Bruce Sterling, in his Viridian mailings, often draws an explicit comparison between greenhouse gas-emitting industries and tobacco companies, arguing that the same kind of lawsuits that have hammered the cigarette companies are likely to hit oil, auto and other heavy-CO2 companies, too. But now he's not alone in making that argument. An article from Agence France Presse -- translated and posted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development -- explores the growing recognition that lawsuits around the world over greenhouse gases and heavy weather are nearly inevitable.
"Litigation on climate-related damage is clearly on the horizon," says Richard Lord, a senior London attorney in commercial law. [...] "If generally accepted scientific assessments are accurate, global warming is likely to be the most expensive environmental problem ever," says Andrew Strauss, a professor of international law at Widener University Law School in Delaware and Pennsylvania.
The biggest knot to untangle is likely to be apportioning the blame. How much responsibility goes to the maker of mega-SUVs (for example), and how much to the millions of buyers? But that won't mean that greenhouse-guilty industries will get off the hook easily. One of the probably unanticipated results of demands for more research and more certainty is that it will be hard for greenhouse companies to argue that they didn't understand the results of what they were doing...
Lawsuits are fine and dandy for raising public awareness, but litigation itself doesn't actually solve the problems we face. I wonder if the time and energy and money and people this would require would be better utilized somewhere else. Organizing people to participate in proactive solutions seems more productive than apportioning blame.