IN THE COURTROOM, CLIMATE SCIENCE NEEDS SUBSTANCE—AND STYLE

CHEVRON WOULD LIKE you to know that it believes in climate change. It also believes people cause it by burning carbon-based fuel—the kind Chevron extracts from the ground, refines, and sells. In fact, Chevron believes all this so hard that today its lawyer said so, in a federal court in San Francisco. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change? Yup. They’re right.

That’s not as up-is-down as it might sound; Chevron representatives have said as much before. The follow-up questions, though, will be the tricky part. Because what was at stake in that courtroom was not whether the effects of climate change—sea level rise, ocean acidification, weather extremes, wildfires, disease outbreaks—are people’s fault. It was whether a lawsuit could show that specific effects (floods) are specific people’s fault. Specifically, the people at Chevron.

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