History Will Be Made Today as the Delta 5 Head to Court
History will be made later today in an unassuming grey court room in Snohomish county in Washington State, when five activists—known as the Delta 5—who blocked an explosive crude by rail train last year, will argue that their actions were justified by the threat of climate change.
It is the first time ever that a U.S. court has allowed defendants to use the “necessity defense” in a case relating to climate action.
In September 2014, the five activists blockaded a crude by rail train carrying highly explosive Bakken crude in the BNSF Delta Yard in Everett, Washington State.
The five—Patrick Mazza, Abby Brockway, Mike Lapointe, Jackie Minchew and Liz Spoerri—managed to stop the train for eight hours. They were eventually released and charged with “criminal trespass” and blocking a train.
Later today the five plan to use the “necessity defense” to defend their action regarding climate change. The defense argues that violation of the law by stopping the crude by rail train was justified because it was done to “avoid a harm which social policy deems greater than the harm resulting from violation of law.”
One of the five, Patrick Mazza, has been working since the late eighties to advance solutions to the climate crisis. He has worked with power grid experts building smart grids to power electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines. He has worked with electric vehicle companies and to promote sustainable fuels. “I continue to work on practical solutions. I won’t quit,” he said, but he still felt that he had to do more to protect the climate.
“I sat on the tracks because our world is going off the rails,” he said, “I have spent a lot of time sitting in front of a computer trying to stop global warming. But after many years of seeing the climate crisis only worsen, it was time to sit in front of a train.”
Mazza continues: “In Washington state we are experiencing what a carbon-polluted, climate-disrupted world looks like. Record drought and lung-choking wildfires, massive salmon kill in overheated rivers, powerful and sometimes unseasonal storms, ocean acidification killing the shellfish industry.”
“At the same time,” Mazza adds, “the political system is blocked from responding in any meaningful way. Oil and coal companies have knowingly deceived the public about the magnitude of the climate threat and bought the politicians to stop action.”
Abby Brockway, another of the Delta 5 adds what led her to take action too. “I met a lot of politicians along the way but each individual said ‘I hear what you are saying but there is nothing that I can do. I feel powerless as your representative.' I can’t accept that,” she said.
The third of the five to put her body on the line for the climate that day was Liz Spoerri. “It was clear that the political reality is not keeping up with the physical reality and that citizens need to lead," she explained. “Choosing to act to block an oil train in Everett for me was conservative, logical, hopeful.
“Conservative because I want to protect the earth and its inhabitants. It’s a responsibility. Logical, because we have a narrow window of opportunity to prevent extreme climate chaos. We have solutions but we are not acting fast enough. We don’t have to build terminals and then turn a blind eye to the consequences. Hopeful because we can do so much better. If we reorient ourselves to prevent climate chaos we can address so many other problems at the same time.”
In their defense the Delta 5 will call expert witnesses including Dr. Richard Gammon Professor (Emeritus) of Chemistry and Oceanography and Adjunct Professor (Emeritus) of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington. Gammon was a co-author of the first Scientific Assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 1990.
The day before Patrick Mazza spent eight hours blocking the rails, it was his daughter’s 18th birthday. “There is hope for her world and that of all our children, but not if we stay within the bounds of a blocked and bought-off political system,” he argues.
He said he is “done with lies and compromises that leave our world rapidly careening toward a global climate train wreck. I have to take direct action, to put my body in the way of business as usual and say it is unacceptable to leave the world a wreckage for our children. I hope many of the people with whom I have worked on solutions over the years will join me. We owe our children’s generation nothing less.”
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In the above CarbonBrief interactive visualization, the bars offer a comparison in the range of sensitivity in the CMIP5 models (gray) and CMIP6 models (blue).
New and Encouraging Evidence Is Emerging<p>At first, scientists were uncertain whether the new model runs were on to something, so the international modeling community dug in to produce multiple studies. The results are not yet conclusive, but a gradual collective sigh of relief seems to be materializing.</p><p>"Evidence is emerging from multiple directions that the models which show the greatest warming in the CMIP6 ensemble are likely too warm," explains Dr. Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.</p><p>For example, <a href="https://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2020-23/" target="_blank">a study</a> released April 28 evaluated the past performance of the models making up the CMIP6 ensemble. The team assigned weights to each model based upon historical performance of their warming projections, weighing the poorer performing models less. By doing so, both the mean warming and the range of warming scenarios in the CMIP6 ensemble decreased, meaning the warmest models were the ones with weaker historical performance. This result supports a finding that a subset of the models are too warm.</p><p>That conclusion is supported by another new study evaluating one particular model – the Community Earth System Model (CESM2) – that showed greater warming. Using that model, the researchers simulated the climate in the early Eocene era, about 50 million years ago, when rainforests thrived in the Arctic and Antarctic. The CESM2 simulated a historical climate that seems way too warm compared with what is known about that era from geological data, indicating that the model is likely also too warm in its future projections.</p><p>Two other recent studies of the CMIP6 models being evaluated use clever analysis methods to <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://www.earth-syst-dynam-discuss.net/esd-2019-86/&sa=D&ust=1589209938203000&usg=AFQjCNHYwFB-1KqndGfJ4sXdrrm9DpbLaQ" target="_blank">narrow the range</a> of future warming projections and also <a href="https://www.google.com/url?q=https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/12/eaaz9549&sa=D&ust=1589209938203000&usg=AFQjCNEhKY1YZ19qgjSZ_hJM14JmzqXOXw" target="_blank">reduce the projected warming</a> of the CMIP6 models by 10 to 15%.</p><p>Through the intensive research spurred by the CMIP6 climate-sensitivity curveball, scientists have been able to turn a confounding challenge into a confidence builder, providing even greater certainty than they had before in both the abilities of the climate science community and in the computer models used. Moreover, the experience has helped unearth uncertainties remaining in the modeling process.</p><p>Experts conclude much of this uncertainty probably lies in the complexity of clouds. "We have been looking as a community at why the models with greater warming are doing what they are doing – and it's tied to cloud feedbacks in the southern mid-latitudes mostly," explains Schmidt.</p><p>In fact, <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/26/eaba1981" target="_blank">a new study</a> addressing the increased sensitivity was published in Science Advances stating, "Cloud feedbacks and cloud-aerosol interactions are the most likely contributors to the high values and increased range of ECS [sensitivity] in CMIP6."</p>
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Investigating the Secrets of Clouds<p>To address the urgent question about the dynamics and role of clouds in a warming world, NOAA and European partners launched their ongoing research effort unprecedented in scale. The U.S. contribution, ATOMIC – short for Atlantic Tradewind Ocean-Atmosphere Mesoscale Interaction Campaign – is an international science mission that was featured recently on "<a href="https://www.cbsnews.com/video/study-aims-to-examine-links-between-climate-change-and-clouds/" target="_blank">CBS This Morning: Saturday</a>."</p>
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