Environmental lawyers take to the courts in struggle against companies responsible for climate change

Environmental lawyers take to the courts in struggle against companies responsible for climate change

Despite a lack of previous success, many environmental lawyers are turning to US courts as a way to fight back against companies directly responsible for climate change.

Environmentalists have been fighting against climate change for a number of years, and in a number of different ways. However, a new method to fight back against increasing climatic temperatures has just come to the forefront. Vice News reports that this battle against greenhouse emissions and other such climate changing factors will be taken to the courts.

Environmental lawyers, using the fight against the tobacco industry as a stepping stone, have begun planning ways to use the legal system to fight back against large companies. They plan on doing this by suing these companies for their role in climate change impacts, which include things such as sea level rise. Many lawsuits are already under way, including legal battles over US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules and regulations, but these newly proposed lawsuits would take the legal battle over climate change one step further.

So far, the environmental battle against big companies has been less than successful. Michael Gerrard, Director of Columbia University Law School’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law, reports that no company has had to pay yet for their role in climate change or greenhouse gas emission. However, despite this many people believe there is hope is using the courts. The reason for this is that the plan is still in its early stages, and its potential will only grow as time goes on. Tobacco reform took over thirty years to be effective, and many are viewing this struggle in the same light.

Four climate change lawsuits have been filed in US courts during the last couple years, and each one failed. Of the four, three were seeking financial damages from fossil fuel companies and the other wanted to force several energy companies to cut back their carbon pollution. However, despite the lack of success, a Supreme Court ruling in one of the suits have the possibility to sue companies in state courts. The EPA has sole regulation under the Clean Air Act, but the possibility to sue in state courts allows the plaintiffs some power. Lack of legislative action has prompted many lawyers to seek new ways to battle these companies. There has been a lack of political action around the topic, and while the past has not worked out in the way that many have hoped, if the battle against tobacco was an indicator, it might just be a matter of time.

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