Washington Journal of Environmental Law & Policy


The annual global costs of climate change in 2010 were estimated at nearly $700 billion. As the costs continue to escalate, discussion is necessarily shifting to who should pay for mitigation and adaption. Many scholars argue that policy considerations and principles of tort law support holding greenhouse gas producers responsible for the costs of climate change. However, legal claims against greenhouse gas producers in the United States have thus far proven unsuccessful. This Article explores two previously overlooked potentialities that could significantly and rapidly alter the landscape for climate change litigation: (1) the emergence of transnational climate change litigation coupled with the possible enforcement of foreign judgments in U.S. courts; and (2) the enactment of legislation altering the rules around climate change liability. This Article then quantifies the contribution of major U.S. fossil fuel companies to the costs and damages of climate change to illustrate the potential financial impacts of successful litigation or legislative change.

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