Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publication Source

Adjudicating Climate Change: State, National, and International Approaches


In March 2003, I wrote an article for the Environmental Law Reporter surveying potential international judicial forums where victims of global warming could bring lawsuits. In the ensuing six years, numerous lawsuits have been brought in the United States and in other countries, and environmentalists can now celebrate their first significant victory. In April 2007, based upon its finding that greenhouse gases are pollutants under Section 202(a)(1) of the U.S. Clean Air Act, the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA held that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

Though we are still in the early days of global warming litigation, these lawsuits are having a significant impact on the legal and political climate. In response to a good deal of popular and academic discussion suggesting that those most responsible for the global warming problem be held legally accountable, corporations in the carbon sector are becoming concerned about the extent of their potential legal liability. This concern is one reason they are coming to publicly accept the reality of anthropogenic-caused global warming, and the corresponding need for regulation of greenhouse gas emissions.

Despite the significance of this litigation, however, global warming actions thus far have almost all been brought in domestic rather than international forums. The only exceptions are a petition by the Inuit to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and petitions by environmental groups and others to UNESCO's World Heritage Committee to include various natural sites as world heritage endangered by global warming.

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Document Version

Published Version


This material has been published in Adjudicating Climate Change: State, National, and International Approaches edited by William C.G. Burns and Hari M. Osofsky. This version is free to view and download for personal use only. Not for redistribution, resale or use in derivative works.

Permission documentation on file.


Cambridge University Press

Place of Publication

New York, NY

Link to published version