'Climate necessity defense' to go ahead in Duluth Wells Fargo protect case

Three are on trial for an act of civil disobedience.
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A court case in St. Louis County will see another example of the use of the "climate necessity defense."

Scot Bol, Ernesto Burbank and Michel Niemi will appear in court to answer charges of civil disobedience, after they protested at a Wells Fargo in downtown Duluth in January.

The "climate necessity defense" was first brought up in Minnesota earlier this year, when four protesters who attempted shut down an Enbridge oil pipeline prepared to argue in court that their actions were necessary to prevent global warming.

They ultimately didn't need to use the defense, as a judge dismissed the charges last week, saying prosecutors hadn't done enough to prove the case against them.

In the Duluth Wells Fargo case, the protesters were targeting the bank because of the financing it provides Enbridge.

"Business as usual cannot continue," defendant Scott Bol said in a news release. "We acted as we believe we must, in light of the imminent threat that Wells Fargo is posing to our communities."

The defense intends to call three expert witnesses to argue the climate defense, including University of Minnesota-Duluth associate professor of geological sciences Dr. Christina Gallup.

What is the necessity defense?

The basic definition, as described by the legal website Nolo, is doing something illegal to prevent a more serious harm.

A common example of this is breaking into someone's home in order to save that person from a fire.

Establishing a defense requires proving that there was a specific threat of significant, imminent danger, there was an immediate necessity act, there was no practical alternative and that the harm caused wasn't greater than the harm prevented.

In the case of climate protests, they will argue that their actions of disobedience are necessary to prevent greater harm from global warming.

With scientific consensus being that humans' continued use of fossil fuels contributes to the warming of the Earth, they argue that targeting oil companies will help prevent the catastrophic effects of climate change.

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