Lawyers are set to present in what will be the first-ever US court hearing on climate change science, McClatchy Washington Bureau reported. Lawyers for BP, Exxon, Chevron, and other oil companies will go up against lawyers for the California cities of Oakland and San Francisco after United States District Judge William Alsup ordered “a two-part tutorial on the subject of global warming and climate change.” Sabin Center for Climate Change Law executive director Michael Burger told McClatchy, “This will be the closest that we have seen to a trial on climate science in the United States, to date.”

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San Francisco and Oakland filed lawsuits against BP, Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell “alleging that the Big Oil giants are responsible for the cities’ costs of protecting themselves from a global warming-induced sea level rise, including expenses to construct seawalls to protect the two cities’ more than five million residents,” according to Hagens Berman, the firm representing the California cities. In late February, Alsup ordered the tutorial, which is to take place on March 21.

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Experts on both sides said they hadn’t heard of a call like this before. Physicist Steven Koonin, who served as an Energy Department Under Secretary for Science under Barack Obama and also penned a piece for the Wall Street Journal titled “Climate Science Is Not Settled,” told McClatchy, “I don’t know of any judge who has asked for a tutorial like this. I think it is a great idea. Anybody having to make a decision about climate science needs to understand the full spectrum of what we know and what we don’t know.”

The first part of the tutorial will cover “the history of the scientific study of climate change;” each side will have an hour to delve into “scientific inquiry into the formation and melting of the ice ages, periods of historical cooling and warming, smog, ozone, nuclear winter, volcanoes, and global warming.” The second part, for which each side again has one hour, will cover “the best science now available” regarding global warming, sea rise, coastal flooding, and glacier melt.

+ United States District Court for the Northern District of California

Via McClatchy Washington Bureau

Images via Jeff Head on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons