Many in the United States reportedly experienced a record-setting, warm holiday season this December, and some are asking whether climate change is to blame. The discussion sparked our curiosity as to what if any climate change-related litigation may be brewing.
First of all, what is climate change? The rocket scientists at NASA have provided the following definition of climate change:
Climate change is a change in the usual weather found in a place. This could be a change in how much rain a place usually gets in a year. Or it could be a change in a place’s usual temperature for a month or season.
Climate change is also a change in Earth’s climate. This could be a change in Earth’s usual temperature. Or it could be a change in where rain and snow usually fall on Earth.
Weather can change in just a few hours. Climate takes hundreds or even millions of years to change.
This concept, seemingly innocuous on its face, is quite controversial in the United States, and according to a recent article on the subject, hundreds of climate change-related lawsuits have been brought in the United States. Apparently, while “[m]ost cases were brought by individuals or companies against the government,” there have been some suits “brought by individuals and groups seeking more climate change regulations or actions from government” and “other suits . . . to halt the enforcement of climate change regulations.”
One of the more interesting lawsuits that we ran across is a subrogation class action filed by Illinois Farmers Insurance Co., “accusing scores of Illinois municipalities of doing little to prepare for climate change and avoid storm losses its policyholders suffered.” Farmers alleged that the defendants “had adequate time and opportunity to plan, prestage and take other actions before the occurrence rainfall to maximize stormwater storage and/or transportation capacity within its stormwater system(s) and sanitary water sewer systems.” The case drew considerable attention, and many reportedly speculated that the case would serve as a bellwether case that could “unleash a wave of similar litigation.” Farmers reportedly decided to drop the lawsuit due to the fact that the litigation “gained the attention of the wider public.” Farmers added that it believed that the lawsuit “brought important issues to the attention of the respective cities and counties and that our policyholders’ interests will be protected by the local governments going forward.”
For a more in-depth review of pending climate change litigation, a chart prepared by a United States law firm purports to track the spate of climate change lawsuits which are apparently pending in the United States.