In Defense of the Kingsnorth Six


Good news from the UK: the Kingsnorth Six were acquitted by a Crown Court jury. They were members of a group of 23 Greenpeace volunteers who had attempted to shut down the Kingsnorth coal-fired power plant, specifically the six were the ones painting the smokestack with "Gordon Bin It" when interrupted by the police. Their defense was 'lawful excuse', that they were protecting property of greater value (the Earth!) from the impact of climate change. We will need our Mercedes-driving lawyer friends to tell us if the verdict has greater significance -- but the jurors were common people, not politicians. It was an impressive show -- judge and lawyers with their white wigs -- hopefully it has an impact.

Written testimony that I submitted for the case, at http://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/20080910_Kingsnorth.pdf, is a bit long. The "Summary Facts" are below. The main point, that the government, the utility, and the fossil fuel industry, were aware of the facts but continued to ignore them are more generally valid worldwide. It raises the question of whether the right people are on trial.

Summary Facts

These summary facts were known by the UK government, by the utility EON, by the fossil fuel industry, and by the defendants at the time of their actions in 2007:

(1) Tipping Points: the climate system is dangerously close to tipping points that could have disastrous consequences for young people, life and property, and general well-being on the planet that will be inherited from today's elders.

(2) Coal's Dominant Role: Coal is the fossil fuel most responsible for excess CO2 in the air today, and coal reserves contain much more potential CO2 than do oil or gas. Coal is the fossil fuel that is most susceptible to either (a) having the CO2 captured and sequestered if coal is used in power plants, or (b) leaving the coal in the ground, instead emphasizing use of cleaner fuels and energy efficiency.

(3) Recognized Responsibilities: The UK is one of the nations most responsible for human-made CO2 in the air today, indeed, on a per capita basis it is the most responsible of all nations that are major emitters of CO2. This fact is recognized by developing countries, making it implausible that they would consider altering their plans for coal use if the UK plans to continue to rely on coal-fired power. Continued...