Kingsnorth trial day seven: the jury's out

Posted by bex — 9 September 2008 at 5:34pm - Comments

Kingsnorth coal-fired power station

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A relatively short blog today (I thought you deserved it after yesterday's dissertation).

The judge finished summing up before lunch and, at 12.50pm, the jury retired to consider the verdict. By the end of the day, after a fair bit of pacing and nail biting in the defendants' camp, the jury said they hadn't yet been able to reach a unanimous verdict. So the trial - and the slightly frayed nerves - continue into Wednesday. 

Because of Judge Caddick's quiet and very measured tone, it was sometimes difficult to grasp the significance of what he was saying during the second part of his summing up (the first part is here). But the judge, it seems, has accepted the government's chronic lack of action on climate change as a valid part of the defence, because of the impact it had on the defendants' states of mind.

The main thrust of his summing up was that "it was the science on the one hand and the lack of [government] action" on the other that gave these defendants the impetus to act.

The judge reminded the jurors that both Professor Hansen and Dr Meaden said that the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere - about half of which has historically come from coal - is having an "irreversible and immediate effect on the climate". He reminded them that, if the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reaches 450 parts per million, "we are effectively lost". One of the main reasons for the rate of increase of emissions, said the judge, is that we're continuing and returning to the use of coal plants, with their inefficiencies. 

The bottom line from both experts, he said, was that every tonne of CO2 counts. 

Professor Hansen's very last point was that governments, utilities and the fossil fuel industry are claiming they're taking action "and yet," the judge told the jury, "the facts contradict their claims and the construction of new coal fired power plants makes it unrealistic" or practically impossible to avert disasters. 

He also reminded the jury, in the context of Ben's evidence, that the Stern Report puts the social costs of each tonne of CO2 at around £50. If shutting down Kingsnorth stopped 20,000 tonnes of CO2 from being released per day, the direct action saved an estimated £1 million in damage every day it was shut down. So Ben, Judge Caddick told the jury, thought the £30,000 of damage caused by painting the chimney was a proportionate response. 

So now it's in the hands of the jury. I'll update the blog as soon as there's any news.  

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