Nav: Home

New study addresses the role of health in climate lawsuits

April 26, 2018

WASHINGTON, DC (April 26, 2018) -- Researchers at the George Washington University (GW) are at the forefront of analyzing how climate lawsuits shape the nation's response to climate change. A new analysis investigates the role of health concerns in climate litigation since 1990 and finds that although health is cited in a minority of cases, it may have critical potential for protecting communities from the effects of climate change and coal fired power plants.

"Many experts believe that climate change is the biggest threat to public health in the 21st century, and the courts have been and will continue to be a central avenue for the development of climate-related policy in the United States," says lead author Sabrina McCormick, PhD, an Associate Professor of Environmental and Occupational Health at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University.

McCormick and her colleagues in the Milken Institute School of Public Health's Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, George Washington University Law School, and the university's Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration looked at 873 judicial decisions related to climate change and coal-fired power plants between 1990 and 2016. They found that a minority of cases (16 percent) associated with those decisions referenced health issues. Health was most likely to be invoked in cases related to air pollution. Past research has linked air pollution to a wide range of health problems, including asthma, McCormick notes.

The GW researchers pointed to lawsuit types that might be supported with evidence regarding health, such as renewable energy and energy efficiency included health issues. An example, they say, is the ability of health claims to help litigants gain standing to bring a case to court. In their article, they recommend the explicit statement of health benefits from reductions in impacts associated with climate change. They argue that climate change may follow examples such as tobacco and other health protections in which the courts played a central role in protecting public health.

"The courts represent a pivotal branch of government in climate policy formation," McCormick and her co-authors say. "Increasing inclusion of health concerns in emergent areas of litigation could catalyze effective climate policy-making."

McCormick has been studying the impacts of climate change on human health for over a decade. Her experience includes serving as the lead author on the Special Assessment of the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"The Role of Health in Climate Litigation" will appear online April 26 in The American Journal of Public Health.
-end-


George Washington University

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1┬░Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Anthropomorphic
Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...