I was looking through the news today and I noticed an interesting story about how a group of people in New Orleans are suing oil and gas companies because of the role climate change played in Hurricane Katrina. The WSJ summed it all up pretty well (read the whole article for more, obviously):
The suit was brought by landowners in Mississippi, who claim that oil and coal companies emitted greenhouse gasses that contributed to climate change that, in turn, caused a rise in sea levels, adding to Hurricane Katrina’s ferocity.
The premise behind the suit is basic – since oil and coal companies willfully caused the emissions of billions of tons of CO2, they are at least in part responsible for the damage of the ferocious hurricanes of 2006. While people will certainly argue with the science, there are many models and predictions out there that state that warmer ocean temperatures caused by climate change create fiercer hurricanes (see the IPCC). So it is not like the plaintiffs are grabbing for straws. In my non-legal opinion, it seems unlikely that this suit will actually be something that will in and of itself shake the foundation of our nation. But the implications could be great due to the precedent that this is setting. Is it right to sue a company (or group of companies) for their greenhouse gas emissions? What grounds does anyone have to sue an American company over a Chinese one? A start-up polluter vs. a company that emitted millions of tons but went out of business 30 years ago? Thoughts? Comment below. Pls. remember to offset your carbon footprint, such as through our program, Live Climate, here.