Extreme Hurricanes Could Spawn Climate Litigation

By on September 7, 2017

September 7, 2017

The U.S. EPA says there is no causal relationship between climate change and the destructive power of Hurricane Harvey, but many climate scientists disagree. New “event attribution” methodology is giving them the means to quantify the relationship, and if this can be done reliably and persuasively, it opens up the possibility of widespread litigation, according to some attorneys. A  group of scientists at England’s Oxford University, in partnership with a U.S. group called World Weather Attribution, is now attempting to quantify how much of Hurricane Harvey’s intensity is attributable to climate change. Government agencies, as well as builders, could become targets, according to Lindene Patton, an attorney with Earth & Water Group, a DC-based firm that specializes in compliance, internal investigations and other environmental matters for corporate clients and trade groups. Insurance companies, in particular, may be interested in pursuing these cases, according to Patton. A more familiar legal scenario – pinning some responsibility for extreme weather events on greenhouse gas emitters – is suggested by a Denton’s partner, who draws a parallel to the tobacco litigation of the 1990s.

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