Inside Climate News reports that an American federal judge “has blocked a coal project in the wilds of Colorado because federal agencies failed to consider the future global-warming damages from burning fossil fuels.”
U.S. District Court Judge R. Brooke Jackson’s decision halts exploration proposed by Arch Coal that would have bulldozed six miles of roads on 1,700 untrammeled acres of public land.
When the agencies touted the supposed economic benefits of expanded coal mining in the Sunset Roadless Area, Jackson ruled, they should also have considered any global-warming costs.
The argument is a reasonable, and sensible one, insofar as not defining the environmental costs, to any degree, implies there is zero cost, which in light of current global circumstances is clearly not the case:
In the Colorado case, the judge wrote, “by deciding not to quantify the costs at all, the agencies effectively zeroed out the cost.”
That violated a key precept of the National Environmental Policy Act, the judge said, which requires a “hard look” at all the environmental costs of government decisions.
In a somewhat related post, some are suggesting
In the future, it will not have been enough of a defence to say that climate change inaction was a result of lack of evidence. We have the evidence and we know that we should act. If we do nothing now, future generations may take a legal perspective on our actions, or lack of them, bringing to The Hague a retrospective crime against humanity – climate negligence.
That might seem an extreme view, but it’s not hard to imagine class actions against governments (as have already happened) for negligence, especially when severe damage occurs on a wide scale due to extreme weather events.