Warming: The Debate is Settled, Now Pay Up

By August 2, 2007Briefly Legal, Global Warming

Farmers are having a rough time of this summer in southern Maryland, watching their crops and hay die off due to drought. Global warming, no doubt to blame. So we should be seeing the suit against the local utilities or American automakers any day now.

Well, maybe not. Perhaps the Delmarva agriculturists have yet to fall to the American disease of litigation, but the idea is not so far-fetched. As UCLA Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge writes, get ready for a flood of global-warming lawsuits:

Earlier this year, Texas trial lawyer Stephen Susman told the Dallas Morning News that “You’re going to see some really serious exposure on the part of companies that are emitting CO2.” He added, for good measure, that “I can’t say for sure it’s going to be as big as the tobacco settlements, but then again it may even be bigger.”

Indeed, trial lawyers are gearing up to turn global warming into their next pot of gold. A coalition of environmental groups and cities are suing the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Export-Import Bank of the United States for making loans to finance oil pipelines, oil drilling, and similar projects that supposedly result in a net emission of billions of tons of carbon dioxide. After Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans trial lawyers Gerald Maples and Timothy Porter sued dozens of energy companies, claiming they had contributed to global warming.

This blogger will admit to regular exhalation, i.e., production of carbon dioxide. So when’s the subpoena?

Inventive lawyers, taking advantage of the broken U.S. civil justice system, are increasingly using “public nuisance” laws to file lawsuits for such things as guns, food (obesity), lead paint, and now, global warming — Last year’s lawsuit by California against the automakers being the most offensive example. It’s inventive, all right, and abusive — and the harbinger of endless lawsuits to come on global warming, unless the courts stick to the law and throw the suits out, and policymakers respond to protect the soon-to-be targets.

Like all you respirators out there.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Tarun Juyal says:

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