a belt of woodland to reproduce itself by spontaneous propagation, most of the mischiefs which his reckless destruction of the natural protection of the soil has occasioned would have been averted. He has broken up the mountain reservoirs, the percolation of whose waters through unseen channels supplied the fountains that refreshed his cattle and fertilized his fields; but he has neglected to maintain the cisterns and the canals of irrigation which a wise antiquity had constructed to neutralized the consequences of its own imprudence. While he has torn the thin glebe which confined the light earth of extensive plains, and has destroyed the fringe of semi-aquatic plants which skirted the coast and checked the drifting of the sea sand, he has failed to prevent the spreading of the dunes by clothing them with artificially propagated vegetation. He has ruthlessly warred on all the tribes of animated nature whose spoil he could convert to his own uses, and he has not protected the birds which prey on the insects most destructive to his own harvests.

            Purely untutored humanity, it is true, interferes comparatively little with the arrangements of nature, and the destructive agency of man becomes more and more energetic and unsparing as he advances in civilization, until the impoverishment, with which his exhaustion of the natural resources of the soil is threatening him, at last awakens him to the necessity of preserving what is left, if not of restoring what has been wantonly wasted. The wandering savage grows no cultivated vegetable, fells no forest, and extirpates no useful plant, not noxious weed. If his skill in the chase enables him to entrap numbers of the animals on which he feeds, he compensates this loss by destroying also the lion, the tiger, the wolf, the otter, the seal, and the eagle, thus indirectly protecting the feebler quadrupeds and fish and fowls, which would otherwise become the booty of beasts and birds of prey. But with stationary life, or rather with the pastoral state, man at once commences an almost indiscriminate warfare upon all the forms of animal and vegetable existence around him, and as he advances in civilization, he gradually eradicates or transforms every spontaneous product of the soil he occupies.




The world, we are told, was made especially for man a presumption not supported by all the facts. A numerous class of men are painfully astonished whenever they find anything, living or dead, in all God's universe, which they cannot eat or render in some way what they call useful to themselves. They have precise dogmatic insight of the intentions of the Creator, and it is hardly possible to be guilty of irreverence in speaking of their God any more than of heathen idols. He is regarded as a civilized, law-abiding gentleman in favor either of a republican form of government or of a limited monarchy; believes in the literature and language of England; is a warm supporter of the English constitution and Sunday schools and missionary societies; and is as purely a manufactured article as any puppet of a half-penny theater.

            With such views of the Creator it is, of course, not surprising that erroneous views should be entertained of the creation. To such properly trimmed people, the sheep, for example, is an easy problem -- food and clothing “for us,” eating grass and daisies white by divine appointment for this predestined purpose, on perceiving the demand for wool that would be occasioned by the eating of the apple in the Garden of Eden.

            In the same pleasant plan, whales are store. houses of oil for us, to help out the stars in lighting our dark ways until the discovery of the Pennsylvania oil wells. Among plants, hemp, to say nothing of the cereals, is a case of evident destination for ships' rigging, wrapping packages, and hanging the wicked. Cotton is another other plain case of clothing. Iron was made for hammers and ploughs, and lead for bullets all intended for us. And so of other small handfuls of insignificant things.

            But if we should ask these profound expositors of God's intentions, How about those man-eating animals -- lions, tigers, alligators -- which smack their lips over raw man? Or about those myriads of noxious insects that destroy labor and drink his blood? Doubtless man was intended for food and drink for all these? Oh, no! Not at all! These are unresolvable difficulties connected with Eden's apple and the Devil. Why does water drown its lord? Why do so many minerals poison him? Why are so many plants and fishes deadly enemies? Why is the lord of creation subjected to the same laws of life as his subjects? Oh, all these things are satanic, or in some way connected with the first garden.

            Now, it never seems to occur to these far-seeing teachers that Nature's object in making animals and plants might possibly be first of all the happiness of each one of them, not the creation of all for the happiness of one. Why should man value himself as more than a small part of the one great unit of creation? And what creature of all that the Lord has taken the pains to make is not essential to the completeness of that unit -- the cosmos? The universe would be incomplete without man; but it would also be incomplete without the smallest transmicroscopic creature that dwells beyond our conceitful eyes and knowledge.

            From the dust of the earth, from the common elementary fund, the Creator has made Homo Sapiens. From the same material he has made every other creature, however noxious and insignificant to us. They are earth-born companions and our fellow mortals. The fearfully good, the orthodox, of this laborious patch-work of modern civilization cry “Heresy” on every one whose sympathies reach a single hair's breadth beyond the boundary epidermis of our own species. Not content with taking all of earth, they also claim the celestial country as the only ones who possess the kind of souls for which that imponderable empire was planned.

            This star, our own good earth, made many a successful journey around the heavens ere man was made, and whole kingdoms of creatures enjoyed existence and returned to dust ere man appeared to claim them. After human beings have also played their part in Creation's plan, they too may disappear without any general burning or extraordinary commotion whatever.

            Plants are credited with but dim and uncertain sensation, and minerals with positively none at all. But why may not even a mineral arrangement of matter be endowed with sensation of a kind that we in our blind exclusive perfection can have no manner of communication with?

            But I have wandered from my object. I stated a page or two back that man claimed the earth was made for him, and I was going to say that venomous beasts, thorny plants, and deadly diseases of certain parts of the earth prove that the whole world was not made for him. When an animal from a tropical climate is taken to high latitudes, it may perish of cold, and we say that such an animal was never intended for so severe a climate. But when man betakes himself to sickly parts of the tropics and perishes, he cannot see that he was never intended for such deadly climates. No, he will rather accuse the first mother of the cause of the difficulty, though she may never have seen a fever district; or will consider it a providential chastisement for some self-invented form of sin.

            Furthermore, all uneatable and uncivilizable animals, and all plants which carry prickles, are deplorable evils which, according to closet researches of clergy, require the cleansing chemistry of universal planetary combustion. But more than aught else mankind requires burning, as being in great part wicked, and if that transmundane furnace can be so applied and regulated as to smelt and purify us into conformity with the rest of the terrestrial creation, then the tophetization of the erratic genus Homo were a consummation devoutly to be prayed for. But, glad to leave these ecclesiastical fires and blunders, I joyfully return to the immortal truth and immortal beauty of Nature.


Source: Augustine, Of the Morals of the Manacheans, tr. Richard Stothert, Ch. 15, 16. John Locke, Two Treatises of Government (1690), Treatise 2:30-34, 45. Henry David Thoreau, Main Woods (1864) 1.77. George P. Marsh, Man and Nature; or, Physical Geography as Modified by Human Action (1864), Preface, Ch. 1. John Muir, A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf (1916), Ch. 6.


Questions for Review

1. Why, according to Augustine, don’t the Manicheans give vegetable food to the poor?

2. Augustine argues that there are no reliable empirical indicators (or sensory perceptions) to tell us whether a plant contains a divine component. How does his example of “bright colors” illustrate this problem?

3. What does Augustine believe is a “shameful” consequence of the Manichean view that food is inherently sacred?

4. What is Thoreau’s point about “heathanism and supersitious rites”?

5. Why is Thoreau more terrified of physical nature than of spirits?


Questions for Analysis














Sierra Club v. Morton; Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council; Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency


Among the Supreme Court’s rulings that involve the environment, three are particularly important. The first is Sierra Club v. Morton (1972). In the late 1960s, the U.S. Forest Service granted permission to Walt Disney Inc. to develop an area near Sequoia National Park known as “Mineral King Valley” and make it into an elaborate skiing resort. Concerned by the environmental damage this would cause, the Sierra Club sued to stop Disney’s plan; the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Disney. The Court recognized that people may sue when there has been aesthetic damage: while people typically sue when damage has been economic, according to the Court, aesthetic issues are an important component of our quality of life, and aesthetic harm to the environment is a legitimate legal concern. The critical question, though, is who is entitled to sue on behalf of the environment when it is aesthetically damaged? The Sierra Club maintained that special interest groups, like themselves which have a unique commitment to environmental protection, can sue as an interested party. The Court though, rejected this. First, they argued, the Administrative Procedure Act, under which the Sierra Club was suing, requires that a person can sue on behalf of the environment only if that person himself has been injured. But the Sierra club made no such claim and, instead, wrongly assumed that its longstanding concern with environmental matters was sufficient to give it standing as a “representative of the public.” Second, the court argued that acknowledging the Sierra Club’s special interest would open the door to any person or group trying to impose their convictions based solely on their special interest. In his now famous dissenting opinion, Justice William O. Douglas suggested an alternative basis for a standing to sue: if the environment was granted the status of legal personhood, then environmental advocates could sue companies like Disney based on the legal standing of the environment itself. In 1978 Mineral King Valley was annexed into Sequoia National Park, and all plans halted for its tourist development.

          In the case Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (2007), the Supreme Court addressed the issue of global warming and whether the EPA was being lax in its responsibility to address the problem. The State of Massachusetts maintained that the EPA is required by the Clean Air Act to set air pollution control standards; their failure to regulate CO2 emissions from motor vehicles has contributed to global warming which, in turn, has resulted in loss of some of Massachusetts’ coastal land. The Court agreed with Massachusetts and held that the EPA’s refusal to regulate such emissions contributed to Massachusetts’ injuries. While the EPA’s abilities to control global warming may be small, the court argued that “Agencies, like legislatures, do not generally resolve massive problems in one fell regulatory swoop. They instead whittle away at them over time”. In Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council (2008), a group of environmentalists sued the U.S. Navy for conducting sonar exercises which harmed marine mammals in violation of the National Environmental Policy Act. The Navy, they argued, should have prepared an environmental impact study before conducting the exercises. The Court ruled in favor of the Navy on the grounds that the sonar training was vital to national security, and this strongly outweighed the interests of environmentalists.





The Mineral King Valley is an area of great natural beauty nestled in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Tulare County, California, adjacent to Sequoia National Park. It has been part of the Sequoia National Forest since 1926, and is designated as a national game refuge by special Act of Congress. Though once the site of extensive mining activity, Mineral King is now used almost exclusively for recreational purposes. Its relative inaccessibility and lack of development have limited the number of visitors each year, and at the same time have preserved the valley's quality as a quasiwilderness area largely uncluttered by the products of civilization.

            The United States Forest Service, which is entrusted with the maintenance and administration of national forests, began in the late 1940's to give consideration to Mineral King as a potential site for recreational development. Prodded by a rapidly increasing demand for skiing facilities, the Forest Service published a prospectus in 1965, inviting bids from private developers for the construction and operation of a ski resort that would also serve as a summer recreation area. The proposal of Walt Disney Enterprises, Inc., was chosen from those of six bidders, and Disney received a three-year permit to conduct surveys and explorations in the valley in connection with its preparation of a complete master plan for the resort.

            The final Disney plan, approved by the Forest Service in January 1969, outlines a $35 million complex of motels, restaurants, swimming pools, parking lots, and other structures designed to accommodate 14,000 visitors daily. This complex is to be constructed on 80 acres of the valley floor under a 30-year use permit from the Forest Service. Other facilities, including ski lifts, ski trails, a cog-assisted railway, and utility installations, are to be constructed on the mountain slopes and in other parts of the valley under a revocable special-use permit. To provide access to the resort, the State of California proposes to construct a highway 20 miles in length. A section of this road would traverse Sequoia National Park, as would a proposed high-voltage power line needed to provide electricity for the resort. Both the highway and the power line require the approval of the Department of the Interior, which is entrusted with the preservation and maintenance of the national parks.

            Representatives of the Sierra Club, who favor maintaining Mineral King largely in its present state, followed the progress of recreational planning for the valley with close attention and increasing dismay. They unsuccessfully sought a public hearing on the proposed development in 1965, and in subsequent correspondence with officials of the Forest Service and the Department of the Interior, they expressed the Club's objections to Disney's plan as a whole and to particular features included in it. In June 1969 the Club filed the present suit. . . . The petitioner Sierra Club sued as a membership corporation with “a special interest in the conservation and the sound maintenance of the national parks, game refuges and forests of the country”. . .


Majority Opinion: Requirement to Show Personal Injury (Justice Stewart)

The first question presented is whether the Sierra Club has alleged facts that entitle it to obtain judicial review of the challenged action. Whether a party has a sufficient stake in an otherwise justiciable controversy to obtain judicial resolution of that controversy is what has traditionally been referred to as the question of standing to sue.

            The Sierra Club relies upon § 10 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) which provides:  “A person suffering legal wrong because of agency action, or adversely affected or aggrieved by agency action within the meaning of a relevant statute, is entitled to judicial review thereof.”

            [I]n Data Processing v. Camp we held that persons had standing to obtain judicial review of federal agency action under § 10 of the A.P.A. where they had alleged that the challenged action had caused them “injury in fact,” and where the alleged injury was to an interest “arguably within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated” by the statutes that the agencies were claimed to have violated.

            Economic injuries have long been recognized as sufficient to lay the basis for standing with or without a specific statutory provision for judicial review. [But Data Processing did not address] what must be alleged by persons who claim injury of a noneconomic nature to interests that are widely shared. That question is presented in this case. . . .

            The injury alleged by the Sierra Club will be incurred entirely by reason of the change in the uses to which Mineral King will be put, and the attendant change in the aesthetics and ecology of the area. Thus, in referring to the road to be built through Sequoia National Park, the complaint alleged that the development “would destroy or otherwise adversely affect the scenery, natural and historic objects and wildlife of the park, and would impair the enjoyment of the park for future generations.”

            We do not question that this type of harm may amount to an “injury in fact” sufficient to lay the basis for standing under § 10 of the APA. Aesthetic and environmental wellbeing, like economic wellbeing, are important ingredients of the quality of life in our society, and the fact that particular environmental interests are shared by the many, rather than the few, does not make them less deserving of legal protection through the judicial process. But the “injury in fact,” test requires more than an injury to a cognizable interest. It requires that the party seeking review be himself among the injured.

            The impact of the proposed changes in the environment of Mineral King will not fall indiscriminately upon every citizen. The alleged injury will be felt directly only by those who use Mineral King and Sequoia National Park, and for whom the aesthetic and recreational values of the area will be lessened by the highway and ski resort. The Sierra Club failed to allege that it or its members would be affected in any of their activities or pastimes by the Disney development. Nowhere in the pleadings or affidavits did the Club state that its members use Mineral King for any purpose, much less that they use it in any way that would be significantly affected by the proposed action of the respondents.

            The Club apparently regarded any allegations of individualized injury as superfluous, on the theory that this was a “public” action involving questions as to the use of natural resources, and that the Club's longstanding concern with and expertise in such matters were sufficient to give it standing as a “representative of the public.” This theory reflects a misunderstanding of our cases involving so-called “public actions” in the area of administrative law. . . .

            The trend of cases arising under the APA and other statutes authorizing judicial review of federal agency action has been toward recognizing that injuries other than economic harm are sufficient to bring a person within the meaning of the statutory language, and toward discarding the notion that an injury that is widely shared is ipso facto not an injury sufficient to provide the basis for judicial review. We noted this development with approval in Data Processing, in saying that the interest alleged to have been injured “may reflect aesthetic, conservational, and recreational, as well as economic, values.” But broadening the categories of injury that may be alleged in support of standing is a different matter from abandoning the requirement that the party seeking review must himself have suffered an injury.

            Some courts have indicated a willingness to take this latter step by conferring standing upon organizations that have demonstrated “an organizational interest in the problem” of environmental or consumer protection.  It is clear that an organization whose members are injured may represent those members in a proceeding for judicial review. But a mere “interest in a problem,” no matter how longstanding the interest and no matter how qualified the organization is in evaluating the problem, is not sufficient, by itself, to render the organization “adversely affected” or “aggrieved” within the meaning of the APA. The Sierra Club is a large and long-established organization, with a historic commitment to the cause of protecting our Nation's natural heritage from man's depredations. But if a “special interest” in this subject were enough to entitle the Sierra Club to commence this litigation, there would appear to be no objective basis upon which to disallow a suit by any other bona fide “special interest” organization, however small or short-lived. And if any group with a bona fide “special interest” could initiate such litigation, it is difficult to perceive why any individual citizen with the same bona fide special interest would not also be entitled to do so.

            The requirement that a party seeking review must allege facts showing that he is himself adversely affected does not insulate executive action from judicial review, nor does it prevent any public interests from being protected through the judicial process. It does serve as at least a rough attempt to put the decision as to whether review will be sought in the hands of those who have a direct stake in the outcome. That goal would be undermined were we to construe the APA to authorize judicial review at the behest of organizations or individuals who seek to do no more than vindicate their own value preferences through the judicial process. The principle that the Sierra Club would have us establish in this case would do just that.


Dissenting Opinion: Legal Rights for the Environment (Justice Douglas)

The critical question of “standing” [to sue] would be simplified and also put neatly in focus if we fashioned a federal rule that allowed environmental issues to be litigated before federal agencies or federal courts in the name of the inanimate object about to be despoiled, defaced, or invaded by roads and bulldozers and where injury is the subject of public outrage. Contemporary public concern for protecting nature's ecological equilibrium should lead to the conferral of standing upon environmental objects to sue for their own preservation. This suit would therefore be more properly labeled as Mineral King v. Morton.

          Inanimate objects are sometimes parties in litigation. A ship has a legal personality, a fiction found useful for maritime purposes. The corporation sole -- a creature of ecclesiastical law -- is an acceptable adversary and large fortunes ride on its cases. The ordinary corporation is a “person” for purposes of the adjudicatory processes, whether it represents proprietary, spiritual, aesthetic, or charitable causes.

          So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air that feels the destructive pressures of modern technology and modern life. The river, for example, is the living symbol of all the life it sustains or nourishes - fish, aquatic insects, water ouzels, otter, fisher, deer, elk, bear, and all other animals, including man, who are dependent on it or who enjoy it for its sight, its sound, or its life. The river as plaintiff speaks for the ecological unit of life that is part of it. Those people who have a meaningful relation to that body of water -- whether it be a fisherman, a canoeist, a zoologist, or a logger -- must be able to speak for the values which the river represents and which are threatened with destruction.

            I do not know Mineral King. I have never seen it nor travelled it, though I have seen articles describing its proposed “development.” . . . The Sierra Club in its complaint alleges that “One of the principal purposes of the Sierra Club is to protect and conserve the national resources of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.” The District Court held that this uncontested allegation made the Sierra Club “sufficiently aggrieved” to have “standing” to sue on behalf of Mineral King.

            Mineral King is doubtless like other wonders of the Sierra Nevada such as Tuolumne Meadows and the John Muir Trail. Those who hike it, fish it, hunt it, camp in it, or frequent it, or visit it merely to sit in solitude and wonderment are legitimate spokesmen for it, whether they may be a few or many. Those who have that intimate relation with the inanimate object to be injured, polluted, or otherwise despoiled are its legitimate spokesmen.

          The voice of the inanimate object, therefore, should not be stilled. That does not mean that the judiciary takes over the managerial functions from the federal agency. It merely means that before these priceless bits of Americana (such as a valley, an alpine meadow, a river, or a lake) are forever lost or are so transformed as to be reduced to the eventual rubble of our urban environment, the voice of the existing beneficiaries of these environmental wonders should be heard.

          Perhaps they will not win. Perhaps the bulldozers of “progress” will plow under all the aesthetic wonders of this beautiful land. That is not the present question. The sole question is, who has standing to be heard?

          Those who hike the Appalachian Trail into Sunfish Pond, New Jersey, and camp or sleep there, or run the Allagash in Maine, or climb the Guadalupes in West Texas, or who canoe and portage the Quetico Superior in Minnesota, certainly should have standing to defend those natural wonders before courts or agencies, though they live 3,000 miles away. Those who merely are caught up in environmental news or propaganda and flock to defend these waters or areas may be treated differently. That is why these environmental issues should be tendered by the inanimate object itself. Then there will be assurances that all of the forms of life which it represents will stand before the court -- the pileated woodpecker as well as the coyote and bear, the lemmings as well as the trout in the streams. Those inarticulate members of the ecological group cannot speak. But those people who have so frequented the place as to know its values and wonders will be able to speak for the entire ecological community.

          Ecology reflects the land ethic; and Aldo Leopold wrote in A Sand Country Almanac (1949), “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land.”

          That, as I see it, is the issue of “standing” [to sue] in the present case and controversy.





Based on respected scientific opinion that a well-documented rise in global temperatures and attendant climatological and environmental changes have resulted from a significant increase in the atmospheric concentration of “greenhouse gases,” a group of private organizations petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to begin regulating the emissions of four such gases, including carbon dioxide, under §202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act, which requires that the EPA “shall by regulation prescribe . . . standards applicable to the emission of any air pollutant from any class . . . of new motor vehicles . . . which in [the EPA Administrator’s] judgment cause[s], or contribute[s] to, air pollution . . . reasonably . . . anticipated to endanger public health or welfare”. The Act defines “air pollutant” to include “any air pollution agent . . . , including any physical, chemical . . . substance . . . emitted into . . . the ambient air.” EPA ultimately denied the petition, reasoning that (1) the Act does not authorize it to issue mandatory regulations to address global climate change, and (2) even if it had the authority to set greenhouse gas emission standards, it would have been unwise to do so at that time because a causal link between greenhouse gases and the increase in global surface air temperatures was not unequivocally established. The agency further characterized any EPA regulation of motor-vehicle emissions as a piecemeal approach to climate change that would conflict with the President’s comprehensive approach involving additional support for technological innovation, the creation of nonregulatory programs to encourage voluntary private-sector reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and further research on climate change, and might hamper the President’s ability to persuade key developing nations to reduce emissions.

          Petitioners, now joined by intervenor Massachusetts [which claims that EPA’s inaction resulted in loss of its coastal land] and other state and local governments, sought review in the D.C. Circuit.


Majority Opinion: Slow Progress Needed (Justice Stevens)

EPA does not dispute the existence of a causal connection between man-made greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. At a minimum, therefore, EPA’s refusal to regulate such emissions “contributes” to Massachusetts’ injuries.

          EPA nevertheless maintains that its decision not to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles contributes so insignificantly to petitioners’ injuries that the agency cannot be haled into federal court to answer for them. For the same reason, EPA does not believe that any realistic possibility exists that the relief petitioners seek would mitigate global climate change and remedy their injuries. That is especially so because predicted increases in greenhouse gas emissions from developing nations, particularly China and India, are likely to offset any marginal domestic decrease.

          But EPA overstates its case. Its argument rests on the erroneous assumption that a small incremental step, because it is incremental, can never be attacked in a federal judicial forum. Yet accepting that premise would doom most challenges to regulatory action. Agencies, like legislatures, do not generally resolve massive problems in one fell regulatory swoop. They instead whittle away at them over time, refining their preferred approach as circumstances change and as they develop a more-nuanced understanding of how best to proceed. That a first step might be tentative does not by itself support the notion that federal courts lack jurisdiction to determine whether that step conforms to law.

          And reducing domestic automobile emissions is hardly a tentative step. Even leaving aside the other greenhouse gases, the United States transportation sector emits an enormous quantity of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere—according to the MacCracken affidavit, more than 1.7 billion metric tons in 1999 alone. That accounts for more than 6% of worldwide carbon dioxide emissions. To put this in perspective: Considering just emissions from the transportation sector, which represent less than one-third of this country’s total carbon dioxide emissions, the United States would still rank as the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, outpaced only by the European Union and China. Judged by any standard, U. S. motor-vehicle emissions make a meaningful contribution to greenhouse gas concentrations and hence, according to petitioners, to global warming.


Dissenting Opinion: No Clear Causal Connection (Justice Roberts)

Petitioners’ reliance on Massachusetts’s loss of coastal land as their injury in fact for standing purposes creates insurmountable problems for them with respect to causation and redressability. To establish standing, petitioners must show a causal connection between that specific injury and the lack of new motor vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards, and that the promulgation of such standards would likely redress that injury. As is often the case, the questions of causation and redressability overlap. And importantly, when a party is challenging the Government’s allegedly unlawful regulation, or lack of regulation, of a third party, satisfying the causation and redressability requirements becomes “substantially more difficult.”

          Petitioners view the relationship between their injuries and EPA’s failure to promulgate new motor vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards as simple and direct: Domestic motor vehicles emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and therefore also to petitioners’ alleged injuries. Without the new vehicle standards, greenhouse gas emissions—and therefore global warming and its attendant harms—have been higher than they otherwise would have been; once EPA changes course, the trend will be reversed.

          The Court ignores the complexities of global warming, and does so by now disregarding the “particularized” injury it relied on in step one, and using the dire nature of global warming itself as a bootstrap for finding causation and redressability. First, it is important to recognize the extent of the emissions at issue here. Because local greenhouse gas emissions disperse throughout the atmosphere and remain there for anywhere from 50 to 200 years, it is global emissions data that are relevant. According to one of petitioners’ declarations, domestic motor vehicles contribute about 6 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions and 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The amount of global emissions at issue here is smaller still; §202(a)(1) of the Clean Air Act covers only new motor vehicles and new motor vehicle engines, so petitioners’ desired emission standards might reduce only a fraction of 4 percent of global emissions.

          This gets us only to the relevant greenhouse gas emissions; linking them to global warming and ultimately to petitioners’ alleged injuries next requires consideration of further complexities. As EPA explained in its denial of petitioners’ request for rulemaking,


“predicting future climate change necessarily involves a complex web of economic and physical factors including: our ability to predict future global anthropogenic emissions of [greenhouse gases] and aerosols; the fate of these emissions once they enter the atmosphere (e.g., what percentage are absorbed by vegetation or are taken up by the oceans); the impact of those emissions that remain in the atmosphere on the radiative properties of the atmosphere; changes in critically important climate feedbacks (e.g., changes in cloud cover and ocean circulation); changes in temperature characteristics (e.g., average temperatures, shifts in daytime and evening temperatures); changes in other climatic parameters (e.g., shifts in precipitation, storms); and ultimately the impact of such changes on human health and welfare (e.g., increases or decreases in agricultural productivity, human health impacts).”


          Petitioners are never able to trace their alleged injuries back through this complex web to the fractional amount of global emissions that might have been limited with EPA standards. In light of the bit-part domestic new motor vehicle greenhouse gas emissions have played in what petitioners describe as a 150-year global phenomenon, and the myriad additional factors bearing on petitioners’ alleged injury—the loss of Massachusetts coastal land—the connection is far too speculative to establish causation. . . .

          Petitioners’ difficulty in demonstrating causation and redressability is not surprising given the evident mismatch between the source of their alleged injury—catastrophic global warming—and the narrow subject matter of the Clean Air Act provision at issue in this suit. The mismatch suggests that petitioners’ true goal for this litigation may be more symbolic than anything else. The constitutional role of the courts, however, is to decide concrete cases—not to serve as a convenient forum for policy debates.





Antisubmarine warfare is one of the Navy’s highest priorities. The Navy’s fleet faces a significant threat from modern diesel-electric submarines, which are extremely difficult to detect and track because they can operate almost silently. The most effective tool for identifying submerged diesel-electric submarines is active sonar, which emits pulses of sound underwater and then receives the acoustic waves that echo off the target. Active sonar is a complex technology, and sonar operators must undergo extensive training to become proficient in its use.

          This case concerns the Navy’s use of “mid-frequency active” (MFA) sonar during integrated training exercises in the waters off southern California (SOCAL). In these exercises, ships, submarines, and aircraft train together as members of a “strike group.” Due to the importance of antisubmarine warfare, a strike group may not be certified for deployment until it demonstrates proficiency in the use of active sonar to detect, track, and neutralize enemy submarines.

          The SOCAL waters contain at least 37 species of marine mammals. The plaintiffs—groups and individuals devoted to the protection of marine mammals and ocean habitats—assert that MFA sonar causes serious injuries to these animals. The Navy disputes that claim, noting that MFA sonar training in SOCAL waters has been conducted for 40 years without a single documented sonar-related injury to any marine mammal. Plaintiffs sued the Navy, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on the grounds that the training exercises violated the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) and other federal laws; in particular, plaintiffs contend that the Navy should have prepared an environmental impact statement (EIS) before conducting the latest round of SOCAL exercises.


Majority Opinion: Military outweighs Environmental Interests (Justice Roberts)

. . . We accept these officers’ assertions that the use of MFA sonar under realistic conditions during training exercises is of the utmost importance to the Navy and the Nation.

          These interests must be weighed against the possible harm to the ecological, scientific, and recreational interests that are legitimately before this Court. Plaintiffs have submitted declarations asserting that they take whale watching trips, observe marine mammals underwater, conduct scientific research on marine mammals, and photograph these animals in their natural habitats. Plaintiffs contend that the Navy’s use of MFA sonar will injure marine mammals or alter their behavioral patterns, impairing plaintiffs’ ability to study and observe the animals.

          While we do not question the seriousness of these interests, we conclude that the balance of equities and consideration of the overall public interest in this case tip strongly in favor of the Navy. For the plaintiffs, the most serious possible injury would be harm to an unknown number of the marine mammals that they study and observe. In contrast, forcing the Navy to deploy an inadequately trained antisubmarine force jeopardizes the safety of the fleet. Active sonar is the only reliable technology for detecting and tracking enemy diesel-electric submarines, and the President—the Commander in Chief—has determined that training with active sonar is “essential to national security.”

          The public interest in conducting training exercises with active sonar under realistic conditions plainly outweighs the interests advanced by the plaintiffs. Of course, military interests do not always trump other considerations, and we have not held that they do. In this case, however, the proper determination of where the public interest lies does not strike us as a close question.


Dissenting Opinion: Significant Harm to Marine Mammals (Justice Ginsburg)

The Navy’s own EA [i.e., environmental assessment] predicted substantial and irreparable harm to marine mammals. Sonar is linked to mass strandings of marine mammals, hemorrhaging around the brain and ears, acute spongiotic changes in the central nervous system, and lesions in vital organs. As the Ninth Circuit noted, the EA predicts that the Navy’s “use of MFA sonar in the SOCAL exercises will result in 564 instances of physical injury including permanent hearing loss (Level A harassment) and nearly 170,000 behavioral disturbances (Level B harassment), more than 8,000 of which would also involve temporary hearing loss.” Within those totals,


“the EA predicts 436 Level A harassments of Cuvier’s beaked whales, of which, according to NOAA, as few as 1,121 may exist in California, Oregon and Washington combined. Likewise, the EA predicts 1,092 Level B harassments of bottlenose dolphins, of which only 5,271 may exist in the California Coastal and Offshore stocks.”


          The majority acknowledges the lower courts’ findings, ante, at 9, but also states that the EA predicted “only eight Level A harassments of common dolphins each year” and “274 Level B harassments of beaked whales per year, none of which would result in permanent injury,” Those numbers do not fully capture the EA’s predictions.

          The EA classified the harassments of beaked whales as Level A, not Level B. The EA does indeed state that “modeling predicts non-injurious Level B exposures.” But, as the majority correctly notes, the EA also states that “all beaked whale exposures are counted as Level A”. The EA counted the predicted exposures as Level A “[b]y Navy policy developed in conjunction with NMFS.” The record reflects “the known sensitivity of these species to tactical sonar,” and as the majority acknowledges, beaked whales are difficult to study. Further, as the Ninth Circuit noted, “the EA . . . maintained that the methodology used was based on the ‘best available science.’ “

          In my view, this likely harm—170,000 behavioral disturbances, including 8,000 instances of temporary hearing loss; and 564 Level A harms, including 436 injuries to a beaked whale population numbering only 1,121—cannot be lightly dismissed, even in the face of an alleged risk to the effectiveness of the Navy’s 14 training exercises. There is no doubt that the training exercises serve critical interests. But those interests do not authorize the Navy to violate a statutory command, especially when recourse to the Legislature remains open. “Of course, military interests do not always trump other considerations, and we have not held that they do.”

          In light of the likely, substantial harm to the environment, NRDC’s almost inevitable success on the merits of its claim that NEPA required the Navy to prepare an EIS, the history of this litigation, and the public interest, I cannot agree that the mitigation measures the District Court imposed signal an abuse of discretion.


Source: Justices Potter Stewart and William O. Douglas Sierra Club v. Morton (1972).


Questions for Review

1. According to Justice Stewart’s majority opinion in Sierra Club v. Morton, why did the Sierra Club think that allegations of individualized injury were superfluous?

2. In his dissenting opinion in Sierra Club v. Morton, why, according to Justice Douglas, should environmental issues “be tendered by the inanimate object itself”?

3. In Justice Stevens’s majority opinion in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency (2007), what, according to Stevens, was the EPA’s argument for why they were not responsible for the loss of Massachusetts’s costal land?

4. In his dissenting opinion in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, Justice Roberts argued that the majority opinion ignored the complexities of global warming by holding the EPA responsible for Massachusetts’s loss of costal land. What are those complexities?

5. In her dissenting opinion in Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, what, according to Justice Ginsburg, were the serious harms done to marine mammals from the Navy’s sonar exercises?


Questions for Analysis

1. In his majority opinion in Sierra Club v. Morton, Justice Stewart states that, with law suits based on aesthetic harm, “the party seeking review must himself have suffered an injury.” But, he argues, the Sierra Club “apparently regarded any allegations of individualized injury as superfluous.” Might the Sierra Club’s “longstanding concern with and expertise in such matters” imply a personal injury to the Club members that would be sufficient to grant it a standing to sue? Explain.

2. Suppose that the environment was granted the status of legal personhood, as Justice Douglas suggests, and thus had a legal standing to sue when damaged. It would still require human beings to speak for their interests. Might this still create the problem that Justice Stewart warns against in his majority opinion, namely, “there would appear to be no objective basis upon which to disallow a suit by any other bona fide “special interest” organization, however small or short-lived”? Explain.

3. In his majority opinion, Justice Stewart recognizes the legitimacy of suing because of economic harm, and also, in cases involving the environment, aesthetic harm. But the environmental harm that Justice Douglas describes in is dissenting opinion is not merely aesthetic, nor for that matter is it economic. What is the best way to categorize or designate the harm that Douglas has in mind, and is that a type of harm that the Government should be willing to acknowledge? Explain.

4. In Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA argued that anything they did to address global warming would be merely a piecemeal approach that would conflict with the President’s comprehensive approach. Is this a good justification for their inaction regarding motor vehicle CO2 emission standards? Explain.

5. In Winter v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Justice Roberts and Justice Ginsburg both recognize that “military interests do not always trump other considerations.” Roberts held that in this case military interests were clearly stronger than environmental interests. Ginsberg denies this. Who is right?








Al Gore and Bjørn Lomborg


In 2007 a panel discussion took place regarding how serious the global warming problem actually is. On the one side, former U.S. Vice President Al Gore maintained that it is quite a bad problem, perhaps even worse than we originally thought. Reiterating the main themes of his film, An Inconvenient Truth, Gore argued that there is an important moral component to the problem: “It is about who we are as human beings and our capacity to transcend our limitations and rise to meet this challenge.” Opposing Gore was Danish political science professor Bjørn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001). Lomborg agrees that Global warming is real and human-made, but he argues that Gore and others greatly exaggerate its negative consequences, particularly regarding increases in sea level, hurricanes, and malaria. While we need to address the problem, he argues, “The current raft of policies that are either enacted or suggested are costly but have virtually no effect.” If we follow the most radical policies, we’d have to make enormous sacrifices right now, yet the effects would not be felt for another four centuries. The most cost effective response would be to make small changes now, while researching alternative fuel technologies that will become economically viable in a century. In the mean time, according to Lomborg, much greater social good can be done by focusing more attention on the problems of AIDS, malnutrition, and pollution.



. . . I want to testify today about what I believe is a planetary emergency—a crisis that threatens the survival of our civilization and the habitability of the Earth. Just six weeks ago, the scientific community, in its strongest statement to date, confirmed that the evidence of warming is “unequivocal.” Global warming is real and human activity is the main cause. The consequences are mainly negative and headed toward catastrophic, unless we act. However, the good news is that we can meet this challenge. It is not too late, and we have everything we need to get started.

            As many know, the Chinese expression for “crisis” consists of two characters side by side. The first symbol means “danger.” The second symbol means “opportunity.” I would like to discuss both the danger and the opportunity here today.

            First of all, there is no longer any serious debate over the basic points that make up the consensus on global warming. The ten warmest years on record have all been since 1990. Globally, 2005 was the hottest of all. In the United States, 2006 was the warmest year ever. The winter months of December 2006 through February 2007 make up the warmest winter on record. These rising temperatures have been accompanied by many changes. Hurricanes are getting stronger. Sea levels are rising. Droughts are becoming longer and more intense. Mountain glaciers are receding around the world.

            New evidence shows that it may be even worse than we thought. For example, a recent study published by the University of Alaska-Fairbanks indicates that methane is leaking from the Siberian permafrost at five times the predicted levels. Methane is 23 times as potent a greenhouse gas as carbon dioxide and there are billions of tons underneath the permafrost.

            However, there is a great deal of new momentum for action to solve the climate crisis. Today, I am here to deliver more than a half million messages to Congress asking for real action on global warming. More than 420 Mayors have now adopted Kyoto-style commitments in their cities and have urged strong federal action. The evangelical and faith communities have begun to take the lead, calling for measures to protect God’s creation. The State of California, under a Republican Governor and a Democratic legislature, passed strong, economy wide legislation mandating cuts in carbon dioxide. Twenty-two states and the District of Columbia have passed renewable energy standards for the electricity sector. Much more needs to be done, but change is in the air.

            I do not believe that the climate crisis should be a partisan political issue. I just returned from the United Kingdom, where last week the two major parties put forward their climate change platforms. The Tory and Labour parties are in vigorous competition with one another—competing to put forward the best solution to the climate crisis. I look forward to the day when we return to this way of thinking here in the U.S.

            The climate crisis is, by its nature, a global problem—and ultimately the solution must be global as well. The best way - and the only way - to get China and India on board is for the U.S. to demonstrate real leadership. As the world’s largest economy and greatest superpower, we are uniquely situated to tackle a problem of this magnitude.

            After all, we have taken on problems of this scope before. When England and then America and our allies rose to meet the threat of global Fascism, together we won two wars simultaneously in Europe and the Pacific.

            This is a moral moment of similar magnitude. This is not ultimately about any scientific discussion or political dialogue. It is about who we are as human beings and our capacity to transcend our limitations and rise to meet this challenge.

            The solutions to this problem are accessible, but politically - at least in the near term - seem quite difficult. In practice, however, they will turn out to be much easier than they appear to us now.

            For example, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer first negotiated in the 1980’s was opposed by industry for fear it would hurt the economy because its provisions were too stringent. However, governments and industry rose to meet the challenge and the treaty was strengthened twice in quick succession to quickly ramp down the chemicals that were causing the hole in the ozone layer.

            There are some who will say that acting to solve this crisis will be costly. I don’t agree. If we solve it in the right way, we will save money and boost productivity. Moreover, the consequences of inaction would be devastating to both the environment and the economy. Recent reports make that clear.

            When I think about the climate crisis today I can imagine a time in the future when our children and grandchildren ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: What were you thinking, didn’t you care about our future? Or they will ask: How did you find the moral courage to cross party lines and solve this crisis? We must hear their questions now. We must answer them with our actions, not merely with our promises. We must choose a future for which our children and grandchildren will thank us.



Climate is back on the agenda, thanks to a large degree to my co-presenter, Al Gore. The climate discussion was strong in 1992 when it was put on the agenda by the Earth Summit in Rio and through the Kyoto Protocol agreed in 1997. Gore deserves applause for making global warming cool again.

            However, in this presentation I will move beyond recognizing the importance of global warming and ask how we should view it, deal with it and put it in perspective.

            I will make 4 basic points.


1. Global warming is real and man-made. This point has been made in many places, but perhaps most strongly and convincingly by the IPCC [i.e., the United Nations Climate Panel].

2. Statements about the strong, ominous and immediate consequences of global warming are often wildly exaggerated, as I will show below.

3. We need a stronger focus on smart solutions rather than excessive if well-intentioned efforts.

4. We need – as this hearing asks for – to put global warming in perspective. Climate change is not the only issue on the global agenda, and actually one of the issues where we can do the least good first.


Let us be frank. Al Gore and the many people he has inspired have good will and great intentions. However, he has got carried away and come to show only worst-case scenarios. This is unlikely to form the basis for a sound policy judgment. The problem is compounded in that if we follow Al Gore’s recommendations, we will likely end up choosing very bad policies to solve the many problems, we agree need attention.

            In short, following Gore’s logic, with its good will and fine intentions, will actually end up costing millions of lives.

            Let me lay out the argument for you.


Global Warming is Real and Man-Made

I would argue that our best information comes from the UN Climate Panel, the so-called IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). In Figure 1, we have a simple, standard prediction for the coming hundred years from the medium scenario of the 2007 IPCC report. Here we are told that that over the century global mean temperatures will increase about 2.6oC (4.7oF) with a span of 1.8-4.0oC.

            The total cost of global warming is anything but trivial, about $15 trillion. Yet it is only about 0.5% of the total net worth of the 21st century, about $3,000 trillion.


Consequences often Vastly Exaggerated

Global warming is being described in everyday media in ever more dire terms. The IPPR think tank (which is strongly in favor of CO2 cuts) in 2006 produced an analysis of the UK debate. It summarized the flavor thus:


Climate change is most commonly constructed through the alarmist repertoire – as awesome, terrible, immense and beyond human control. This repertoire is seen everywhere and is used or drawn on from across the ideological spectrum, in broadsheets and tabloids, in popular magazines and in campaign literature from government initiatives and environmental groups. It is typified by an inflated or extreme lexicon, incorporating an urgent tone and cinematic codes. It employs a quasi-religious register of death and doom, and it uses language of acceleration and irreversibility.


This kind of language makes any sensible policy dialogue about our global choices impossible. In public debates, the argument I hear most often is a variant of “if global warming is going to kill us all and lay waste to the world, this has to be our top priority – everything else you talk about, including HIV/AIDS, malnutrition, free trade, malaria, clean drinking water may be noble but utterly unimportant compared to global warming.” Of course, if the deadly description of global warming were correct, the inference of its primacy would also be correct, but as we will see, global warming is nothing of the sort. It is one – but only one – problem of many, we will have to tackle through the 21st century.

            Very clearly this is seen in Mr. Gore’s own description of his movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Here it is said that:


We have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.


Yet this is simply incorrect, both as it stands and in its policy conclusions. Let us look at heat deaths, sea level rise, hurricanes and malaria as outstanding examples of Gore’s claim.


Heat and cold deaths

Very often, we only hear about the heat deaths but not the cold deaths – and sometimes this is even repeated in the official literature, as in the US 2005 Climate Change and Human Health Impacts report, where heat is mentioned 54 times and cold just once. We need to know just how much more heat deaths we can expect compared to how many fewer cold deaths.

            Much has been made of the heat wave in Europe in early August 2003, which killed 35,000 people, with 2,000 deaths in the UK. Yet, each year more than 25,000 people die in the UK from cold. It can be estimated that every year more than 200,000 people die from excess heat in Europe. It is reasonable to estimate that each year about 1.5 million people die from excess cold in Europe. This is more than seven times the total number of heat deaths. Just in this millennium Europe has lost more than 10 million people to the cold, 300 times the iconic 35,000 heat deaths from 2003. That we so easily forget these deaths and so easily embrace the exclusive worry about global warming tells us of a breakdown in our sense of proportion.

            The important fact, of course, is what will happen with future temperature increases. Let us for the moment assume – very unrealistically – that we will not adapt to the future heat. Still, the largest European study conclude that for at least for 2oC, “Our data suggest that any increases in mortality due to increased temperatures would be outweighed by much larger short term declines in cold related mortalities.” For Britain it is estimated that a 2oC increase will mean 2,000 more heat deaths but 20,000 fewer cold deaths. A paper trying to incorporate all studies on this issue (a so-called meta-study) and apply it to a broad variety of settings both developed and developing around the world found that “global warming may cause a decrease in mortality rates, especially of cardiovascular diseases.” For the US, the net lower death count from global warming in 2050 is estimated at 174,000 per year.


Sea level rise

In its 2007 report, the UN estimate that sea levels will rise about 34.5cm over the rest of the century. While this is not a trivial amount, it is also important to realize that it is certainly not outside the historical experience. Since 1850 we have experienced a sea level rise of about 29cm [i.e., 11.4 inches], yet this has clearly not caused major disruptions. Sea level rise is a problem, but not a catastrophe. Ask a very old person about the most important issues that took place in the 20th century. She will likely mention the two world wars, the cold war, the internal combustion engine and perhaps the IT revolution. But it is very unlikely that she will add: ‘oh, and sea levels rose.’

            It is also important to realize that new prediction is lower than the previous IPCC estimates. The new span is 18-59cm (midpoint 38.5cm), down from 9-88cm in 2001 (midpoint 48.5cm). This continues a declining trend from the nineties (where the first IPCC expected 67 cm), and the 80s, where the US EPA projected several meters.

            But this information is much less troublesome than what we often hear from global warming advocates. Al Gore has perhaps made their point most forcefully in his book and film. In a very moving film clip he shows us how large parts of Florida, including all of Miami, will be inundated by 20 feet of water. He goes on to show us equally strong clips of San Francisco Bay being flooded, the Netherlands being wiped off the map, Beijing and then Shanghai being submerged, Bangladesh be made uninhabitable for 60 million people, and even how New York and its World Trade Center Memorial will be deluged.

            How is it possible that one of today’s strongest voices on climate change can say something so dramatically different from the best science, as we see from the IPCC in Figure 2. The IPCC estimates a foot, Gore tops them 20 times. Well, technically, Al Gore is not contradicting the UN, because he simply says: “If Greenland melted or broke up and slipped into the sea – or if half of Greenland and half of Antarctica melted or broke up and slipped into the sea, sea levels worldwide would increase by between 18 and 20 feet.” He is simply positing a hypothetical and then in full graphic and gory detail showing us what – hypothetically – would happen to Miami, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Beijing, Shanghai, Dhaka and then New York.

            But of course, the impact of the film clearly suggests immediate inundation, reinforced by such comments as rising sea levels around Beijing would mean that “more than 20 million people would have to be evacuated.” Yet, take an overview of the simulations of Greenland sea level contributions. None are higher than 3mm/year by the end of the century, whereas Gore’s claim – if valid even in a century span – would have to be around 120mm or 40 times higher than the very highest model estimate. The IPCC estimate that Greenland is expected to contribute 3.5 cm over the century by itself, and with models indicating a lower estimate of 1cm and high estimate of 15cm. This means that Gore’s claim is 174 times higher than the IPCC, see Figure 2. It is unlikely that such an approach will lead to good policy initiatives.



Stronger and more frequent hurricanes have become one of the standard exhibits of the global warming worries. The solution offered is invariably CO2 cuts and Kyoto.

            With the strong 2005 hurricane season and the devastation of New Orleans by Katrina, this message has reverberated even more powerfully. Al Gore spends 26 pages on showing pictures of the suffering from New Orleans and names every single hurricane in 2005.

            So has global warming caused stronger and more frequent hurricanes, and what will happen in the future? Let us here use the latest consensus statement from the UN World Meteorological Organization (parent organization for the IPCC), which is more recent and more specific but generally in agreement with the 2007 IPCC report. It makes three strong and specific points.


1. Though there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable anthropogenic [human-caused] signal in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on this point.


They basically tell us that the strong statements of humans causing more and stronger hurricanes (or tropical cyclones as researches call them) are simply not well supported. We just don’t know as of yet. When Al Gore tells us that there is a “scientific consensus that global warming is making hurricanes more powerful and more destructive” it is incorrect.


2. No individual tropical cyclone can be directly attributed to climate change.


The strong statements on hurricane Katrina are simply not supportable.

            This brings us to the third and perhaps most important WMO consensus point. In reality, we don’t really care about hurricanes as such – what we care about is their damage. Do they end up killing people and cause widespread disruption? And with global warming, will they kill and disrupt even more? The answer is – perhaps surprisingly – that the whole hurricane debate is somewhat tangential to this important question.


3. The recent increase in societal impact from tropical cyclones has largely been caused by rising concentrations of population and infrastructure in coastal regions.


The top part of Figure 3 clearly show us that the US cost of hurricane damage has increased relentlessly over the past century, and it seems to provide ample underpinning for Gore’s “unmistakable economic impact of global warming.” Yet, just comparing costs over long periods of time does not make sense without taking into account the change in population patterns and demography as well as economic prosperity. There are many more people, residing in much more vulnerable areas, with many more assets to lose. In the US today, the two coastal South Florida counties, Dade and Broward, are home to more people than the number of people who lived in 1930 in all 109 coastal counties stretching from Texas through Virginia, along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

            In the top of Figure 3 we see the damage costs for rising through the century. Essentially no costs before mid-century, and just three years close to the present standing out. Here Katrina makes up two-thirds of the 2005 season costs, Charley and Ivan makes up most of 2004 and hurricane Andrew is responsible for almost all of 1992. It looks like a slam-dunk for climate-makes-badder-hurricanes.

            But look what happens if you assume that all hurricanes would have hit the US as it is today, as can be seen in the lower part of Figure 3. Suddenly, the picture changes dramatically. If the 1926 Great Miami hurricane had hit today it would have created the worst damage ever in the US hurricane history. What this tells us is that damages will continue to grow as long as more people with more stuff move closer to the sea.

            We have to ask what it is we want. Presumably our goal is not to cut CO2 emissions per se, but to do good for humans and the environment. We want to help the people who are potential victims of future Katrinas, Charleys and Andrews. But how can we best do that?

            In Figure 4 we see the relative impact of climate changes and social changes on hurricane damages over the next half-century. It essentially tells us the efficiency of turning the big knob of climate versus the efficiency of turning the social policy knobs.

            If society stays the same – no more people living close to the coast, no more costly and densely built neighborhoods – and climate warms causing somewhat stronger hurricanes, the total effect will be less than a 10% increase in hurricane damages. To put it differently, if we could stop the climatic factors right now, we would avoid 10% more damage in 50 years time.

            On the other hand, if climate stays the same – no more warming – but more people build more and more expensive buildings closer to the sea, as they have done in the past, we will see an almost 500% increase in hurricane damages. To put it differently, if we could curb societal factors right now, we could prevent 500% more damage in 50 years time.

            So if we want to make a difference, which knob should we choose first – the one reducing damage by less than 10% or the one reducing damage by almost 500%? The difference in efficiency between the climate knob and the societal knob is more than 50 times.

            This seems to suggest that policies addressing societal factors rather than climate policies will do the much more good first.



Al Gore writes: “Mosquitoes are profoundly affected by global warming. There are cities that were originally located just above the mosquito line, which used to mark the altitude above which mosquitoes would not venture. Nairobi, Kenya, and Harare, Zimbabwe, are two such cities. Now, with global warming, the mosquitoes are climbing to higher altitudes.”

            Yet WHO and researches have documented that malaria epidemics happened in Nairobi many times between WWI and the 1950s. The town’s first medical officer, Dr. D.E. Boedeker, wrote that even for the early ivory and slave caravans, Nairobi “had always been regarded as an unhealthy locality swarming with mosquitoes.”

            Like most stories there is at core some truth to the claim that malaria will increase with temperature, but it is a small part compared to richness and health infrastructure.

            How much does global warming matters to malaria. One way to get an upper limit on the importance of global warming is to look at the projections of populations at risk. These models show an extra almost 300 million people will be living in areas that could harbor malaria in the 2080s because increasing temperatures expand the area where the parasite can multiply. These models also tell us what will happen without climate change. Here, they project an increase from 4.4 billion in 1990 to 8.8 billion people at risk in 2085. The total population at risk will thus be 9.1 billion out of a population of 10.7 billion.

            But notice the proportions. 8.8 billion will be at risk from malaria in 2085 due to social factors, whereas 0.3 billion will be at risk due to global warming. Thus, even if we could entirely stop global warming today (which we can’t) we would only change malaria risk in 2085 by 3.2%. More realistically, with the Kyoto Protocol, including the US and Australia, and committing everyone to constant emissions throughout the rest of the century, would reduce malaria risk by 0.2% in 80 years. As the model team tells us: with a stringent climate policy “there is little clear effect even by the 2080s.”

            Compare this to current expectations that we can cut malaria incidence to about half to three-fourths by 2015 for about $3 billion annually – or 2% of the cost of Kyoto. This was the number 4 priority in the Copenhagen Consensus. Because we can do this within a decade whereas climate policy will take half a century or more, the difference in actual people helped is even more dramatic. Till 2085 Kyoto will avoid about 70 million people from getting infected by malaria (or about 0.1% of all malaria infections). Compare that to a simple and cheap halving of malaria incidence by 2015, which will avoid more than 28 billion people suffering from malaria. This policy will do about 400 times more good, as is illustrated in Figure 5.


Smarter Policies

The current raft of policies that are either enacted or suggested are costly but have virtually no effect.

            Take the Kyoto Protocol, which even if it had been successfully adopted by all signatories (including the US and Australia) and even if it had been adhered to throughout the century, would have postponed warming by just 5 years in 2100 at a cost of $180 billion annually, see Figure 6.

            In the first real commitment since Kyoto in 1997, the EU announced in March 2007 that they would unilaterally cut emissions to 20% below 1990-levels by 2020. This would mean a 25% cut of emissions from what they would otherwise have been in 2020. Yet the effect on temperature would be smaller than Kyoto, as shown in Figure 7, postponing warming by the end of the century by about two years. The cost would be about $90 billion per year in 2020. Thus, we see the same pattern from both the well-established Kyoto protocol and the new EU minus-20% decision – that they have fairly small impact at fairly high cost.

            This is also the case for Al Gore’s public commitment to tackle global warming. In his recent speech to New York University, he explicitly said that he would eliminate payroll taxes and substitute them with pollution taxes, principally a CO2 tax. Yet he never actually says how much this would cost or how much good it would do.

            If one calculates the impact of such a promise, it shows that payroll taxes (social security) in the US amounted to $841 billion in 2006. With the US emitting about 6Gt of CO2 this means a tax of $140/tCO2, and a tax on gas at about $1. per gallon. In one respected model, the annual economic cost amounts to about $160 billion for the US economy in 2015. This would cut emissions to about half in 2015 and about 25% in 2105. Yet, since the US will make up an ever smaller amount of the total CO2 emitted throughout the century, the total effect in 2100 will be a reduction of global temperature by 0.1oC (see Figure 8). Essentially, what Al Gore is suggesting is that the US carries through a Kyoto-type restriction all by itself.

            This is why the major peer-reviewed economic cost-benefit analyses show that climate change is real, and that we should do something but our cuts should be rather small. In the latest review the previous research is summarized:


“These studies recommend that greenhouse gas emissions be reduced below business-as-usual forecasts, but the reductions suggested have been modest.”


This was the state of the art economics till October 2006, when a 600-page UK government report under economist Sir Nicholas Stern came out and created headlines everywhere.

            Virtually everyone has come away with the understanding that Stern has made a cost-benefit analysis and shown that the benefit (avoided cost of global warming) is 20% and the cost just 1% making strong climate action a slam-dunk.

            Yet, a raft of academic papers have now come out, all strongly criticizing Stern, liberally using words as “substandard,” “preposterous,” “incompetent,” “deeply flawed,” and “neither balanced nor credible.” While there is a long list of problems with the analysis, I will just point out two issues.

            1. The damages from climate change (the benefits of action) are vastly inflated. As several peer-reviewed papers point out, “the Stern Review does not present new data, or even a new model.” How can it then find conclusions that are completely outside the usual range? It turns out that the Review has counted damages several times, and somewhat arbitrarily increases the damages 8-fold or more according to new and conjectural cost categories that have never been peer reviewed. At the same time, the review has decided to change a key parameter in all cost-benefit analyses to a value that gives huge damage. Oddly, it forgets to use this parameter for the costs below, where it would count against a strong policy response. The parameter is also vastly out of sync with our present-day behavior: it would suggest that we should today save 97.5% of our GDP for future generations. This is patently absurd – today’s saving rate is about 15% in the UK.

            2. The costs of action are vastly underestimated, continuing a well-known ‘appraisal optimism’ which was also seen in the 1950s onwards in very low cost-estimates for nuclear power. Again, it finds itself on the edge of the state-of-the-art and simultaneously forgets to count any costs after 2050, although they presumably continue way into the 23rd century.

            If you look at Figure 9 you see that Stern has essentially swapped the peer reviewed literature on costs and benefits, and that is why he gets the opposite result of everyone else. The most well-known climate economist, Richard Nordhaus, concludes that the Stern review is “a political document.”

            The Stern review must be praised for having put the economics squarely back into the climate debate. Whether or not we like to acknowledge it, doing something about global warming will have both costs and benefits, and we need the dialogue on how much we should do. But the Stern review does not change the fact that all peer reviewed economic analyses show we should only reduce CO2 emissions moderately.

            Why is this a robust result? If we look at costs and benefits over time in Figure 10 we see the reason. Essentially, the cost comes up front, whereas the benefit comes much further down the line. For the first 170 years the costs are greater than the benefits. Even when the benefits catch up in the late 22nd century, there is still a payback time before the total benefits outweigh the total costs around 2250. Thus, as one academic paper points out, “the costs associated with an emissions stabilization program are relatively large for current generations and continue to increase over the next 100 years. The first generation to actually benefit from the stabilization program is born early during the 24th century.”

            This does not mean we should do nothing at all about climate change. It means we need to be much smarter. We need to abandon expensive and inefficient strategies like Kyoto and search for new opportunities.

            Of course, part of us still want to say “let’s do it all”. And I agree. In an ideal world we would deal with all the world’s woes. We should win the war against hunger, end conflicts, stop communicable diseases, provide clean drinking, step up education and halt climate change. But we don’t. And so we have to start facing reality.

            When we realize that there are many areas in the world – like HIV, malnutrition, free trade, malaria, clean drinking water etc. – where we can do immense amounts of good, it seems obvious to me we must focus our attention and our big expenditure there first.

            But it does not mean we shouldn’t start thinking about how we can cheaply tackle climate change in the long run. The big problem about cutting carbon emissions Kyoto style is that it costs a lot now, and does very little for the future. Moreover, if we paid the bill for cutting emissions down to 1990- level this year, we will have to pay just as much (or even a little more) next year to cut it to the same level. That is a bad deal. And it also means that for the next hundred years, we will have to negotiate ever more excruciatingly costly treaties between 192 countries, many of them poor countries like China and India, hungry for more power. That is going to be hard. Or looking just at Kyoto, maybe more like impossible.

            The trick probably lies in understanding that what matters is not whether we cut a little now, but whether we eventually cut a lot. So maybe we should try going a different way.

            Right now we could get all the world’s energy from solar cells taking up very little (and otherwise useless) space. The equivalent of 2.6% of the area of the Sahara. Why don’t we? Because it would be horrendously costly. But solar energy has come down in price about 50% per decade over the past 30 years. Even at a much lower pace, it will probably become competitive before mid-century for many uses, and before the end of the century for most uses. If we invested more in research and development (R&D) this development would probably go faster. Likely, such an investment would do much more good than Kyoto ever could, and be much cheaper.

            And of course, solar power is but one – if very promising – opportunity. We have wind, that is already competitive some places, as in Denmark. We have carbon capture, fusion and fission, energy efficiency, biomass and biodiesel. It is hard to tell which will work best, but maybe we shouldn’t. Maybe we should let nations search out these opportunities for the long-term benefit for the world.

            My proposal for tackling global warming in the long run is that all nations commit themselves to spending 0.05.% of GDP in R&D of non-carbon emitting energy technologies. This approach would cost about $25 billion per year, seven times cheaper than Kyoto and many more times cheaper than a Kyoto II. It would involve all nations, with richer nations naturally paying the larger share. It would let each country focus on its own future vision of energy needs, whether that means concentrating on renewable sources, nuclear energy, fusion, carbon storage, or searching for new and more exotic opportunities.

            Such a massive global research effort would also have potentially huge innovation spin-offs (a bit like how NASA’s going to the moon also gave us computers and velcro). Because the costs are low and there will be many immediate innovation benefits, countries do not have to be ever more strongly cajoled into ever more restrictive agreements. They will partake because it involves them in a strong, science-based endeavor. They will partake, because it is a smart thing to do.

            And most importantly, it will likely have a much greater impact on the long-term climate.


Global Warming only One of Many Issues

Global warming is not the only issue we need to tackle. This especially holds true for the third world. It is obvious that there are many other and more pressing issues for the third world, such as almost 4 million dying from malnutrition (underweight), 3 million from HIV/AIDS (unsafe sex), 2.5 million from indoor and outdoor air pollution, more than 2 million from lack of micronutrients (iron, zinc and vitamin A) and almost 2 million from lack of clean drinking water.

            Even if global warming exacerbates some or more of these problems, it is important to point out that the total magnitude of the problems is likely to far exceed the contribution from climate change. Thus, polices to reduce the total problems will have much more leverage than policies that only try to address the global warming part of the issues. Again, we have to ask if there are better ways to help than by cutting CO2.

            We have to ask ourselves: what do we want to do first? Do we want to focus on cutting CO2, at fairly high costs and doing fairly little good a hundred years from now? Or would we rather want to fix some of the many obvious problems in the world, where we could do a lot more good and do it now?

            In the so-called Copenhagen Consensus process, we asked this general question to some of the smartest economists in the world: where would you spend extra resources to do good first? Experts put forward their best solutions from climate change and communicable diseases, over conflicts, education, financial instability, governance & corruption, malnutrition and hunger, population: migration to sanitation & water and subsidies & trade barriers. But they didn’t just say their proposals would do good – they said how much good they would do and how much they would cost.

            A panel of top-level economists, including four Nobel Laureates then made the first explicit global priority list ever, shown in Table 1. It divided the world’s opportunities into very good, good, and fair according to how much more good they would do for each dollar spent, and bad opportunities where each dollar would do less than a dollar worth of good.

            Preventing HIV/AIDS turns out to be the very best investment humanity can make – for each dollar it spends saving lives it will do about forty dollars worth of social good. For $27 billion, we can save 28 million lives over the coming years.

            Malnutrition kills almost 2.4 million lives each year. Perhaps even more dramatically, it affects more than half the world’s population, by damaging eyesight, lowering IQ, reducing development and restricting human productivity. Investing $12 billion could probably half the incidence and death rate, with each dollar doing more than 30 dollars worth of social good.

            Ending first world agricultural subsidies and ensuring free trade would make almost everyone much better off. Models suggest that benefits of up to $2,400 billion annually would be achievable, with half of that benefit accruing to the third world. In achieving this, it would be necessary to bribe first world farmers, but the benefits of each dollar used would do more than fifteen dollars worth of social good.

            Finally, malaria kills more than a million each year. It infects about two billion people each year (many several times) and causes widespread debilitation. Yet, an investment of $13 billion could cut incidence by half, protect 90% of newborns, and cut deaths of under-5s by 72%.

            At the other end of the spectrum, the Nobels placed climate change opportunities, including Kyoto at the bottom under the heading ‘bad opportunities’, underlining what we saw above, namely that for each dollar spent, we would end up doing much less than a dollar worth of good for the world.

            But the Copenhagen Consensus did not just ask top economists. We asked 80 young college students from all over the world, with 70% from developing countries, with equal gender representation, and from arts, sciences and social sciences. After five days independently inquiring [with] the experts in all the areas, they came to a surprisingly similar result as the Nobels. The placed malnutrition and communicable diseases on top, climate change next to last.

            In 2006 we asked a wide range of UN ambassadors to make their priority list after two days of intensive debates. Besides the three biggest countries China, India and the US, countries as diverse as Angola, Australia, and Azerbaijan participated, along with Canada, Chile, Egypt, Iraq, Mexico, Nigeria, Poland, South Korea, Somalia, Tanzania, Vietnam, Zimbabwe and many others. They came out with a quite similar list, placing communicable diseases, clean drinking water and malnutrition at top, with climate change towards the bottom.

            This should make us stop and pause. None of these forums have said that climate change is not real or not important. But they ask us to consider, whether we would do better by addressing the real and pressing needs of current generations that we can solve so easily and cheaply, before we try to tackle the long-term problem of climate change where we can do so little for so much.

            To put it very bluntly, the Kyoto Protocol would likely cost at least $180 billion a year and do little good. UNICEF estimates that just $70-80 billion a year could give all Third World inhabitants access to the basics like health, education, water and sanitation. More important still is the fact that if we could muster such a massive investment in the present-day developing countries this would also give them a much better future position in terms of resources and infrastructure from which to manage a future global warming. What would we rather do first?


Source: U.S. House, Energy and Commerce committee hearing, Perspectives on Climate Change, 2007.  Notes and figures have been removed (see www.gpoaccess.gov/chearings for complete text).


Questions for Review

1. Why, according to Gore, might the global warming problem be worse than we thought?

2. Lomborg argues that the consequences of global warming have been exaggerated; give some examples.

3. What is Lomborg’s proposal for tackling global warming in the long run?

4. According to Lomborg, what other major social problems demand at least as much if not more attention than global warming?

5. According to the Copenhagen Consensus of economists, which humanitarian projects would do the most good?


Questions for Analysis

1. Suppose that Al Gore is exaggerating the negative consequences of global warming as Lomborg suggests. Might exaggeration be justified as a strategy for getting people’s attention on the issue?

2. In his economic analysis of the global warming problem, Lomborg doesn’t take into account the value of preserving the environment for its own sake. Should he have factored that in?

3. The Copenhagen Consensus suggested that some of the greatest humanitarian good could be done by ending agricultural subsidies to farmers in developed countries like the U.S. In essence, this would mean outsourcing more of our food production. What are the risks of abandoning our domestic food production?

4. Lomborg argues that we would see greater social benefits from modestly investing in third world humanitarian projects (such as health, education, water and sanitation) than we would through major investment in global warming reduction. He thus assumes that the money available for global warming reduction could be just as readily available for humanitarian projects. Is there a problem with that assumption?








Roger A. Pielke Jr. and Francesca T. Grifo


Global warming drew worldwide attention in the mid 1990s with the introduction of international environmental treaties aimed at reducing the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gasses. The U.S. did not adopt those agreements, and since that time the scientific issues surrounding global warming have become intertwined with politics. The policy of the George W. Bush administration, according to its critics, involved suppressing and manipulating scientific evidence about global warming to misdirect the public and delay corrective action. Should we prevent political interference with global warming science? On the pro side of the issue is Francesca T. Grifo, a scientist and member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, who argues that such political interference harms federal science and threatens the health and safety of Americans. Scientific input should always be weighted from an objective and impartial perspective, she argues, and an unacceptably large number of federal climate scientists personally experienced instances of interference during the Bush administration. Federal scientists have a constitutional right to speak about their scientific research, she argues, and heavy handed administration policies undermine these basic rights. On the contra side of the issue is Roger A. Pilke, a meteorologist and author of the book The Honest Broker: Making Sense of Science in Policy and Politics (2007). According to Pilke, while the Bush administration may have been particularly egregious in its interference with global warming science, government officials have always manipulated science for political ends. Uses of science in public policy is unavoidably political, he argues, and routinely impacts choice about scientific language, press releases, and membership in science advisory panels. Scientific cherry picking and mischaracterizations are also a part of politics, a recent example of which is the attempts to link global warming with an increase in hurricanes. Scientists themselves willingly become partisans in the debate by expressing their personal views to media.



In a nutshell, here is the problem we face--political interference is harming federal science and threatening the health and safety of Americans. UCS [i.e., Union of Concerned Scientists] has surveyed more than 1,800 federal scientists and found the following:



Our government runs on vast amounts of information. If the government does not have access to accurate and complete information about a topic, the inevitable result is bad policy and bad decisions. The thousands of scientists in the employ of the federal government represent a tremendous resource and their knowledge and advice should be heeded, rather than manipulated or ignored. The message of these statistics is clear: without strong action to restore integrity to federal science our nation will be ill-prepared to deal with the challenges we face.


Scientific Integrity

Successful application of science has played a large part in the policies that have made the United States of America the world's most powerful nation and its citizens increasingly prosperous and healthy.

            Although scientific input to the government is rarely the only factor in public policy decisions, scientific input should always be weighted from an objective and impartial perspective. Presidents and administrations of both parties have long adhered to this principle in forming and implementing policies. Recent actions, however, threaten to undermine this legacy by preventing the best available science from informing policy decisions--with serious consequences for our health, safety, and environment.

            Misrepresenting and suppressing scientific knowledge for political purposes can have serious consequences. For example, if the Nixon administration suppressed air quality studies and vetoed the Clean Air Act of 1970, Americans would have suffered more than 200,000 premature deaths and millions of cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease over the next 20 years.

            This misuse of science has led Russell Train, the EPA administrator under Presidents Nixon and Ford, to observe: “How radically we have moved away from regulation based on independent findings and professional analysis by the White House and driven primarily by political considerations.”

            On February 18, 2004, 62 preeminent scientists articulated these concerns in a statement titled “Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making.” In this statement, the scientists charged the Bush administration with widespread and unprecedented “manipulation in the process through which science enters into its decisions.” In conjunction with the statement, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) released detailed documentation backing up the scientists' charges in its February 2004 report, Scientific Integrity in Policy Making.

            In the months since the original UCS report, more than 11,000 scientists have signed onto the scientists' statement. Signers include 52 Nobel laureates, 63 National Medal of Science recipients, and 194 members of the National Academy of Sciences. A number of these scientists have served in multiple administrations, both Democratic and Republican, underscoring the unprecedented nature of the current practices and that the issues of scientific integrity transcend partisan politics. The names of all the signers are listed on the banners displayed here today. . . .


Examples of Misuse of Science

Specific examples of the misuse of science have occurred across a broad range of issues such as childhood lead poisoning, toxic mercury emissions, climate change, reproductive health, and nuclear weapons. Experts at the FDA charged with ensuring the safety of our food and drug supply, report being pressured to alter their scientific conclusions. Political appointees in the Department of the Interior have been exposed for overruling the scientific consensus and refusing to protect endangered species. Scientists nominated to serve on scientific advisory boards report being asked about their political leanings. And scientists studying what may very well be the most profound global change of this century--global warming--are effectively barred from communicating their findings to the news media and the public. UCS has continued to compile additional examples in its July 2004 update of the original report, and its 2006 A-to-Z Guide to Political Interference in Science.

            The specific actions by political appointees and others include:


1. Censorship and suppression of federal science by suppressing or delaying scientific reports, limiting media access to government scientists, and placing restrictions on the flow of information.

2. Disseminating inaccurate science-based information by forcing scientists to change their data, editing scientific documents to alter their conclusions, distributing inaccurate science based information, and distributing curricula with incorrect information.

3. Manipulating scientific advice by subjecting scientific advisory panel nominees to political litmus tests; nominating underqualified individuals or individuals with conflicts of interest; and ignoring or disbanding science advisory committees altogether.


Scientist Surveys

To move beyond anecdotes and to gather information about the extent and nature of the interference, UCS has conducted a series of surveys of federal scientists. Previous surveys have given voice to scientists at the Food and Drug Administration, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the NOAA Fisheries Program. More information about the series of surveys can be found at http://www.ucsusa.orglsurveys/. . . .


Atmosphere of Pressure

Out of concern that inappropriate political interference and media favoritism are compromising federal climate science, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Government Accountability Project (GAP) undertook independent investigations of federal climate science. UCS mailed a questionnaire to more than 1,600 climate scientists at seven federal agencies to gauge the extent to which politics was playing a role in scientists' research. Surveys were also sent to scientists at the independent (non-federal) National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) to serve as a comparison with the experience of federal scientists. About 19 percent of all scientists responded (279 from federal agencies and 29 from NCAR). At the same time, GAP conducted 40 in-depth interviews with federal climate scientists and other officials and analyzed thousands of pages of government documents, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and inside sources, regarding agency media policies and congressional communications.

            These two complementary investigations arrived at similar conclusions regarding the state of federal climate research and the need for strong policies to protect the integrity of science and the free flow of scientific information.


Political Interference with Climate Science

The federal government needs accurate scientific information to craft effective policies. Political interference with the work of federal scientists threatens the quality and integrity of these policies. As such, no scientist should ever encounter any of the various types of political interference described in our survey questions. Yet unacceptably large numbers of federal climate scientists personally experienced instances of interference over the past five years:



The more frequently a climate scientist's work touches on sensitive or controversial issues, the more interference he or she reported. More than three-quarters (78 percent) of those survey respondents who self-reported that their research “always” or “frequently” touches on issues that could be considered sensitive or controversial also reported they had personally experienced at least one incident of inappropriate interference. More than one-quarter (27 percent) of this same group had experienced six or more such incidents in the past five years.

            In contrast to this evidence of widespread interference in climate science at federal agencies, scientists at the independent National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), who are not federal employees, reported far fewer instances of interference. Only 22 percent of all NCAR respondents had personally experienced such incidents over the past five years.


Barriers to Communication

Federal scientists have a constitutional right to speak about their scientific research, and the American public has a right to be informed of the findings of taxpayer-supported research. Restrictions on scientists who report findings contrary to an administration's preferred policies undermine these basic rights. These practices also contribute to a general misunderstanding of the findings of climate science and degrade our government's ability to make effective policies on topics ranging from public health to agriculture to disaster preparation.

            The investigation uncovered numerous examples of public affairs officers at federal agencies taking a highly active role in regulating communications between agency scientists and the media—in effect serving as gatekeepers for scientific information.

            Among the examples taken from interviews and FOIA documents:



Highly publicized incidents of interference have led at least one agency to implement reforms; in February 2006, NASA adopted a scientific openness policy that affirms the right of open scientific communication. Perhaps as a result, 61 percent of NASA survey respondents said recent policies affirming scientific openness at their agency have improved the environment for climate research. While imperfect, the new NASA media policy stands as a model for the type of action other federal agencies should take in reforming their media policies.

            The investigation also highlighted problems with the process by which scientific findings are communicated to policy makers in Congress. One example, taken from internal documents provided to GAP by agency staff, shows edits to official questions for the record by political appointees, which change the meaning of the scientific findings being presented.


Inadequate Funding

When adjusted for inflation, funding for federal climate science research has declined since the mid-1990s. A majority of survey respondents disagreed that the government has done a good job funding climate science, and a large number of scientists warned that inadequate levels of funding are harming the capacity of researchers to make progress in understanding the causes and effects of climate change. Budget cuts that have forced the cancellation of crucial Earth observation satellite programs were of particular concern to respondents.


Poor Morale

Morale among federal climate scientists is generally poor. The UCS survey results suggest a correlation between the deterioration in morale and the politicized environment surrounding federal climate science in the present administration. One primary danger of low morale and decreased funding is that federal agencies may have more difficulty attracting and keeping the best scientists.

            A large number of respondents reported decreasing job satisfaction and a worsening environment for climate science in federal agencies:




This report has brought to light numerous ways in which U.S. federal climate science has been filtered, suppressed, and manipulated in the last five years. Until this political interference ends, the United States will not be able to fully protect Americans and the world from the dangers of a warming planet. Creating systems to ensure long-term independent and accessible science will require the energies of the entire federal government. UCS and GAP recommend the following reforms and actions:



The reality of global warming, including the role of heat-trapping gases from human activities in driving climate change, has been repeatedly affirmed by scientific experts. Every day that the government chooses to ignore climate science is a day it fails to protect future generations from the consequences of global warming. Our government must commit to ensuring basic scientific freedoms and support scientists in their endeavors to bring scientific results to the policy arena, scientific fora, and a wide array of other audiences. Addressing climate change is a matter of national preparedness.




. . . Many decades of study of the role of science in decision making indicates that efforts to keep separate science and politics are not only doomed to fail, but they are likely to create conditions that are likely to enhance the pathological politicization of science. . . . Issues related to the politicization of science are important to the nation as a whole. In the end what is most important is that the government has the capability to well-use expertise in decision making, because such expertise is absolutely critical to developing, understanding, and implementing policy alternatives in the face of the complex challenges of the modern world. . . .


Politics and Science Have Always Mixed

Here are just a very few examples of political issues that involved science under the past six presidential administrations:



If science and politics have always been interrelated, then what, if anything, is different about today?


1. There are an increasing number of important issues which are related to science and technology in some way. Some issues are the result of advances in science and technology (e.g., the ethics of cloning), in others science and technologies are central to their resolution.

2. Policy makers increasingly invoke expertise to justify a course of action that they advocate.

3. Advocacy groups increasingly rely on experts to justify their favored course of action.

4. Congress, at least for the past six years, and perhaps longer has been derelict in its oversight duties, particularly related to issues of science and technology.

5. Many scientists are increasingly engaging in political advocacy.

6. Some issues of science have become increasingly partisan as some politicians sense that there is political gain to be found on issues like stem cells, teaching of evolution, climate change, and so on.

7. The Bush Administration has engaged in hyper-controlling strategies for the management of information.


Science in Policy is Unavoidably Political

The notion that science and politics can be somehow separated in policy making survives in spite of an enormous and sophisticated literature providing evidence to the contrary in the area of Science and Technology Studies. Harvard's Sheila Jasanoff, a leading scholar who has studied the inter-relationship of science and politics, has written:


“Although pleas for maintaining a strict separation between science and politics continue to run like a leitmotif through the policy literature, the artificiality of this position can no longer be doubted. Studies of scientific advising leave in tatters the notion that it is possible, in practice, to restrict the advisory practice to technical issues or that the subjective values of scientists are irrelevant to decision making. . . . The notion that scientific advisors can or do limit themselves to addressing purely scientific issues, in particular, seems fundamentally misconceived . . . the advisory process seems increasingly important as a locus for negotiating scientific differences that have political weight.”


Choice of Scientific Language

The very language of science in public discussions lends itself to politicization. For instance, The New York Times reported in February, 2006 that scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory had complained because they had been instructed to use the phrase “climate change” rather than the phrase “global warming.” The reason for this complaint is that the language of climate science has become politicized. A Republican strategy memo recommended use of the phrase “climate change” over “global warming” and environmental groups have long had the opposite preference. Another federal scientist, at NOAA, described how he was instructed by superiors not to use the word “Kyoto” or “climate change.”

            To cite another example, several years ago the Union of Concerned Scientists, as part of its advocacy campaign on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, recommended the use of the word “harbinger” to describe current climate events that may become more frequent with future global warming. Subsequently scientists at NOAA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Harvard Medical Center's Center for Health and the Global Environment, Stanford, and the Fish and Wildlife Service's Polar Bear Project began to use the phrase in their public communication in concert with advocacy groups like Greenpeace. The term has also appeared in official government press releases. The use of language to convey political meaning is of course well understood in politics and has gained some greater prominence in recent years through the work of George Lakoff. Policy makers and their staff are of course intimately familiar with these dynamics: we have just recently seen them in practice as Republicans and Democrats have battled over framing President Bush's proposed troop increases in Iraq as a “surge” or as an “escalation.”

            If the choice of language to use in discussing matters of science is inherently political then so too is selection of topics to issue press releases and statements made in government reports describing science programs, and in the composition of government advisory committees. Consider each in turn:


Choices When Issuing Press Releases and Reports

Scientists in federal agencies author tens of thousands of research papers every year. For only a very small fraction of these do federal agencies issue press releases or media advisories. So some criteria must be applied to determine what press releases are put out by an agency. Consequently, the decision to issue a press release necessarily involves extra-scientific considerations such as the likelihood of making news, which itself can be a function of political conflict. Often the politics involved are not left-right issues but simply casting the agency in a positive public light as a resource in future political battles over agency budgets.

            Agencies all must have some procedure for which subjects and which scientists are promoted to the public. Because of the recent controversies involving press access to scientists, NASA and NOAA have developed very different approaches to their media policies. NOAA's policy on public statements by its employees states that the employee speaks for the agency at all times: “Whether in person, on camera, or over the phone, when speaking to a reporter you represent and speak for the entire agency.”

            NASA, by contrast, distinguishes between speaking for the agency and personal views: “NASA employees who present personal views outside their official area of expertise or responsibility must make clear that they are presenting their individual views--not the views of the Agency - and ask that they be sourced as such.”

            Every government agency needs some sort of media policy. I suspect that every congressional office and committee also has guidelines for staff interacting with the media. It seems obvious that democracy would be impossible if every government employee sought to interpret or implement laws and policy according to their own personal preferences. And government employment carries with it professional responsibilities, which are proportionately greater the higher ranking the career official. Because the issue of agency media policies are not obvious or straightforward, they are an ideal subject for Congressional oversight, in order to evaluate and to share best practices.

            The preparation of government reports has similar characteristics. Under the Climate Change Science Program more than 20 assessments of the state of various aspects of climate science are in various stages of preparation. The various reports are prepared under an exacting set of procedures for drafting, reviewing, and editing. The Federal government has also sought to create guidelines to provide “guidance to agencies ensuring the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information” under what is called the Data Quality Act. Such policies represent experiments in the presentation of scientific information to policy makers, and as such they are worth close Congressional oversight. But for the reasons described above, no information management policy can ever hope to eliminate political considerations in the preparation of government reports with scientific content.


Advisory Committee Empanelment

A November, 2004 report of the nation's leading nongovernmental science advisory body--the National Research Council (NRC)--recommended that presidential Nominees to science and technology advisory panels not be asked about their political and policy perspectives. The NRC describes the political and policy views of prospective panelists as “immaterial information” because such perspectives “do not necessarily predict their position on particular policies.” This “don't ask, don't tell” approach has been subsequently passed into law under the so-called Durbin Amendment to the FY 2006 Health and Human Services Appropriations Bill. The “don't ask, don't tell” approach to politics in advisory committee empanelment is meaningless in practice.

            Considerations of politics are unavoidable in the empanelling process. Consider the irony in the fact that the NRC Committee that recommended that political factors not be considered in advisory panels was itself composed of a perfect partisan balance between those committee members who had served Republican administrations and those who had served Democratic administrations. The real question is whether we want to openly confront the reality that extra-scientific factors of course play a role in committee empanelment or we turn a blind eye and allow committee empanelment decisions to play out in the proverbial backrooms of political decision making.

            In nearly every other area of politics, advice is put forward with political and policy perspectives at the fore: the Supreme Court, congressional hearing witness lists, the Sept. 11 commission, to name just a few. In no other area where advice is given to the government is it even plausibly considered that politics can or should be ignored. And while science is the practice of developing systematic knowledge, scientists are both human beings and citizens, with values and views, which they often express in public forums.

            Sheila Jasanoff has written that when experts make scientific judgments they do so usually “in full knowledge that different choices may lead to substantially different policy recommendations. Given this state of affairs, it is almost inevitable that a scientist's personal and political values will influence his reading of particular facts.”

            Whether they are asked explicitly or not during the appointment process, many scientists' views on politics and policy are well known. For instance, thanks to a letter of endorsement we know of 48 Nobel Prize winners who in 2004 supported John Kerry for president. It would be easy to convene an advisory panel of very distinguished scientists who happen to have signed this letter without formally asking them about their political views. Moreover, to evaluate whether a policy focused on keeping political considerations out of the scientific advisory process is working, it would be necessary to have information showing that the composition of particular panels is not biased with respect to panelists' political and policy views, which in turn would require knowing what those views are in the first place. It is a Catch-22.

            Finally, science advisory panels never deal purely with science. They are convened to provide guidance either on policy or on scientific information that is directly relevant to policy. Arizona State University's Dan Sarewitz has persuasively argued, “When an issue is both politically and scientifically contentious, then one's point of view can usually be supported with an array of legitimate facts that seem no less compelling than the facts assembled by those with a different perspective.”

            On climate change, even as scientists have come to a robust consensus that human activities have significant effects on the climate, legitimate debate continues on the costs and benefits of proposed alternative policy actions. And evaluation of costs and benefits involves considerations of values and politics. It would be hopelessly naive to think that an advisory committee on climate change could be empanelled without consideration of how the views of its members map onto the existing political debate.

            Rather than eliminating considerations of politics in the composition of science advisory panels, a policy of “don't ask, don't tell” just makes it more difficult to see the role played by politics, which will be ever present. More important than the composition of scientific advisory panels is the charge that they are given and the processes they employ to provide useful information to decision makers. The current debate over these panels reinforces the old myth that we can somehow cleanly separate science from politics and then ensure that the science is somehow untainted by the “impurities” of the rest of society. Yet paradoxically, we also want science to be relevant to policy. A better approach would be to focus our attention on developing transparent, accountable and effective processes to manage politics in science--not to pretend that it doesn't exist.


Scientific Cherry Picking and Mischaracterizations are a Part of Politics

A memorandum providing background to this hearing prepared 26 January 2007 by the majority staff of the House Committee on Government Reform and Oversight illustrates the cherry picking of science (reproduced in Figure I). Cherry picking literally means “take the best, leave the rest.” The memorandum states, quite correctly, that “a consensus has emerged on the basic science of global warming.” It goes on to assert that: “. . . recently published studies have suggested that the impacts [of global warming] include increases in the intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms, increases in wildfires, and loss of wildlife, such as polar bears and walruses.”

            To support its claim of increasing intensities of hurricanes and tropical storms the memorandum cites three papers. What the memorandum does not relate is that authors of each of the three cited studies recently participated with about 120 experts from around the world to prepare a consensus statement under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organization which concluded:


“The possibility that greenhouse gas induced global warming may have already caused a substantial increase in some tropical cyclone indices has been raised (e.g. Mann and Emanuel, 2006), but no consensus has been reached on this issue.”


            With respect to two of the three papers cited in the memorandum, referring to possible trends in tropical cyclone intensities, the WMO statement concluded the subject “is still hotly debated” and “for which we can provide no definitive conclusion.” The WMO Statement was also recently endorsed by the Executive Council of the American Meteorological Society. The hearing background memorandum is absolutely correct when it asserts that “recently published studies have suggested that the impacts [of global warming] include increases in the intensity of hurricanes and tropical storms.” But this selective reporting does not tell the whole story either. Such cherry picking and misrepresentations of science are endemic in political discussions involving science.

            What has occurred in this memorandum is exactly the same sort of thing that we have seen with heavy-handed Bush administration information management strategies which include editing government reports and overbearing management of agency press releases and media contacts with scientists. Inevitably, such ham-handed information management will backfire, because people will notice and demand accountability. This hearing today is good evidence for that.


Scientists Have Contributed to the Politicization of Science

Scientists have not been innocent victims in these political dynamics. Writing in the National Journal, Paul Starobin suggests that:


“Inevitably the scientist has been dragged, or has catapulted himself, into the values and political combat that surround science and has emerged, in certain respects, as just another (diminished) partisan.”


Recent debate over hurricanes and climate change provides a perfect case study of these dynamics and the role that individual scientists play in creating conditions for the pathological politicization of science.

            In the spring of 2006, a group of scientists were collectively promoted in a press release by a group called TCS—Tech Central Station—which values “the power of free markets, open societies and individual human ingenuity to raise living standards and improve lives.” Each of the scientists cited in the TCS press release believes that global warming plays little discernible role in hurricane activity. Clearly the scientists were selected by, or joined with, TCS because their scientific perspectives happened to be politically convenient. Late in the summer of 2006, another group of scientists collaborated with an environmental group to promote research suggesting that sea surface temperatures had increased due to global warming. Each of these scientists believes that global warming is the primary reason behind increased hurricane activity. These scientists were similarly collected and presented as a group because their scientific perspectives also happened to be politically convenient.

            Interest groups have a great deal of power in such situations of scientific diversity, because they can selectively assemble experts on any given topic to basically support any ideological position. That interest groups will cherry-pick among experts comes as no surprise, but what, if any, responsibility do scientists have in such advocacy and what are the implications for the scientific enterprise?

            From the perspective of the individual scientist choosing to align with an interest group, it should be recognized that such a decision is political. There is of course nothing wrong with politics. It is how we get the business of society done, and organized interest groups are fundamental to modern democracy. Nonetheless, an observer of this dynamic might be forgiven for thinking that different perspectives on scientific issues are simply a function of political ideologies. We often see how contentious political debates involving science can become, when filtering science through interest groups is the dominant mechanism for connecting science to policy.

            Scientists have other options beyond aligning with advocacy groups. Advice can also be provided through government science advisory panels, National Academy committees, and professional societies. When scientists with differing views organize themselves to jointly describe the policy significance of their work (and where they may differ), it can serve to militate against the pathological politicization of science. Unfortunately, many such institutions eschew discussion of the significance of scientific work, or emulate the behavior of advocacy groups by selectively presenting a subset of the relevant science or endorsing particular policy alternatives.

            One notable effort to place scientific debate into a policy context was led by MIT's Kerry Emanuel, a hurricane-climate expert embroiled in the current debate over hurricanes and global warming. He organized nine of his colleagues from both sides of the debate to prepare a statement about their debate and its significance for decision making. The statement by the scientists said:


As the Atlantic hurricane season gets underway, the possible influence of climate change on hurricane activity is receiving renewed attention. While the debate on this issue is of considerable scientific and societal interest and concern, it should in no event detract from the main hurricane problem facing the United States: the ever-growing concentration of population and wealth in vulnerable coastal regions.


            With the exception of The New York Times, the statement was almost completely ignored by the major media and advocacy groups. This is not surprising, as many would rather use scientists for their own narrow purposes, which often depend on the presence of political conflict rather than consensus. Nonetheless, the effort by the hurricane scientists represents responsible leadership seeking to move beyond the exploitation of scientists for political ends.


Source: U.S. House, Oversight Committee hearing on Allegations of Political Interference with the Work of Government Climate Change Scientists, 2007. Notes have been removed (see www.gpoaccess.gov/chearings for complete text).


Questions for Review

1. According to Grifo, what are three main misuses of science by politicians?

2. According to Grifo in the section “Atmosphere of Pressure” what are some of the ways in which there has been political interference with climate science?

3. According to Pielke, past presidents have always imposed political agendas on science, but today politicization of science has increased. What are some of the ways in which this has occurred?

4. According to Pielke, how does politics impact decisions about scientific press releases?

5. According to Pielke, how does politics impact decisions about membership on science advisory panels?


Questions for Analysis

1. Grifo states that Federal scientists have a constitutional right to freely speak about their scientific research. But Pielke argues that Federal agencies have different policies regarding when their researchers can express their views (e.g., NASA and NOAA). Should there be a uniform policy regarding what government scientists can say?

2. Pielke opens with a list of examples of how past presidents from Nixon onward made political decisions that went against scientific findings. Do these examples show the manipulating of scientific information (which is Grifo’s worry) or only the ignoring of scientific information? Explain.

3. Pielke argues that part of the blame for the politicization of global warming science goes to scientists who voluntarily become partisans in the public debate, such as by appearing in news and talk shows. Is this a valid criticism?

4. Conservative commentator Wesley J. Smith writes “Some claim that the Bushes skewed climate warming data.  I don’t know about that. . . . But I do know that Obama has played fast and loose with the science surrounding the Gulf Oil Spill–someone in his administration even faking validation for a drilling moratorium from scientific advisers–who protested they had done no such thing” (www.firstthings.com/blogs/secondhandsmoke). Assuming that Smith is correct about Obama, what if anything does this suggest about Pielke’s position?

5. Political scientist Bjørn Lomborg argues that the technology isn’t available to solve the global warming problem within the next hundred years: “The big problem about cutting carbon emissions Kyoto style is that it costs a lot now, and does very little for the future” (U.S. House, committee hearing, Perspectives on Climate Change, 2007). If Lomborg is right, might this justify some political interference in global warming science? Explain.









Craig Rosebraugh and Richard Berman


The term “eco-terrorism” refers to acts of sabotage that aim to obstruct the activities of businesses or governments that are considered harmful to the environment. The sabotage is typically illegal and in many cases involves bombing buildings or vehicles. The term “eco-terrorism” is a pejorative one used by critics; those who engage in the sabotage typically call themselves environmental activists. The most infamous of such groups is the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), which formed in England in 1992 and took root in the U.S. in 1996. On a website associated with ELF, its stated mission is “(1) To educate the public on the atrocities committed against the environment and all of the species that cohabitate in it,; (2) To inflict maximum economic damage to those who profit from the destruction of the natural environment; (3) To take all necessary precautions against harming any animal—human or non-human” (www.earthliberationfront.org). The selections below are from a Congressional committee hearing on the subject of eco-terrorism. In his opening comments, Colorado Congressman Scott McInnis describes the activities of ELF and other eco-terrorist groups:


They attack government buildings and homes and businesses and research labs with firebombs, Molotov-cocktails and timed detonation devices. . . . [T]he individuals that make-up these terror groups are not cut from the same fabric as the nature loving hippies of my youth. It would be a serious mistake for anyone to dismiss these hard-liners as just misguided college kids, or trust fund babies with nothing better to do. These people are hardened criminals. [U.S. House subcommittee hearing “Eco-Terrorism and Lawlessness on the National Forests,” February 12, 2002]


            On the pro side of the issue is Craig Rosebraugh, an environmental activist, author, and co-founder of the North American Earth Liberation Front Press Office, an above-ground organization that defends and disseminates information on ELF activities. Rosebraugh describes his transformation from an adolescent who had pride for his country to an environmental activist who condoned civil disobedience. The damage that people today inflict on the natural environment, he argues, is part of a more systemic campaign of oppression by society and the government, which is in the same vein as the genocide of Native Americans. Further, since the industrial revolution, society’s approach to the environment has been to sacrifice sustainable living for financial gain. The U.S. government takes this position as well by leasing the resources of Natural Forests to commercial loggers. For Rosebraugh, the environmental movement that started in the 1960s has failed to produce the necessary protection needed to ensure that life on this planet will continue to survive, and positive change in the US only comes about through civil disobedience, such as the activities of ELF. On the contra side of the issue is Richard Berman, spokesperson for the Center for Consumer Freedom (www.consumerfreedom.com), a lobbying group funded by a coalition of restaurant and food companies. Berman argues that, with over 1,000 documented criminal incidents, eco-terrorism is a serious problem, and with these groups distributing “how to” manuals on the internet, the problem can get much worse. Eco-terrorists get support from above-ground organizations, including PETA, Ted Turner, and Ben & Jerry’s. According to Berman, these supporters need to be exposed.




Early Influences

On April 15, 1972, I came into this world as a child of two wonderful parents living in Portland, Oregon. Growing up in the Pacific Northwestern region of the United States, I had the privilege of easy access to the natural world. Much of my childhood was spent in the fields and forested areas behind our home, playing and experiencing life in my time of innocence. I had no knowledge of societal problems, especially those pertaining to the natural environment.

            Throughout my childhood and adolescent years, the education I received from my parents, schools, popular media and culture instilled in me a pride for my country, for my government, and everything the United States represented. I was taught about the great American history, our Constitution, Bill of Rights, and our legacy of being at the forefront of democracy and freedom. I considered myself to be just an average boy taking an active part in the popular American pastimes of competitive sports, consumer culture, and existing within a classic representation of the standard, middle-class suburban lifestyle.

            Upon graduating from high school, I became exposed to new forms of education and ideas. Resulting from my exposure to people from differing socio-economic backgrounds and beginning college, I found my horizons beginning to widen. For the first time in my life, I was presented with the notion of political and social conflict coupled with the various issues contained within both categories. It was alarming yet, at the same time, invigorating as I began to feel passion burn within me.

            George Bush, Sr. had just thrust the United States into what became known as the Gulf War. Now, as I was raised with a certain absolutist support of my country and government, my first inclination was to wave the stars and stripes and support unconditionally this noble pursuit of “promoting democracy and freedom” in the “less fortunate” and “uncivilized” lands. Yet, as I began to look further into the matter, I found myself asking questions such as why are we there? Why are we killing civilians? What is the true motive behind the conflict? After extensive research, I came to the logical and truthful conclusion that natural resources and regional power were the primary motives.

            As news from independent sources slowly filtered out, I became increasingly horrified at the slaughter of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military. With no war for oil as my personal guiding statement, I joined the local anti-war protests and movement existing in Portland, Oregon. Little did I realize that this first political activity would lead me to a life of devotion to true justice and real freedom.

            While my anti-war involvement progressed, I also began to understand the disastrous relationship our modern society has with the many animal nations. Out of an interest inspired both by independent reading and through early college courses, I became involved with a local animal advocacy organization. At first, I attended meetings to hear the numerous arguments for the rights of animals and further my own education. The more I learned, the more compelled I felt to involve myself fully in working for animal protection. My activities went from merely attending meetings, rallies, and protests to organizing them. Of all the issues I had learned about during the six years I spent with that organization, I focused the majority of my time, research, and interest on fighting against the use of animals in biomedical and scientific experimentation.

            While a great percentage of the public in the United States had been convinced that animal research progressed and continues to improve human health, I soon realized that this myth was not only untruthful and single sided, but the work of a slick public relations campaign by the pharmaceutical industry in coordination with federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health. I also learned that just like the factory farm industry, the use of animals for human entertainment and for the fashion industry, animal experimentation was motivated first and foremost by profits. Furthermore, I learned how the government of the United States not only economically supports these various institutions of exploitation and slaughter, but how it continues to perpetuate and politically support the dangerous lie that animal research saves human lives. My support for various governmental policies was slowly fading.

            And then memories of innocence were torn away. In the early 1990s, I learned that the lush natural acreage I used to play in as a child had been sold to a development firm. It intended to bulldoze the entire area and create a virtual community of homes for the upper middle class to wealthy. Within two years, the land as I knew it was no more. The visual reminder I used to appreciate, the one that would take me back to the years when the fields and trees were my playground, was stolen by a development corporation who saw more value in the land as luxurious houses than for its natural beauty and life.

            I remember asking myself, what would happen to the various wildlife who made the area their home for so many years? Where would the deer, coyotes, skunks, wild cats, mice, raccoons, opossums, and others go? It was obvious that the developers had not even considered these questions. Rather, it appeared, the main pursuit of the corporation was working towards building incredibly large homes as close as possible to one another for maximum financial gain.

            As the 1990s progressed, I became increasingly aware of the relationship between social and political problems in the United States. No single issue was truly independent but rather was affected by many others. In my work with the local animal advocacy organization, I realized that exploitation and destruction at the hands of human domination over animals also involved much more. Economics, politics, sociology, psychology, anthropology, science, religion, and other disciplines all played a significant role in understanding this unhealthy and unbalanced relationship between humans and other animals. But, by far the most important realization I made was that the problems facing animals, the problems facing the natural environment, and those affecting humans all came from a primary source. Understanding this crucial connection, I co-founded a non-profit organization in 1996 dedicated to educating the public on this fundamental realization.


Reexamination of History

During the mid-1990s, through continued formal and informal education, I also began to understand that the history I had learned growing up was only one story of many. I gained insight into the fact that everything I had learned about the origins of the United States of America had been purely from the viewpoint of the colonists and European settlers. Thus, the history I was taught was from the perspective of the privileged white man, which not only told a mere fraction of the story, but also provided an extreme amount of misinformation as well.

            I was never taught that the origins of this country were based upon murder, exploitation, and ultimate genocide. ...

            When I co-founded the non-profit organization in Portland, Oregon, in 1996, I was becoming more aware that the similarities in the human, environmental, and animal advocacy movements stemmed from this rich U.S. history, not of glory, freedom and democracy, but of oppression in its sickest forms. I began to also realize that just as the U.S. white male power structure put itself on a pedestal above everyone else, it also maintained that attitude toward the natural environment and the various animal nations existing within it. As a society, we have continuously acted towards these natural life forms as though we owned them, therefore giving us the right to do whatever we wanted and could do to them.

            Particularly, with the advent of the industrial revolution in the United States, the destruction of the natural world took a sharp turn for the worse. The attitude, more so than ever, turned to one of profits at any cost and a major shift from sustainable living to stockpiling for economic benefit. This focus on stockpiling and industrial productivity caused hardship on communities, forcing local crafters and laborers to be driven out of business by overly competitive industries. Additionally, with this new focus on sacrificing sustainable living for financial gain, natural resources were in greater demand than ever. Semi-automatic to automatic machinery, production lines, the automobile, the roadway system, suburbs, and the breakup of small, fairly self-sufficient communities all came about, at least in part, due to the industrial revolution. This unhealthy and deadly transgression of course was supported and promoted by the U.S. government, always eager to see growth in the domestic economy.

            All of this set the stage for the threatening shortage of natural resources and the massive environmental pollution and destruction present today in the United States. In cities such as Los Angeles, Detroit, and Houston, the air and soil pollution levels are so extreme people have suffered and continue to face deadly health problems. Waterways throughout the country, including the Columbia Slough in my backyard, are so polluted from industries it is recommended that humans don’t even expose themselves to the moisture let alone drink unfiltered, unbottled water. The necessary and crucial forests of the Pacific Northwestern region of the country have been systematically destroyed by corporations such as Boise Cascade, Willamette Industries, and others within the timber industry whose sole motive is profits regardless of the expense to the health of an ecosystem. In Northern California, the sacred old growths, dreamlike in appearance, taking your breath away at first glance, have been continuously threatened and cut by greedy corporations such as Pacific Lumber/Maxxam. The same has occurred and still is a reality in states including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado.


National Forests

The first National Forests were established in the United States more than a century ago. One hundred fifty-five of them exist today spread across 191 million acres. Over the years, the forest products industry has decimated publicly owned National Forests in this country, leaving a horrendous trail of clearcuts and logging roads. Commercial logging has been responsible for annihilating nearly all of the nation’s old growth forests, draining nutrients from the soil, washing topsoil into streams, destroying wildlife habitat, and creating an increase in the incidence and severity of forest fires. Only an estimated 4 percent of old growth forests in the United States are remaining.

            The National Forests in the United States contain far more than just trees. In fact, more than 3,000 species of fish and wildlife, in addition to 10,000 plant species, have their habitat within the National Forests. This includes at least 230 endangered plant and animal species. All of these life forms co-exist symbiotically to naturally create the rich and healthy ecosystems needed for life to exist on this planet.

            The benefits of a healthy forest cannot be overrated. Healthy forests purify drinking water, provide fresh clean air to breathe, stabilize hillsides, and prevent floods. Hillsides clearcut or destroyed by logging roads lose their ability to absorb heavy rainfall. If no trees exist to soak up moisture with roots to hold the soil, water flows freely down slopes, creating muddy streams, polluting drinking water, strengthening floods, and causing dangerous mudslides. Instead of valuing trees and forests for being necessary providers of life, the U.S. Forest Service and commercial logging interests have decimated these precious ecosystems.

            The timber corporations argue that today in the United States more forests exist than perhaps at any time in the last century or more. It doesn’t take a forestry specialist to realize that monoculture tree farms -- in which one species of tree, often times non-native to the area, is grown in mass in a small area for maximum production -- do not equate to a healthy forest. Healthy forests are made up of diverse ecosystems consisting of many native plant and animal species. These healthy ecosystems are what grant humans and all other life forms on the planet with the ability to live. Without clean air, clean water, and healthy soil, life on this planet will cease to exist. There is an overwhelming battery of evidence that conclusively shows that we are already well on our path toward massive planetary destruction.


The Environmental Movement

The popular environmental movement in the United States, which arguably began in the 1960s, has failed to produce the necessary protection needed to ensure that life on this planet will continue to survive. This is largely due to the fact that the movement has primarily consisted of tactics sanctioned by the very power structure that is benefiting economically from the destruction of the natural world. While a few minor successes in this country should be noted, the overwhelming constant trend has been the increasingly speedy liquidation of natural resources and annihilation of the environment.

            The state sanctioned tactics, that is, those approved by the U.S. government and the status quo and predominantly legal in nature, rarely, if ever, actually challenge or positively change the very entities that are responsible for oppression, exploitation, and, in this case, environmental destruction. Throughout the history of the United States, a striking amount of evidence indicates that it wasn’t until efforts strayed beyond the state sanctioned that social change ever progressed. In the abolitionist movement, the Underground Railroad, public educational campaigns, in addition to slave revolts, forced the federal government to act. With the Suffragettes in the United States, individuals such as Alice Paul acting with various forms of civil disobedience added to the more mainstream efforts to successfully demand the vote for women. Any labor historian will assert that in addition to the organizing of the workplace, strikes, riots, and protests dramatically assisted in producing more tolerable work standards. The progress of the civil rights movement was primarily founded upon the massive illegal civil disobedience campaigns against segregation and disenfranchisement. Likewise, the true pressure from the Vietnam anti-war movement in this country only came after illegal activities such as civil disobedience and beyond were implemented. Perhaps the most obvious, yet often overlooked, historical example of this notion supporting the importance of illegal activity as a tool for positive, lasting change, came just prior to our war for independence. Our educational systems in the United States glorify the Boston Tea Party while simultaneously failing to recognize and admit that the dumping of tea was perhaps one of the most famous early examples of politically motivated property destruction.


Earth Liberation Front

In the mid-1990s, individuals angry and disillusioned with the failing efforts to protect the natural environment through state sanctioned means, began taking illegal action. At first, nonviolent civil disobedience was implemented, followed by sporadic cases of nonviolent property destruction. In November 1997, an anonymous communique was issued by a group called the Earth Liberation Front claiming responsibility for their first-ever action in North America.

            Immediately, the label of ecoterrorism appeared in news stories describing the actions of the Earth Liberation Front. Where exactly this label originated is open for debate, but all indications point to the federal government of the United States in coordination with industry and sympathetic mass media. Whatever the truth may be regarding the source of this term, one thing is for certain: the decision to attach this label to illegal actions taken for environmental protection was very conscious and deliberate. Why? The need for the U.S. federal government to control and mold public opinion through the power of propaganda to ensure an absence of threat is crucial. If information about illegal actions taken to protect the natural environment were presented openly to the public without biased interpretation, the opportunity would exist for citizens to make up their own minds about the legitimacy of the tactic, target, and movement. By attaching a label such as “terrorism” to the activities of groups such as the Earth Liberation Front, the public is left with little choice but to give into their preconceived notions negatively associated with that term. For many in this country, including myself, information about terrorism came from schools and popular culture. Most often times, the definition of terrorism was overtly racist associated frequently in movies and on television shows with Arabs and the others our government told us were threatening. Terrorism usually is connected with violence, with politically motivated physical harm to humans.

            Yet, in the history of the Earth Liberation Front, both in North America and abroad in Europe, no one has ever been injured by the group’s many actions. This is not a mere coincidence, but rather a deliberate decision that illustrates the true motivation behind the covert organization. Simply put and most fundamentally, the goal of the Earth Liberation Front is to save life. The group takes actions directly against the property of those who are engaged in massive planetary destruction in order for all of us to survive. This noble pursuit does not constitute terrorism, but rather seeks to abolish it.

            A major hypocrisy exists when the U.S. government labels an organization such as the Earth Liberation Front a terrorist group while simultaneously failing to acknowledge its own terrorist history. In fact, the U.S. government by far has been the most extreme terrorist organization in planetary history. Some, but nowhere near all, of the examples of domestic terrorism were discussed earlier in this writing. Yet, further proof can be found by taking a glimpse at the foreign policy record of the United States even as recently as from the 1950s. . . .


Government Harassment

I was asked originally if I would voluntarily testify before the House Subcommittee on Forests and Forest Health at a hearing focused on “ecoterrorism.” I declined in a written statement. U.S. Marshals then subpoenaed me on October 31, 2001 to testify at this hearing on February 12, 2002, against my will. Is this hearing a forum to discuss the threats facing the health of the natural environment, specifically the forests? No, clearly there is not even the remotest interest in this subject from the U.S. government or industry. The goal of this hearing is to discuss methodologies to improve the failed attempts law enforcement have made since the mid-1990s in catching and prosecuting individuals and organizations who take nonviolent, illegal direct action to stop the destruction of the natural environment. I have no interest in this cause or this hearing. In fact, I consider it a farce.

            Since 1997, the U.S. government has issued me seven grand jury subpoenas, raided my home and work twice, stealing hundreds of items of property, and, on many occasions, sent federal agents to follow and question me. After this effort, which has lasted nearly five years, federal agents have yet to obtain any information from me to aid their investigations. As I have never been charged with one crime related to these so-called ecoterrorist organizations or their activities, the constant harassment by the federal government constitutes a serious infringement on my Constitutional right to freedom of speech. This Congressional Subcommittee hearing appears to be no different, harassing and targeting me for simply voicing my ideological support for those involved in environmental protection.



I fully praise those individuals who take direct action, by any means necessary, to stop the destruction of the natural world and threats to all life. They are the heroes, risking their freedom and lives so that we as a species as well as all life forms can continue to exist on the planet. In a country so fixated on monetary wealth and power, these brave environmental advocates are engaging in some of the most selfless activities possible.

            It is my sincere desire that organizations such as the Earth Liberation Front continue to grow and prosper in the United States. In fact, more organizations, using similar tactics and strategies, need to be established to directly focus on U.S. imperialism and the U.S. government itself. For, as long as the quest for monetary gain continues to be the predominant value within U.S. society, human, animal, and environmental exploitation, destruction, and murder will continue to be a reality. This drive for profits at any cost needs to be fiercely targeted, and those responsible for the massive injustices punished. If there is any real concern for justice, freedom, and, at least, a resemblance of a true democracy, this revolutionary ideal must become a reality. All power to the people. Long live the earth liberation front. Long live the animal liberation front. Long live all the sparks attempting to ignite the revolution. Sooner or later the sparks will turn into a flame!




Eco-Terrorism a Serious Problem

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Subcommittee, my name is Richard Berman. I am the Executive Director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, DC. The Center does not accept and has never received government funds.

            On behalf of American restaurant operators and food producers, I would like to thank you for holding this hearing today. Eco-terrorism is indeed alive and well in the United States of America, and it shares a common heritage with violent animal-rights extremism. These radical movements have been responsible for well over 1,000 documented criminal acts in the U.S., most of which would be prosecuted as felonies if the perpetrators could be brought to justice.

            I am not talking about peaceful protest, pickets, sign waving, slogan chanting, or forms of civil disobedience that are protected by the First Amendment. Rather, America’s present environmental and animal-rights terrorists have committed arsons, assaults, vandalism on a massive scale, and a host of other property crimes that cripple food producers and resource providers, and occasionally lay waste to entire restaurants.

            On September 11th of last year, on the very day America mourned the loss of thousands of lives to foreign terrorists, our own home-grown version (the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front, known as “ELF” and “ALF”) took joint credit for firebombing a McDonald’s restaurant in Tucson, Arizona.

            There is no doubt now, and the FBI concurs, that the Earth Liberation Front is associated with the Animal Liberation Front. Special Agent David Szady (now the U.S. counterintelligence executive) has told CNN that “by any sense or any definition, this is a true domestic terrorism group, that uses criminal activity to further their political agenda.”

            During the past three years alone, ELF and ALF have claimed responsibility for smashing bank windows, torching a chicken feed truck, burning a horse corral at a Bureau of Land Management facility, firebombing dealer lots full of sport utility vehicles, destroying valuable scientific laboratory equipment and many years worth of irreplaceable research documents, “spiking” trees in the Pacific Northwest, and even setting bombs under meat delivery trucks.

            There should be no sympathy for intentionally committed felonies of this magnitude. Eco-terror and animal-rights crimes have become everyday events in America, yet they are among our most under-reported and least-punished offenses.

            Members of the Subcommittee, on rare occasions the criminals responsible for these violent and unlawful acts are captured. Just two weeks ago a pair of animal-rights terrorists were sentenced to prison terms for attempting to blow up a dairy truck near San Jose, California. They were caught red-handed, with home-made bombs just as deadly as those being exploded by other terrorists in the Middle East. But the vast majority of crimes like these go unpunished. The underground ELF and ALF even have the gall to brag publicly about their felonies. ALF actually released a report in January, claiming responsibility for 137 crimes in 2001, and causing an estimated $17.3 million in damage.

            ALF and ELF won’t stop with damage to people and businesses with whom they disagree. Rather, they are aggressively recruiting new criminals to their vicious gang. Incredibly, the group’s leaders have begun to distribute “how-to” manuals on the Internet, describing how to build bombs and incendiary devices, how to destroy fields of genetically-engineered food crops, and how to commit “arson,” “thievery,” and other felonies without leaving clues at the crime scene. There is even a volume on the easiest way to sink a ship.

            Any 10-year-old with a computer can download much of this reading material. For a few dollars and the cost of postage, ALF “spokesperson” David Barbarash will mail the rest of the materials to anyone who asks. Mr. Chairman, I have submitted a copy of Mr. Barbarash’s disturbing catalog for the record.


Supporters of Eco-Terrorist Groups

Equally troubling is the extent to which some eco-terrorists and animal-rights criminals have managed to garner support, both philosophical and financial, from above-ground activist organizations, including those that enjoy the same tax benefits as our nation’s churches and universities.

            Between 1994 and 1995, for instance, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals gave over $70,000 to an Animal Liberation Front criminal named Rodney Coronado, who was convicted of arson, a felony, in connection with the $1.7 million firebombing of a Michigan State University research facility. This amount, by the way, is more than ten times the total that the same organization (PETA) devoted to animal shelters during those two years. In addition, both PETA and its president, Ingrid Newkirk, are acknowledged financial supporters of an organization called No Compromise, which operates on behalf of, and for the “underground” supporters of the Animal Liberation Front.

            PETA raised over $15 million last year from the general public, all of it tax-exempt. When will PETA be held accountable?

            Another eco-criminal, Dave Foreman, pled guilty in 1991 to felony conspiracy in a plot to blow up the power lines of three nuclear power generating stations. Mr. Foreman was a co-founder of the radical “Earth First!” organization, the group from which the Earth Liberation Front split during a 1992 meeting in the United Kingdom. Among its other claims to fame, Earth First! actually published the newsletter articles (in the Earth First! Journal) from which “Unabomber” Ted Kaczinsky chose his last two victims.

            An organization called the Ruckus Society was started by another Earth First! co-founder named Mike Roselle. This group was largely responsible for the 1999 anti WTO protests in Seattle, which ended in mass rioting and the destruction of Starbucks and McDonald’s restaurants. The Ruckus Society trains young activists in the techniques of “monkeywrenching” which, when applied, result in property crimes of enormous financial cost.

            The Ruckus Society and the Rainforest Action Network (another outfit founded by Mr. Roselle) are tax-exempt organizations that have enjoyed contributions from such mainstream sources as Ted Turner and Ben & Jerry’s. When will this breeding ground for environmental criminals be held accountable?

            Ruckus, by the way, also gets funding from a San Francisco outfit called the Tides Foundation, which distributes other foundations’ money while shielding the identity of the actual donors. Our tax law permits this sort of money-laundering. If the public is prevented from learning where a tax-exempt organization like the Ruckus Society gets their money, then the legal loopholes that permit foundations like Tides to operate as it does should be closed.

            Mr. Chairman, these are all serious charges that I am making, and I urge this Committee to fully investigate the damage that ALF, ELF, and other like-minded terrorist groups have caused to American businesses, American livelihoods, and the American psyche. I would also urge the appropriate Congressional committee to explore the tax-exempt status of groups that have helped to fund—directly or indirectly—these domestic terrorists.


Question and Answer

Congressman Inslee: Mr. Berman, I wanted to ask you some questions about some folks that you’ve pointed a rather stark, accusatory finger at. I want to ask you about those questions. And the reason is, is that I think we’ve learned a couple things in our history. One, that we need to be very vigorous in our investigation of terrorism, and two, we need to be fairly cautious and careful on who we convict without adequate evidence, if you will. And you’ve pointed your finger at quite a number of groups: Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, the Ford Foundation, and the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals. And I guess, are you asserting that the Ben & Jerry’s folks have been involved in any criminal conduct?

            Mr. Berman: I’m suggesting, sir, that they’ve directed money to organizations like the Ruckus Society, which train people in police confrontation tactics, and the Ruckus Society exists to train people at ELF in monkey-wrenching, and there’s evidence of their operating together, and the police have indicated that the Ruckus Society was basically the group that was responsible for the violent protests in Seattle and here in Washington some months ago connected with trade organization meetings.

            Congressman Inslee: So I guess the answer to my question would be no, you are not asserting that then; is that correct?

            Mr. Berman: The answer is, is that they are giving money to organizations that participate in those activities. I don’t think that they are giving money with the express purpose of funding those activities, but they are giving money for purposes of sustaining the organization, which may or may not have a direct--direct use when it comes to training people.

            Congressman Inslee: Well, Mr. Berman, have you filed any criminal complaint with any law enforcement agency against the folks associated with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, the Ford Foundation or the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals?

            Mr. Berman: No, sir, that’s not my role.

            Congressman Inslee: Well, that is kind of curious to me because you have come forward to this Committee, and you are pointing these accusatory fingers at groups that you are ideologically against. You are selling lobbies for the tobacco industry and the restaurant industry, and against Mothers Against Drunk Driving, because you are against reducing the blood alcohol system. And it bothers me that you come forward and point these fingers in this Committee at groups you are opposed to without--you are telling me you have never filed a charge against these folks criminally. If you want to point this finger, why haven’t you filed some charge criminally against these groups?

            Mr. Berman: . . . I make no apologies about various clients that I have, but more importantly, Mr. Inslee, I am not the agency that should bring a criminal complaint against anyone. I did not allege that the Ford Foundation was connected with any terrorist activity. I said that the Ford Foundation had given money to another foundation, which is the Tides Foundation. If I failed to say that, let me interject that. . . .

            Congressman Inslee: Mr. Berman, I want to read a quote that has been attributed to you, and if it is inaccurate, I hope you will tell me. I read an interview with you in a magazine called The Chain Leader.” It is a restaurant trade publication. And it said, referring to the pro-vegetarian--by the way, of which I am not, I eat meat, wanted to let you know that--and you allegedly said, quote, Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger. We’ve got to attack their credibility as spokespersons,” close quote. Now, I want to tell you, I had some concerns to make sure that this hearing focused on the folks who are really responsible for violence, and it didn’t turn into a situation where people just sort of threw barbs at their political enemies. First off, was that your quote? And if so, two, in fact, is that your offensive strategy, to attack the credibility of your political enemies?

            Mr. Berman: Well, it is a strategy to--to reposition people who have a pristine image which is undeserved. And so if in fact people have been guilty of crimes against society, I think it’s fair to let the general public know about those crimes, and not let them go unreported. If that’s shooting the messenger, then I’m guilty of it.


Source: U.S. House subcommittee hearing on “Eco-Terrorism and Lawlessness on the National Forests,” February 12, 2002.


Questions for Review

1. Rosebraugh maintains that animal exploitation and deforestation are both the result of maximizing profits. What examples does he give to illustrate this claim?

2. According to Rosebraugh, what were some of the effects of the industrial revolution?

3. What does Rosebraugh say about the government’s management our National Forests?

4. What does Rosebraugh say about civil disobedience in our society?

5. What does Rosebraugh say about the goal and tactics of the Earth Liberation Front?

6. In the Question and Answer session, what does Congressman Inslee say about Berman pointing accusatory fingers?


Questions for Analysis

1. The government sees the Earth Liberation Front as a terrorist group. Rosebraugh, though, compares the Earth Liberation Front to respectable acts of civil disobedience such as those during the Civil Rights Movement. Which side is right?

2. Rosebraugh believes that social and political oppression are linked with animal oppression. Defend or refute his position.

3. Rosebraugh argues that positive social change in America has rested largely on civil disobedience. Assume he is correct on this point. Does this justify the actions of the Earth Liberation Front? (See the following website which contains photos and descriptions of convicted ELF members and their activities: www.targetofopportunity.com/elf.htm).

4. Rosebraugh maintains that the Earth Liberation Front practices nonviolent civil disobedience since people are not harmed, only property. Explain what distinguishes violent from nonviolent civil disobedience, and apply this distinction to the Earth Liberation Front’s conduct.

5. In the Question and Answer session, Congressman Inslee suggests that Berman’s reputation as a paid lobbyist for food and beverage businesses undermines the credibility of his accusations against supporters of eco-terrorist groups. Look at some of the causes that Berman defends on his website (www.consumerfreedom.com) and discuss whether Inslee’s point is valid.

6. In the Question and Answer session, Congressman Inslee discusses the following statement made by Berman on another occasion: “Our offensive strategy is to shoot the messenger. We’ve got to attack their credibility as spokespersons.” Explain Berman’s point, and discuss whether it has any merit.

7. In a later Congressional committee hearing on ecoterrorism, Barak Obama (then Senator) stated the following: “Those who engage in such [eco-terrorist] acts should be punished to the full extent of the law. . . . However, in our quest to apprehend these criminals, I hope we are not headed down the path of infringing on the ability of legitimate advocacy organizations to express their opinions and to raise funds in order to do so. I do not want Americans to equate groups that advocate violence with mainstream environmental organizations” (Senate committee hearing on “Eco-Terrorism Specifically Examining the Earth Liberation Front and the Animal Liberation Front,” May 18, 2005). Might Berman be an example of what Obama wants to avoid? Explain.