Former NASA scientist, Dr James Hansen, has been confirmed as a key witness in a landmark trial following Greenpeace action against the world’s biggest oil exploration ship. The trial comes hot on the heels of New Zealand making international headlines on Thursday for leadership on climate change by banning all new offshore oil exploratio.
The case was launched by the previous National Government in April last year after Greenpeace New Zealand Executive Director Dr Russel Norman, and volunteer Sara Howell, swam in front of the Amazon Warrior 60 nautical miles at sea, forcing it to stop seismic blasting for the day.
They took action to stop the ship from searching for oil and gas on behalf of Statoil, Chevron, and OMV.
Hansen says burning fossil fuels has driven the concentration of carbon in the atmosphere “well into the danger zone”.
“I understand that Russel Norman and Sara Howell were trying to draw attention to the increasingly dire consequences that business as usual imposes on their nation. Generally speaking, people should not need to swim in front of massive oil exploration [vessels]. But, with all due respect to the relevant authorities, I think they are planning to put the wrong people on trial,” he says.
The President of Kiribati from 2003 to 2016, Anote Tong, has also been confirmed as a key witness for Greenpeace in the trial. Professor James Renwick, of Victoria University, is another witness.
Greenpeace, Norman, and Howell, have been charged by the oil division of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE), under the 2013 Amendment to the Crown Minerals Act known as the ‘Anadarko Amendment’. It’s the first time anyone in New Zealand has been charged under the controversial legislation introduced by the now National Party leader, Simon Bridges. The trial is set down for two weeks from April 30.
Hansen says it’s never been more urgent to tackle climate change.
“The special tragedy in this is that it is our children and their children who will suffer most,” he says.
“Concerted action, if begun without further delay, still could mitigate the damage and arrest the rising seas. These facts, I believe, were long known to Statoil and Chevron, yet they persist in their truly criminal enterprise – seeking to tap every last reserve.
“The deep waters off the Wairarapa Coast, as elsewhere, should be placed off limits as society weans itself nearly entirely off fossil fuels.”
The Crown will be relying on evidence from private investigators, Thompson and Clark, during the trial. The spy agency has recently been at the centre of controversy after news broke that state insurer, Southern Response, had hired Thompson and Clark to spy on Christchurch residents over earthquake claims. Further Official Information Act requests revealed that government department, MBIE, also had a close relationship with the agency and received information from it while it was undertaking a significant surveillance operation on Greenpeace, paid for by oil companies including Statoil. The State Services Commission is now investigating.