Will new scientific breakthroughs pave the way for more climate-related lawsuits?

Elliott Negin writes: What can you do when the president of the United States says climate change is a hoax and Congress is gridlocked by fossil fuel industry-funded climate science deniers?

Look to the courts for redress — with a major assist from science.

Using sophisticated computer analyses, scientists can now determine what percentage of an extreme weather event can be attributed to climate change. This emerging field of “climate attribution” science offers courts a powerful new tool for apportioning responsibility in cases brought by victims of extreme weather events — Hurricane Harvey comes to mind — or other climate-induced damages, such as sea level rise, against municipalities and private real estate developers for failing to protect them from foreseeable damages.

Likewise, companies responsible for producing and marketing fossil fuels — BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil and the like — may find themselves in legal crosshairs thanks to a first-of-its-kind study definitively linking global climate changes to carbon emissions directly associated with them.

Published yesterday in the journal Climatic Change, the study calculated the amount of sea level rise and global temperature increase resulting from carbon dioxide and methane emissions from products marketed by the largest coal, gas and oil producers and cement manufacturers as well as their extraction and production processes.

“We’ve known for a long time that fossil fuels are the largest contributor to climate change,” said Brenda Ekwurzel, lead author and climate science director at the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). “What’s new here is that we’ve verified just how much specific companies’ products have caused the Earth to warm and the seas to rise.” [Continue reading…]

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