Scientist Warns Oil Biz to Prepare for Global Warming Lawsuits

  • Published on December 9th, 2008

pollution in bay st. louis, mississippi from Katrina

In a forthcoming paper, an Oxford physicist argues that class action lawsuits against oil companies for damages brought on by severe weather events caused by global warming may soon be possible.

[social_buttons]Oxford Professor Myles Allen believes that people adversely affected by climate change today are now in a position to document and quantify their losses. And that the results of his upcoming paper show a way to compute those damages and correlate them to global warming.

“We are starting to get to the point that when an adverse weather event occurs we can quantify how much more likely it was made by human activity,” said Allen in The Guardian.

Allen’s technique involves comparing two computer models simulating the conditions that lead to extreme weather events. The first model includes human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, and the second—a control model—assumes the industrial revolution never happened and that carbon levels in the atmosphere have not increased over the last century (a huge assumption, if you ask me). Comparing the results hones in on the impact of man-made global warming. “As the science has evolved this is now possible, it’s just a question of computing power,” he said.

However, even if the model is able to control for human causes of climate change, I’m not so sure that establishing causation would be terribly easy for the plaintiff in any such suit. At least not at this stage in the game.

Image: NOAA

About the Author

is the founder of ecopolitology and the executive editor at LiveOAK Media, a media network about the politics of energy and the environment, green business, cleantech, and green living. When not reading, writing, thinking or talking about environmental politics with anyone who will listen, Tim spends his time skiing in Colorado's high country, hiking with his dog, and getting dirty in his vegetable garden.

1 comment

  • Hang on – I can't find any unusual weather conditions when I check history.

    Rivers have dried up in Australia, but I find there's been no change in rainfall in the past 100 years – just higher population and irrigation. Global cyclone frequency looks normal. Looking at global temperature over the past 2,000 years and longer, it's not doing anything unusual. Where's this problem that everyone is talking about?

    Can anyone locate any data that supports the hypothesis that changing CO2 concentration significantly changes the temperature or weather?

    I can't see much of a case.

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