skip to Main Content



Hearing, June 26, 2017  – Spokane County District Court, Spokane, Washington

Testimony of Steven Running, PhD

  • Judge: The Honorable Debra Hayes, Spokane County District Court
  • Attorney for the Defense: Rachael Osborn, Esquire
  • Attorney for the State of Washington: Margaret J. Macrae, Esquire, Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney

Click to view: Original court transcript

STEVEN RUNNING, PhD, having been first duly sworn, was examined and testified as follows:


Q.  Dr. Running, could you please state your name and spell it?

Professor Running. My name is Steven Running, R-u-n-n-i-n-g.

Q.  And could you please describe for the court your professional position and credentials?

Professor Running. I’m a Regents professor of Ecology at the University of Montana.

Q.  And have you published scientific articles?

Professor Running. Yes. I’ve published about 300 scientific articles over my career. I’ve published, I don’t know, many dozens of articles on climate change itself, and I’ve served on a number of committees evaluating climate change.

Q.  And have you been honored with any awards?

Professor Running. I have. Probably the most prominent activity I served on is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that I was a lead author on the chapter on North America in 2007 and the IPCC won the Nobel Peace Prize that year for that document with Al Gore.

Q.  Have you been honored with any other awards?

Professor Running. I’ve gotten an Edward O. Wilson Biotechnology Pioneer Award because I write software for NASA satellites and I calculate the global carbon cycle. Also, the — I was an author of the U.S. National Climate Assessment and I lead the chapter on Forests in 2014.

Q.  Thank you. I put a set of exhibits in front of you. If you’ll look at Exhibit 1. Is this a current and correct version of your curriculum vitae?

Professor Running. Yes. Yes.

Q.  And I would move for admission of Dr. Running’s CV.

Professor Running. Yes. I guess there’s some other awards. I don’t think we want to go through all those one by one.

THE COURT: Okay. So Exhibit 1. Ms. MacRae, Defense Exhibit 1?

MACRAE: No objection.

THE COURT: Okay. So Defense Exhibit 1 will be admitted. (WHEREUPON, Defense Exhibit 1 was admitted into the record.)

Q.  Dr. Running, could you identify a few of your recent climate change publications?

Professor Running. I wrote a paper in the Journal of Science in 2012 where I proposed — it was called A Measurable Planetary Boundary for the Biosphere. What I was attempting to do is from our satellite measurements calculate an aspect of the global carbon cycle that influences directly how much CO2 stays in the atmosphere and how much is taken up by the terrestrial synch. I wrote a paper in 2004, documenting our algorithm for calculating net primary production of the biosphere and that is a data product that NASA Earth Science produces every day. They’re producing it at NASA Goddard right as we speak. I had a paper, actually, my first climate change paper was in 1990, was a paper in the Journal of Climatic Change where I analyzed how we perceived Montana’s forests would react to a doubling of carbon dioxide and the attended warming that would go with it. And so those are probably three of the most relevant papers to this proceedings.

Q.  Thank you. What documents did you review to prepare for this hearing?

Professor Running. Certainly, the most important one was the newest Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change Report. I was on the 2007 report. These occur every seven years, so there’s a 2013 report that I read. The National Climate Assessment and the U.S. National Climate Assessment, which is effectively an IUPCC report just for our country, that I read the other chapters that I wasn’t an author on for 2014. There was — there was a document on climate change in the Pacific Northwest coming out of the Climate Impacts Group at the University of Washington. That was 2015, if I remember right. And so — and then I read just two weeks ago the State of the Climate Report for the country for 2016 and an Oregon Climate Report that comes out of the Climate Science Center at Oregon State University.

Q.  Thank you. Your Honor, I would like at this time to move to have Dr. Running qualified as an expert witness on the topic of climate change science.

THE COURT: Any objection?

MACRAE: No objection.

THE COURT: Okay. He is so qualified as an expert.

OSBORN: Thank you.

THE COURT: Certainly in this field.

OSBORN: Thank you.

BY MS. OSBORN: Q. Can you provide us a summary of the testimony you’re about to provide?

Professor Running. I’m going to try to simply go through really three basic facts that we, as climate scientists see. First is that the greenhouse gases and carbon dioxide in particular are going up in the atmosphere, and we’ve been measuring that quite accurately for over 50 years. Second, I’m going to take us through that as a result of these increasing greenhouses gases, the global air temperature has gone up, and particularly gone up in an accelerating way over the last 20 years. And then finally, I want to end with the analysis that we, as climate scientists make of what sort of reductions and carbon emissions would be necessary to stabilize the global climate in the future.

Q.  All right. Thank you. And if you’ll take a look at Exhibit 2 titled Historic Trends in Atmospheric CO2 Concentrations, what does this exhibit show?

Professor Running. This exhibit shows that the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is, in fact, going up. It has gone up every single year since Charles David Keeling began the measurements in 1958. And so it’s been considered the most important geophysical dataset of the century because it was our first illustration that humans were having a global impact.

Q.  What is the current concentration level in the atmosphere?

Professor Running. When we started the measurements, the atmospheric CO2 was at about 320 parts per million. The graph that I put in the record is at 401 parts per million. It turns out that I was looking just last week at the newest measurement. It’s now 407 parts per million, and this isn’t (inaudible). These measurements are taken all over the world now.

Q.  If you’ll take a look at Exhibit 3 titled Global Carbon Emission Historic Trends, what does this exhibit show?

Professor Running. As climate scientists, it was clear that carbon dioxide was going up in the atmosphere and we wanted to know where it’s coming from. And so this is a measure of carbon emissions produced by human activity from 1990 to the present. And this is taken by a group of scientists called the Global Carbon Project. And it shows that every year, except for the economic crash of 2008, every single year global carbon emissions from human activity have gone up.

Q.  All right. If you’ll take a look at Exhibit 4 titled Sources of Global Fossil Carbon Emissions, what does this exhibit show?

Professor Running. We certainly wanted to know where these carbon emissions were coming from. This graph illustrates that by far, the largest single source of CO2 emissions is burning coal. The second largest source is burning oil. The third largest source is burning natural gas. And that each one of these emissions sources on a global basis is increasing.

Q.  All right. If you will take a look at Exhibit 5 titled Radiative Forcing Caused by Humans, what does this exhibit show?

Professor Running. This gets thicker. This is as summary of the 2,000 IPCC reports, and it illustrates what we basically do as an energy balance of the world. All the energy sources coming in to their system and all the energy systems being radiated back out. And then analyze the components. You can see there are changes in albedo or reflectivity of the surface, like when there’s more snow cover it reflects more, for example, the changes in cloud cover, changes in aerosols. And then, finally, the changes in the greenhouse gases. And you see from this exhibit the carbon dioxide and the secondary methane are by far the largest sources of these greenhouse gases. The net summary of all these different positive and negative impacts is a measure of 2.3 watts per square meter. And I like to, for my public audiences, explain what that means because none of us relate to that directly. Think of a little Christmas tree light. Not the new LED ones but the old ones. That’s about two watts. And you think that a square meter is kind of a table top. So I’m having a Christmas tree light here of two extra watts per square meter and the next square meter is two more watts per square meter, and all around the world every square meter is now trapping 2.3 watts per square meter of additional energy. And that is the fundamentals of global warming.

Q.  Let’s take a look at Exhibit 6 titled Global Total Heat Content. What does this exhibit show?

Professor Running. Well, the next thing we wanted to know is where is it going? And I think this graph is, at a glance, tells you the answer. Over 90 percent of that additional two watts per meter squared is going into oceans. And people follow things like the glaciers and Antarctic ice sheets because we can see them easily, but where all this energy is going, 90 percent plus, is into the oceans. And has been accelerating, I would add, since about 1980, which we now consider global warming really started around 1980 in a measurable way.

Q.  Let’s take a look at Exhibit 7 titled Global Temperature Change. What does this exhibit show?

Professor Running. This is a measure of the global air temperatures. So the previous graph showed the heat content of the ocean. These are — this graph is simply the summary of air temperatures from weather stations, like out at the Spokane Airport and our normal surface weather stations. And what it shows again, beginning in about 1980, that every single decade has gotten progressively warmer over the last 30 years.

Q.  This exhibit also contains some text at the bottom of it. Could you summarize this text?

Professor Running. I went to the NOAA website, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website for details of this. And basically, it summarizes that the global air temperature has set new records progressively in 2014, which was then broken in 2015, which was then broken in 2016. In summary, let’s see, to get it right, all 16 years of the 21st Century rank among the 17 warmest on record. And when they say on record, that means over 137 years. So beginning in 1880, 16 of the years of this century have been all-time records. And then the final summary is the overall annual temperature has been increasing at .31 degrees per decade Fahrenheit since 1970.

Q.  Thank you.

Professor Running. Again, this is simply air temperature records from weather stations.

Q.  Thank you. Please take a look at Exhibit 8 titled Washington Average Temperature Trends. What does this exhibit show?

Professor Running. We all get — in climate science, we look at the global trends, but we’re most curious about our own back yard. And so I thought I’d bring this exhibit showing — this is for the State of Washington as a whole. And this shows, again, a temperature increase of about three-tenths of a degree Fahrenheit for a decade since 1950. So the same sort of trend seen globally is also seen here in Washington.

Q.  Please take a look at Exhibit 9 titled Trends in Western U.S. Snowpack Melt Onset Dates. What does this exhibit show?

Professor Running. I think all of us that live around here know that our snowpack is what carries our hydrology through our dry summers. And so we have followed snow melt rates very carefully for decades. This graph I chose is a summary of what we’re seeing all around the west, that over the last 50 years, snow pack is starting to melt earlier and earlier, and on average, in the last 50 years, it’s about two weeks earlier than it was in the 1950s. So that just means the winter snowpack starts its melt out about two weeks earlier on average than it used to.

Q.  If you’ll take a look at Exhibit 10 titled Washington Wildfire Trends Greater than 1,000 Acres. What does this exhibit show?

Professor Running. This is data from the U.S. Forest Service. And we, as climate scientists in the Northwest, we have identified wildfires probably the single most — how should I say it? Highest human vulnerability for the Northwest outside the coastal areas is accelerating wildfire. And this graph shows that the number of large wildfires has accelerated dramatically. This is only for Washington. We do this same analysis for the Western United States as a whole, and we see every way we slice and dice the statistics we’re seeing three and four and five times as many large wildfires as we did 40-50 years ago.

Q.  Are there other forest disturbances resulting from climate change?

Professor Running. Probably the other most important one for the Northwest are the major forest insect epidemics. The Mountain Pine Beetle epidemics that we got very heavily in Montana and I think have come — yes, I know they’ve come over into Washington. My entomology friend says these are the biggest forest insect epidemics on earth, which I was amazed to hear that myself.

MACRAE: Objection; hearsay, Your Honor.

THE COURT: Sustained.

MACRAE: Thank you. Move to strike the statement as to what his etymology friend has said about these infestations.

THE COURT: Okay. So stricken.

MACRAE: Thank you.

BY MS. OSBORN:  Are insect infestations a big problem in the Northwest?

Professor Running. Yes. We have many research papers. I didn’t put them in this collection to make this shorter, but there are many published peer-reviewed research papers documenting these epidemics.

Q.  And just to clarify, your specialty is as a forest researcher; is that correct?

Professor Running. Not only. I’m really more of a global carbon scientist. My original degrees were in forest ecology though.

Q.  Could you take a look at Exhibit 11 titled Trends in Sea Level Rise? What does this exhibit show?

Professor Running. Climate scientists think sea level rise will be the single most damaging impact of global warming, and right now we quantify the rate of sea level rise at 3.4 millimeters per year on a worldwide average. I took data more locally for Seattle and the rate in Seattle is about 2.1 millimeters per year. And as you can see, this dates back to before the year 1900, so it’s a long-running record.

Q.  Please take a look at Exhibit 12 titled Projected Changes in Surface Water Runoff in the Puget Sound, Pacific Ocean, and Columbia River Watersheds. What does this exhibit show?

Professor Running. I want to preface my statement on this by saying every other graph I’ve showed so far are direct measurements that have been taken by scientists worldwide. Now I’m turning to projections for the future, which then involve using various global climate models and regional climate impact simulation models. So this particular graphic from the National Climate Assessment Pacific Northwest Chapter shows that due to earlier snowmelt and hotter, drier summers, that the expected summertime runoff by the 2040s is going to be on the order of 30 to 50 percent lower than it is now. It’s simply that the rivers are going to, by the end of the summer, have much lower flows than what we’ve had in the past. And this is a graphic showing Washington, Oregon, Idaho, into Western Montana.

Q.  Please take a look at Exhibit 13 titled Projected Increases in Air Temperatures for Montana Based on Various Carbon Emission Scenarios. What does this exhibit tell us about future climate?

Professor Running. All right. Again, I’ll emphasize that these are computer-model projections of the future going from the — starting in the year 1900 through the present and continuing forward to the year 2100. What this shows for Montana and the State of Washington, it would be virtually identical in a global scale — they’re next to each other – is that with the highest emissions, our best estimates are that local temperatures would be 12 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit higher by the end of the century with our highest emission of business as usual scenarios. If humanity chooses to lower emissions, we can take that 12 degree to even 14 degree temperature increase down to, at best we hope two degrees, certainly maybe four degrees. So the difference between doing nothing about carbon emission reduction at 12 degrees or doing all we can do at about three degrees is — well, is a difference between 12 and three degrees in annual air temperatures.

Q.  If you take a look at both Exhibits 14 and 15 — Exhibit 14 is titled Projected Wildfire Increases in Washington Based on Varying Carbon Emission Scenarios, and Exhibit 15 is titled Projected Sea Level Rise in Seattle Based on Varying Carbon Emission Scenarios, what do these exhibits tell us about environmental changes that are expected to be caused by climate change?

Professor Running. Well, in both of these instances, and I chose these particular impacts because they’re most important for the Pacific Northwest, we see with the wildfire projections increases on the order of 100 percent up to even 300 percent increase in our wildfire — our wildfire — pretend this is particularly area burned that we’ve measured here or as being calculated for the Northwest. So we see something like a doubling, tripling or more of an area burning wildfire every year with high emission scenarios. Likewise, in Exhibit 15, looking in more detail at sea level around the Puget Sound Basin, and I would say I grew up in Seattle so I look at this with some level of knowledge. I was born in Spokane. I’m a native. I was only here for about a week. But this shows all through the Puget Sound Basin the kind of flooding risks that the three feet to on the order of 50 inches is the high scenario that they’re using here. So that’s at a four feet higher sea level, how much of the Puget Sound Basin is being flooded? And this we consider a realistic potential with business as usual carbon emissions. This is not some extreme scenario.

Q.  Dr. Running, can these rises as illustrated in these exhibits be halted or reversed?

Professor Running. Certainly. I mean, humans have chosen to use fossil fuels for our fuel source in the past and we could choose to continue to use these same fuel sources or we could change to other ones that aren’t carbon emissions. So this is a choice humanity has.

Q.  If you’ll take a look at Exhibit 16 titled Climate Reductions Needed to Limit Global Temperatures to Two Degrees Centigrade, what does this exhibit tell us about reducing climate emissions?

Professor Running. The Paris Climate Accord honed in on a target of two degrees Centigrade, around four degrees Fahrenheit as the most — the most viable, optimum target we have for increased temperatures by the end of the century. And we then take our global climate models, and coupled with our carbon cycle models, and we try to simulate what – what rate of reduction of carbon emissions would keep us at this two degree centigrade temperature target. What this exhibit shows are these computer model analyses carbon emission reductions. And this shows the optimistic scenario of carbon emissions beginning to go down right now, which of course in reality they’re not. And so this shows how steep the carbon emission reduction needs to be from now till 2015 in order to hope for a temperature stabilization at around four degrees Fahrenheit by the year 2100.

Q.  What do these people do to reduce carbon emissions?

Professor Running. Well, I think of this, given what I do for a living, first, in the global collective sense, that clearly the first thing the whole world has to do is quit burning coal. The second thing after that is to quit or minimize burning oil over the coming decades and then progressively be moving to nonfossil fuel energy sources, like wind, solar, hydropower, things like that. And I think then drilling right down to the individual basis, it gives all of us the, I guess, challenge of doing similar and using less electric power, driving an electric car or taking from the transport. Actually, one of the big carbon emission sources is wasted food. And about a third of the food grown on earth ends up being wasted and not eaten. So I think there’s — I could go on for all too long on these various things that on an individual level we could be doing and some people are.

Q.  How does federal policy regarding climate change fit in?

Professor Running. Ideally, federal policy on climate sets in effect the target for where we want as a nation to go, and it sets some priorities of what things that the country should be doing in priority order working towards those goals. The Clean Power Plan that the previous administration put out, which very clearly targeted closing down coal-fired power plants as rapidly as possible is an example of that.

Q.  Where is federal policy going now with respect to climate change?

Professor Running. The new administration has quite clearly shown that they would like to bring back and retain fossil fuel energy sources to the maximum extent possible. So they seem to have no interest in reducing carbon emissions.

Q.  Thank you, Dr. Running. Can you sum up for the court?

Professor Running. I think the summary that I and my climate science colleagues see is that we’ve clearly documented both the physical theory of greenhouse gases and the increases of these gases in our atmosphere. We’ve clearly documented the direct impacts on global temperatures and the second order effects on things like wildfire and sea level rise and other things that I haven’t taken you through, like coral reef bleaching. And we’ve clearly set the overall target of what humanity needs to do in the next half century if we want to stabilize the global climate. And now we have to wait and see what humanity decides to do. We’ve kind of done all we can do.

Q.  How would you characterize the threat?

Professor Running. If we take the “business as usual,” which what that means is literally just keep on doing what we’re doing and that takes us to on the order of 10 or 12 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperatures, we don’t think we would have a stable functioning society worldwide at those temperatures. I’m not saying everybody would be dead, but I think there would be so much disruption worldwide of all societies that I think it would be absolute global chaos.

Q.  Thank you. That’s all from the Defendant. We would move for admission of Exhibits 2 through 16.

THE COURT: Ms. MacRae?

MACRAE: No objection for the purpose of this hearing and motion.

THE COURT: Okay. Exhibits 2 through 16 are admitted. (WHEREUPON, Defense Exhibits 2 through 16 were admitted into the record.)

THE COURT: Sir, if you’d like to hand those over to my —

MACRAE: Your Honor, may he keep those for the purposes of cross-examination?

THE COURT: Of course. Never mind. Go ahead and keep them because Ms. MacRae has some questions for you.

THE WITNESS: Oh, okay.

THE COURT: Whenever you’re ready, Ms. MacRae.

MACRAE: Thank you.


Q.   After having listened to you talk, Dr. Running, I think it seems safe to say this is an important cause for you, isn’t it?

Professor Running. Yes, for 30 years.

Q.  It’s not just your profession, is it?

Professor Running. No.

Q.  And your — it sounds like you have strong personal feelings about climate change.

Professor Running. Sure. I look at these numbers all day, every day.

Q.  As a result, I’m guessing you take this as a very serious matter?

Professor Running. Yeah.

Q.  Okay. And correct me if I am wrong on this. I am a lawyer and not a scientist. My lay understanding of what you look at is the carbon cycle on a global level.

Professor Running. Mm-hmm.

Q.  And in fact, analyzing the way that carbon emissions in their totality affect the entire world.

Professor Running. Mm-hmm.

Q.  Somewhat of a pun intended, you look at global incidents and not at specific, quantifiable, individual — I’m sorry. You don’t look at an individual effect of a 30-mile car ride to work every day. You’re looking at the effects of the use of cars for personal transportation on a much larger level.

Professor Running. My own personal research, since I work with NASA satellites, is the big scale. But other of my colleagues do analyses.

Q.  Absolutely.

Professor Running. Right down to the individual clear rides.

Q.  Yeah. I understand that. But your personal area of expertise is on a much more, as I keep saying, global or it’s on a magnitude of what we would describe as being more looking at the full picture?

Professor Running. My Ph.D. is in tree physiology, so I did my Ph.D. on 13 trees. So I’ve actually worked in scales all the way down to pretty small. And so I don’t think it’s – even though NASA pays me to think globally, I’ve got expertise right down to looking at single leaves.

Q.  I appreciate that. So, and yes, obviously, it’s — there are scalable issues at hand in climate change.

Professor Running. Mm-hmm.

Q.  And when you talk about the carbon cycle, and again, correct me if I’m wrong, is it something that can be analyzed on an individual, scalable basis to certain, very specific actions, like again, I use — and let’s use my personal commute of 34 miles which I drove today instead of taking van pool, largely because I thought this was going to take a while. Is that something that can — that action, my decision to take — to drive today instead of take van pool, is that something that can — you can analyze its result on the larger global climate change?

Professor Running. Certainly. We can calculate what the carbon emissions were from you or anyone else taking a certain distance in a car and how much fuel was burned. And so any — any specific activity, it’s now pretty straightforward to measure the carbon emissions from that activity.

Q.  And I understand that you can measure those carbon emissions, like when someone flies on a plane and they choose to offset their carbon footprint for that decision to say fly 3,000 miles, but what you — what you’re studying in climate change and the larger carbon cycle and the greenhouse gases are an effect that being seen globally, or at least certainly more macro than those sort of micro actions we are talking about.

Professor Running. Yes. So what I’m most interested in personally is the collective global carbon cycle. The atmosphere circulates the whole planet every two weeks and so I want to understand how all these collective emissions from the land and ocean surface end up in their final global atmospheric carbon emissions.

Q.  When you look at that larger carbon cycle, can you — say my decision to take a van pool for a week versus drive each day for the commute, is that going to noticeably or quantifiably affect the carbon cycle as you monitor it?

Professor Running. We can certainly quantify the emissions that were generated.

Q.  I know you can quantify the emissions that I’m generating.

Professor Running. Yeah.

Q.  But can you say that that quantified number of my emissions is reflective in the carbon cycle as you analyze it and monitor it?

Professor Running. Well, I think if you’re asking about our precious of atmospheric measurement, it is —

Q.  I’m not —

Professor Running. — four significant digits.

Q.  Okay. And I appreciate that. And I was obviously — my understanding of science is becoming more and more precise.

Professor Running. Absolutely.

Q.  The ability to both acknowledge the way climate change affects the world is becoming easier and easier to record and notice.

Professor Running. Yes, I agree.

Q.  I mean, I don’t think that that’s anything the State is arguing with here.

Professor Running. Right.

Q.  But what I’m trying to understand is, is my personal decision to take van pool versus drive something that has a truly noticeable effect on the larger carbon cycle as you study it globally? It’s quantifiable. As you point out, we can go be so precise as to four digits, but is that in itself going out to four digits of precision, I mean, at that point is that something that’s actually noticeable, that one individual action on my part?

Professor Running. Yeah. Certainly, every one of our individual actions is only a small contribution to the collective whole.

Q.  Yes.

Professor Running. I mean, there are seven billion people on earth.

Q.  And you were somewhat referring to this when you were looking at Exhibit 16, your last exhibit.

Professor Running. Yeah. Yeah.

Q.  Which, correct me if I’m wrong, but those projections are largely based on a belief that federal and international policy would commit to lowering emission rates to thus that we would slow climate change to this goal of the two percent — or the two degrees per year if I understood correctly.

THE COURT: Is there a question there?

BY MS. MACRAE: Q. So I guess my point is, you acknowledge that this graph is reflective on a result of federal policy and international policy activity working towards this goal.

Professor Running. The physical models make no assumption of how this happens. They simply do the algorithms of what level of emission reductions would be required for the climate consequence, the climate target. So they have no idea whether everybody dies or whether different countries make big policy choices. The models don’t care about any of that. This is raw physics.

Q.  Would these models be accurate if the changes were the type of thing I was talking about earlier with my decision to take van pool instead of drive to work each week? Is that — are we talking — would this model be — how — let me clarify. How many individual actions would you, in your experience and training and your expertise, believe need to be seen to have this model be accurate?

Professor Running. I’m not doing well at deciphering your question.

Q.  Okay.

Professor Running. We clearly, you know, we know what the carbon emissions of the U.S. are. We know how many people, like using your example, drive to work each day, approximately. Some of the social impact models calculate those sort of details — number of miles, number of gallons of gas, all those things. They could easily then represent if all the commuters dropped to, you know, some other method that dropped their emissions a great deal, they could certainly make that calculation. And so the harder part for our modeling is not the physics; it’s figuring out what humanity wants to do.

Q.  That actually makes me think a little bit of what you were talking about in the graph, in Exhibit 3, that graph of the increase of CO2 emissions globally, I believe.

THE COURT: I’m sorry; which exhibit?

MACRAE: Exhibit 3.

THE WITNESS: Oh, yeah. Global Carbon Emissions. Yeah.

BY MS. MACRAE: Q. And my understanding is the only time since — it’s reflective on this graph and I don’t know if it was monitored before this — that there has been a reduction in the production of CO2 emissions on a yearly basis is in 2008.

Professor Running. Yeah.

Q.  And as you noted, that was — coincides with the economic downturn; correct?

Professor Running. Yes.

Q.  I may be extrapolating here, but the economic downturn I’m assuming had somewhat macro effects on the consumption of fossil fuels.

Professor Running. Yeah. Absolutely.

Q.  Substantially more effect than my decision to take van pool versus drive for a week.

Professor Running. Well, a whole lot of people ended up unemployed so they didn’t commute. So they stayed home.

Q.  And that — that effect, that number of people not driving was actually something that could be measured with CO2 emissions according to this graph.

Professor Running. Yes.

Q.  But other than that downturn in which there was a reason why numerous people didn’t drive, there hasn’t been any other decrease in CO2 emissions?

Professor Running. You see on a global basis, that’s the only year that’s ever gone down. We find that just amazing to see.

Q.  And it is. And it suggests, of course, that for CO2 emissions to truly decrease, it would need to be something that was a global — that had a global impact.

Professor Running. Sure. Yeah, because, you know, the whole world is in this together.

Q.  Yeah. Just one minute. Sort of switching gears, you mentioned other ways, of course, other large producers of CO2 gas — cement, if I remember correctly, produces quite a bit of emissions.

Professor Running. Right.

Q.  And as you noted, wasted food does; correct?

Professor Running. Mm-hmm.

Q.  And would a more efficient use of food, a more efficient food system potentially decrease CO2 emissions?

Professor Running. Certainly.

Q.  In the case of cement, potentially making fewer roads, would that decrease CO2 emissions?

Professor Running. Mm-hmm.

Q.  Or building fewer dams out of cement, that would decrease CO2 emissions. So there are many ways that CO2 emissions could be decreased.

Professor Running. Yes. You note in Exhibit 4 that by far the biggest emission source is coal.

Q.  Absolutely. I have a question looking at Exhibit 4. Looking at the graph of coal, it looks to me in approximately — so 2008, it looks like there was a slight decrease in coal, in emissions due to coal, if I’m correct at that, give or take, but I’m assuming that’s 2008 based on our earlier conversation.

Professor Running. Yeah, I think so.

Q.  Okay. If the next point is 2009, there’s a slight increase. Then there’s a large increase to 2010. And then a much slighter increase to 2011. Do you know why that the production of coal emissions was — grew at a much slower rate that year?

Professor Running. The biggest coal consumer by far is China. And so we watch every year for the statistics on China’s coal burning. At that time, their coal burning was still accelerating while the U.S. coal burning was starting to decelerate. Since these are global numbers here, it’s a little hard for me to parse out by nation. This global carbon project does do that.

Q.  Yes.

Professor Running. If you want to go to their website, they slice and dice the carbon numbers every which way.

Q.  Yeah. But correct me if I’m wrong here, this information in Exhibit 4, as you pointed out, is for the production of CO2 emissions from coal globally.

Professor Running. Mm-hmm.

Q.  It could be substantially less. Those emissions could be substantially less based on the United States on burning of coal than that of China’s it sounds like.

Professor Running. Oh, yeah. The U.S. is much more than China now – nowadays.

Q.  And I am pulling this out of my head. So that could also be less than say the Netherlands, just to use another country as an example.

Professor Running. Right.

Q.  Yeah. So again, what the CO2 emissions here is showing is on a global level but not necessarily reflective of actual policy and production and consumption of coal here in the United States.

Professor Running. Right.

Q.  Just a minute. You said at one point that global warming started to be, I believe, quantifiable or able to be monitored in 1980.

Professor Running. I use that as a simplifying statement for my public talks.

Q.  Okay.

Professor Running. And so if you wanted to get exceedingly rigorous you could maybe argue that point a bit. But I find with public audiences, it’s important for them to know this didn’t just start in the last couple years.

Q.  Of course. So I was going to ask, I assume coal was burned before 1980.

Professor Running. Yeah.

Q.  And it had some effect on the climate prior to that.

Professor Running. Mm-hmm.

Q.  So obviously — sorry, yeah, I was just curious about that because the consumption of coal isn’t the only thing that has led to climate change or CO2 emissions, is it?

Professor Running. All right, if you look at Exhibit 4, in 1960, well, starting in 1970 till about 1985, oil was actually a larger carbon emission there for about 15 years. Then they were about equal for about 20 years. And then that final burst of the last 15 years has been almost all China.

Q.  And correct me again if I’m wrong, it sounds like largely China is the main producer of CO2 emissions from coal right now.

Professor Running. Right.

Q.  And when, as you put it earlier, we’re all in this together. Does — and I can see absolutely that China’s burning of coal has some effect here in Washington of climate change.

Professor Running. Some of our fine sunsets in the summer, unfortunately, are Chinese air pollution.

Q.  Yes.

Professor Running. I’m sorry.

Q.  Yeah, no, it’s true. I grew up in Southern California and the forest fires always led to the most beautiful sunsets.

Professor Running. Okay, yes.

Q.  But the reality is that a person, an individual here in Washington, doesn’t really have any control over the coal being burned in China, do they?

OSBORN: Objection; I think this may be outside the scope of the direct and possibly the witness’s expertise.

THE COURT: Go ahead, Ms. MacRae.

MACRAE: When — at the end of his testimony, he went into the various things that humanity needed to do and has been talking about this as a collective whole. But my question is focused on the individual action.

THE COURT: Okay. So overruled. I’ll allow it.

BY MS. MACRAE:  An individual’s actions here in Washington have little to no effect on the fact that China is the largest producer of coal as far as I can tell from what you’ve been testifying to.

Professor Running. Largest consumer of coal. And so they buy a lot of coal from Montana and Wyoming that’s shipped through here and then goes to China. And so we’re part of their coal burning over here.

Q.  Market principles would suggest that if China wasn’t burning the coal it wouldn’t be —

HODGSON: Objection; supposes things that are simply not in evidence. We do not have the market —

THE COURT: Okay. I think we need to have one attorney, one witness. Right?

HODGSON: Sorry, Your Honor.

THE COURT: I could tell you had a real objection there though.

HODGSON: If I may. Excuse me.

THE COURT: You can certainly counsel with the attorney who is actually handling this witness.

OSBORN: We’re objecting to the reference to market forces.

THE COURT: Sustained. Go ahead and move on.

BY MS. MACRAE:  So China is the largest consumer of coal?

Professor Running. Mm-hmm.

Q.  Does China produce all the coal it consumes?

Professor Running. Oh, no. No.

Q.  So they’re —

Professor Running. In fact, their latest five year national strategy, they’re committing to quit importing coal by the end of this year. Now, that still means they’ll burn coal that they produce themselves, but as they are trying to wind down their carbon emissions, they’re trying to quit buying it and where they buy it from first is the U.S. and Australia.

Q.  But China is, in fact, it sounds like, actually concerned about CO2 emissions from coal.

Professor Running. A. Mm-hmm.

Q.  And China as a country is trying to regulate its CO2 emissions.

OSBORN: Objection, Your Honor. We really didn’t get into Chinese policy in our direct.

THE COURT: How does it relate to what your cross is?

MACRAE: Well, he’s saying that the coal being consumed by China is somewhat being produced in Montana and transported through here, but if China is itself tackling that issue, for whatever own internal policy reasons, I was just trying to clarify that regardless of whether or not coal is being produced in Montana and transported through Spokane, China, the largest CO2 emission producing country is trying to stop its importing of that potential coal.


THE COURT: Okay. So hold on. Hold on. It’s got minor relevance. So I’ll go ahead and allow that one question but we are kind of getting into some weeds here. Go ahead.

THE WITNESS: I study this all day, every day, so have at it.

BY MS. MACRAE: Q. But just to clarify, to wrap up what I said in a much lengthier way, China is consciously trying to reduce its CO2 emissions.

Professor Running. Yes.

Q.  And its consumption of coal that’s produced outside of China.

Professor Running. Yes.

MACRAE: I have no further questions at this time.

THE COURT: Okay. So State has finished their cross-exam. Counsel?

OSBORN: Thank you. I just have one question follow-up.


Q.  Dr. Running, are the conclusions and information you provide today derived from your personal belief?

Professor Running. No; they’re derived from climate science publications and government statistics that I read every day.

Q.  Is there scientific consensus among the (inaudible)?

Professor Running. Yes, there certainly is an overwhelming consensus of all these different measurements that I showed in these exhibits are direct measurements from instruments. So this is quite air tight.

OSBORN: Okay, thank you. That’s all I have.

THE COURT: Did that bring up anything, Ms.MacRae?

MACRAE: No further questions from the State.


Back To Top