Litigation Ineffective Against GHG Emitters

Nov. 5, 2014

Lawsuits unlikely to convince polluters to change opposition to legislative reform. 

While legal attempts to hold greenhouse gas emitters responsible for the environmental consequences of their emissions have been frequent, they’ve not been successful in deterring emitters from their opposition to legislative reform, a study from Case Western Reserve School of Law finds. 

Though the environmental effects of GHG emissions are known to contribute to climate change, the researchers note the diffuse and widespread nature of environmental damage from GHGs make it a challenge to prove damages for which relief can be granted under the law. While major events such as landslides and coastal erosion increase the likelihood of environmental lawsuits, Pleading Patterns and the Role of Litigation as a Driver of Federal Climate Change Legislation shows that tort claims, mentioned as the most threatening and potentially damaging to emitters, are rare – only occurring in around 3% of analyzed cases, with most claims focusing on regulatory issues.

"Major emitters are not likely to support federal legislation that restricts emissions in exchange for litigation peace, when litigation is not perceived as a threat," says Juscelino Colares, author of the study. 

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