Baltimore’s lawsuit, originally filed in July 2018, said the city “is particularly vulnerable to sea level rise and flooding” and has spent “significant funds” on planning and managing global warming. The lawsuit also cites the cost of health problems related to climate change, including increased hospitalization rates in summer.
Michael Martin, pastor of the Stillmeadow Community Fellowship, a church in southwest Baltimore, said the effects of climate change on the city were becoming increasingly evident. “We are on our way to more floods and worse floods,” he said. The church served as a community center after the devastating floods in May 2018, buckling the streets and putting seven feet of water on the streets. And the floods keep coming.
Regarding Baltimore’s case, he said, “I think it’s brave and I think it’s useful.” However, he suggested focusing only on fossil fuel companies as other factors such as development were also major contributors to flooding.
As the hearing date approaches, a number of science and advocacy organizations, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, have called on the Supreme Court’s newest Justice, Amy Coney Barrett, to withdraw from the case because her father, Michael Coney, was a senior attorney and officer for Shell, one of the defendants, for many years. As a Seventh Circle Judge, Ms. Coney has withdrawn from cases involving some Shell companies.
In response to written questions submitted after her nomination hearings, she said that “if there is any semblance of bias” she would “consider all factors relevant to the issue of rejection”. In this case, she has not yet announced a rejection. (Judge Samuel Alito, who owns stocks in fossil fuel companies, recycled himself.)
For Lee Wasserman, the director of the Rockefeller Family Fund, who prefers climate disputes to hold companies accountable for their role in global warming, the need for Ms. Coney’s opposition is evident. “Her first major decision in court is whether to reuse a case with her father,” Wasserman said.
Stephen Gillers, a professor at New York University School of Law and an expert on ethical rules for lawyers and judges, said he found such arguments unconvincing. The possibility of Mr Coney being summoned as a witness at a later stage in the case is “speculative,” Mr Gillers said, adding that summoning as a witness “would not be recognized as an” interest “which would lead to Barrett’s rejection. ”