Can courts force governments to act on Climate Change?

Holland  is a low-lying country seriously at risk of higher sea levels – a consequence of the world’s failure to check global warming.  It has an exposure similar to countries, such as Bangladesh, with  low lying coastal areas and coral island states. Given its past experience with devastating floods (such as the flood of 1953 …

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A glimmer of hope for grandchildren?

Just after a Federal Court in California dismissed a similar claim, the State of Rhode Island commenced an action against fossil fuel companies for compensation for the costs required to protect the State from rising seas and severe weather. It is unlikely that the defendants will dispute the reality of the consequences of climate change …

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Will courts make climate change law?

The US Houses of Congress will not in the foreseeable future compel fossil fuel companies to reduce Green House Gas emissions to lessen the serious risks caused by climate change. If elected lawmakers won’t act, what might the Courts do? In 2011, 4RG and other environmental organizations brought together a Panel of experts to analyse …

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Suing Obama over Climate Change

James Hansen, the well know Climate Scientist, was a party to a 2014 law suit against the State of Washington, supported by an organization “Climate Change for Families”.  Besides his granddaughter there were a number of infant plaintiffs in the case. In 2015 a judge heard the case and ordered the State to consider the …

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Are the tar sands ecocide?

For six decades Canadians regarded the tar sands as a natural resource to be developed.  The site of the tar sands, located in Canada’s Northern boreal forest, was very sparsely populated, mainly by aboriginal peoples. Apart from sporadic mine sites, there was no other large economic activity carried on until tar sands development arrived in the early 60’s.

Initially no one recognized the risks that could result from the development of the tar sands.  Certainly the extraction of the bitumen from the tar sands would destroy trees and the landscape, but this destruction could later be remedied over time by restoration of the forest.  It was assumed that the toxic substances released by extraction and processing would be in minimal quantities, and so absorbed in the vast space until nature had rendered them harmless. If by chance health consequences did arise, the long-suffering aboriginal peoples would be unlikely to complain until the tar sands reached the status of national resource. The generation of CO2 emissions was not foreseen as a risk until the development was well underway.

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