Monday, October 24, 2011

Moscow heat wave 2010 attributable to climate change

Kremlin cast in smog by forest fires
cause by the 
2010 heat wave
(Image by Jon Richter). 
According to the well-renown Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, the 2010 Moscow heat wave was, with an 80 % probability, the result of climate change. According to a book on environmental liability (further discussed here), “Environmental Liability and Ecological Damage in European Law”, edited by Monika Hinteregger, an 80 % likelihood would be regarded as sufficient for assuming “causality” in several European jurisdictions. So damage claims resulting from this heat wave can be taken to court in several European courts with a good chance of winning.

If the research of the Potsdam Institute can be transposed to other heat waves, heat waves might become (after the sea-level rise) the second important type of climate damage for which causality can be demonstrated.

For more information on the findings of the Potsdam Institute, please see http://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/press-releases/mehr-hitzewellen-extreme-sind-folge-des-klimawandels.

Since the causality has a good chance of being accepted in the European courts these damage claims can be litigated and compensation can be obtained when these damage claims are collected, compiled, and taken to court. That is where the organization Claimer.org assists. On the website http://www.claimer.org/registerDamages anyone affected by the heat wave can register their damage claims and Claimer.org will eventually try to take these possible court cases to court against worldwide corporations that have contributed to climate change and caused the heat wave and therefore caused the damages created by the heat wave. If you have been affected by the heat wave please register your damages here and you will be informed when Claimer.org can take the case to court.

The original repot by Rahmstorf, S. And Coumou, D. Can be found here:
Increase of extreme events in a warming world


Update: review of the book by Monika Hinteregger

Update: translated into Russian



Московская жара 2010 году связаны с изменением климата


Кремль бросил в смогом от лесных 
пожароввызывать на 2010 жары
(Изображение Джон Рихтер). 
По данным широко известного потсдамского института климатологии, период экстремальной жары в Москве в 2010 году с вероятностью 80% явился результатом общего изменения климата. По мнению Моники Хинтереггер, автора книги «Environmental Liability and Ecological Damage in European Law», для многих из европейских властей восьмидесятипроцентной вероятности будет достаточно, чтобы признать положение о причинно-следственной связи действительным. Таким образом, требования о возмещении ущерба, нанесенного аномальной жарой, могут быть предъявлены многим европейским судам с хорошими шансами на успех.

Если результаты исследований потсдамского института будут применены к прочим подобным случаям аномальной жары, то это климатическое явление можно будет признать вторым (после поднятия уровня моря) важнейшим типом оказывающих разрушительное воздействие климатических феноменов, для которых доказуем вышеназванный принцип каузальности.  

Подробную информацию о данных, полученных потсдамским институтом, вы найдете (на английском) по адресу http://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/press-releases/mehr-hitzewellen-extreme-sind-folge-des-klimawandels

Признание принципа причинно-следственной связи европейскими судебными инстанциями дает пострадавшим от аномальной жары, засух и тепловых волн возможность отстаивать свои права в суде и рассчитывать на компенсацию понесенных убытков. Организация Claimer.org предлагает свою помощь в собрании исков и передаче их в суд. Каждый пострадавший от аномально высоких температур может зарегистрироваться на сайте http://www.claimer.org/registerDamages и ассоциация «Claimer.org» сделает всё возможное, чтобы использовать полученные материалы для открытия дела против международных концернов, деятельность которых в большой мере способствует глобальному изменению климата и таким образом приводит к таким климатическим катастрофам, как аномальная жара.

Если вы стали жертвой жары, зарегистрируйтесь на нашем сайте, и мы проинформируем вас, когда иск будет передан суду.

Обновление: обзор книги Моники Хинтереггер (на английском)

Обновление: перевод на русский язык

Thursday, October 20, 2011

What strategy after Obama's u-turn in climate policy?

Obama swearing into office in 2008
(Image 
Factory releasing GHGs
(Image by Wallyir)
When Obama became President-elect in September 2008, he stated his priority as President, second only to revitalizing the economy with job creation, was going to be addressing climate change and cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 80 % by 2050. Now towards the end of his term he has done a u-turn on this policy goal and he seems to have all but forgotten this environmental issue. President Obama has failed to get such laws passed, Congress will not pass such a law because the senate will not agree to pass the proposed American Clean Energy and Security Act. In light of these events a group of U.S. based organizations and attorneys suggest a legal strategy to force state governments or the federal agencies such as the EPA to act directly. There idea is to sue these government agencies and state governments to get them to create and enforce such rules.

An overview on U.S. based organizations’ and attorneys’ strategies with regard to climate damage litigation are to be found here: http://www.climate-one.org/blog/carbon-courts-atmospheric-trust-litigation

To understand why such rules were not already implemented, one needs to look at the promises Obama made during interviews after becoming president-elect. He stated that he will pass laws to reduce heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions by 80 % by 2050. Furthermore he promised to invest $150 billion in new technologies promoting green energies.

In February 2009 under Obama, with the Recovery Act of 2009, Congress did allocate $74 billion to green energies and energy saving technologies and $7 billion to the EPA. The EPA used the money to create a scheme to attempt to achieve a never before seen transparency of greenhouse gasses made by companies in the Unites States. The EPA created a Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. At the end of 2009, the EPA started requiring that large emitters of climate altering emissions began collecting greenhouse gas (GHG) data under the new reporting system. This was to be the bases of calculating that the greenhouse gas emissions are to be dropped by 2050.

The EPA is based on the rules of the Clean Air Act of 1963 last amended in 1990 so the Obama administration proposed a bill that would create a much needed new amendment to the Clean Air Act. A comprehensive act, American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, was drafted. It called for a reduction carbon emissions by 3 % in 2012 by 17 % in 2020 and 83 % in 2050 (as compared to 2005 levels) just as he promised during his campaign and this act would have created a scheme like the European Union's Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS). The bill passed through the House on June 26, 2009 by 219-212 votes. Because the bill was drafted and passed in the house, for the bill to be passed into law it would need to go through the senate.

But in February 2010, the 2007 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) which declares that it scientifically proved global warming existed, was contested by, among others, republican attorney general for Texas, Greg Abbott. So by July 2010 the mood in congress changed because the mood of the nation changed and Democrat senator Harry Reid said that the senate could no longer pass such a bill because “We know that we don’t have the votes”. So the American Clean Energy and Security Act was never passed.

In September 2010 Obama stated he was unhappy with the current development of the climate change policies, and promised more reform. But because this act will not pass through the senate, congress failed to pass legislative climate policy. Obama again promised that that change was coming, but now one year later he seems to be ignoring the issue and hoping we forgot about it. This climate legislation is lying dormant in Congress, Obama and lawmakers do not have the power to pass the bill. Moreover international climate talks are even further away from any sort of resolution years from resolution.

Now the EPA is collecting the GHG data in the U.S., but without a clear road-map of what to do with the data collected from the Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program. Without laws passed by congress, we may not see a reduction of the GHG.

This is where the overview at climate-one.org tries to explain how to get this result. In the article Phil Gregory, Senior Attorney at Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy heading the Our Children’s Trust lawsuits explains how he plans to get the EPA to act.


Phil Gregory talking to David Takacs Associate Professor UC Hastings College of the Law, Pete McCloskey former Congressman, and Greg Dalton Founder of Climate One on September 14, 2011
(Video courtesy of Climate One at the Commonwealth Club)

In the discussion, Phil Gregory states that we cannot implement statute based lawsuits, which means that we can’t just aim for one aspect of the problem, such as say that a polar bear is being affected by climate change take this one damage and ask the government to do something about it, because we are not trying to protect one instance, we need to protect the whole world. Instead we need to look at it in a more general macro level and go against the government to force the U.S. government to act on the issue of climate change. To show that there is something larger being put in danger and take this whole issue as a case to the court.

To be able to take the whole issue into account he argues with the public trust doctrine and uses it to claim that the government should be acting as a trustee and protecting the public good of clean air, which these lawsuits should bring the courts to get the government to protect the climate, because they are legally obliged to do so.

Nearly all experts studying the recent climate history of the earth now agree now the average surface temperature of earth has increased more than 1 degree Fahrenheit since 1900 and this is caused by those human activities, especially the release of heat-trapping GHGs. Most recently Richard Muller, a Berkeley physicist and until recently strong climate change critic and skeptic now agrees. And scientists agree that climate change should be stopped.

Furthermore Phil Gregory states that showing that insurance agencies see this as a problem will also help the cause. And finally those bringing the issue to court may want to combine many examples of damages. Our organization agrees with this strategy as well, that is why we are collecting damage claims on the website www.Claimer.org/registerDamages. With these combined proofs and damages we can then better convince the courts that this is all part of the same issue and that the whole issue of climate change should be faced together, and that climate change is indeed creating a negative impact on our planet.

When the court agrees with these proofs then the court could demand that the government, who refuses to pass laws on the subject, must the indeed act to control emissions.

Update: Read more about the initiative of “Our children’s trust” in the U.S. mentioned in this article.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Still many hurdles on the way to climate change litigation in the U.S.

Legal hurdles for climate change litigation
(Image by lillysmum
A full list of issues to be overcome on the way to climate change litigation in the U.S. is to be found in a short article of Michael B. Gerrard, Director of the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School:
http://www.yalelawjournal.org/the-yale-law-journal-pocket-part/scholarship/what-litigation-of-a-climate-nuisance-suit-might-look-like/.

The first section has to do with the defendants of climate change litigation cases such as jurisdiction. Because though the United states produces a lot of GHGs the United States only produces approximately 18 % of carbon dioxide emissions worldwide if the verdict was only implemented in the U.S. then it would only stop at most 18 % of GHGs. Or issues of Supply Chains, where again if you did stop companies in the U.S. from producing emissions, if those companies imported the goods instead of producing them in the U.S. then production, and therefore the emission of GHGs may only move the area where GHGs are not forbidden or limited by law (such as in China), and therefore no legal threat of legal action exists, and there does not reduce the aggregate world emissions.

The next section discusses other issues such as how to measure damage claims. In a money damage case, how much of the damage can be directly attributed to the emissions from a company. Furthermore the author points out that the burden of proof of causation must be taken into account. Nearly all scientists agree global warming is real, and that GHG emissions are causing global warming but one must also prove that a particular storm or flood is indeed caused by climate change. Another hurdle that is mentioned, is the diversity of damages that can befall victims of climate change may result in difficulties for grouping the damages into class action law suits.

The article has also been published by the New York Law Journal. Thought this publication focuses on the U.S., many of the items listed in the article are likely to be relevant in other jurisdictions as well.

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