Image: World Development Movement via flickr
Despite a two-hour testimony by NASA climate scientist Jim Hansen this week, a UK court found 20 environmental activists who tried to shut down a coal plant last year guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated trespass. The 20 activists were part of the larger group of 114 who tried to shut down the E.ON-owned Ratcliffe-on-Soar coal-fired power plant in April 2009, and were preemptively arrested by UK police.
114 people arrested in April 2009 in what was believed to be the biggest preemptive arrest in British history. The protest still went ahead in October 2009 and in the end just 20 of the arrested activists went on trial last month - the majority were later released uncharged.
While pleading guilty to the charges the defendants argued that although unlawful, their actions were necessary to prevent further harm caused by carbon emissions from the power station and climate change. The activists claimed that they were acting 'due to the lack of an adequate response to climate change by corporations and politicians'.
No stranger to climate activism, Hansen gave the court what the Guardian describes as a crash course in climate change. "I did not want them [my grandchildren] to say: 'Pa you understood what was happening but you never made it clear,'" he said in court.
During his two-hour testimony and cross-examination, Ed Rees QC, for the defence, stopped him repeatedly to ask him to explain the technical terms he was using. But the message he delivered was the clearest - and starkest - crash course in climate change the jury, the judge and members of the public in the gallery are ever likely to get.
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