Who Is Liable for Global Warming?
Though these cases are hardly clear-cut -- especially since we still don't have a firm understanding of how global warming works -- they will set important legal precedents if they are successful. They will also raise key questions that will surely be debated for years to come, such as:
- Who exactly should be held liable? Governments? Corporations? Whole industries? Individuals?
- If a corporation was a heavy polluter in the past but took aggressive anti-pollution measures later, to what extend would it still be liable?
- If a corporation was operating at a time before pollution's impact on the environment was recognized, how liable would they be?
- What about corporations that are no longer in business, or that have been acquired several times over?
- Would the US's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol make it automatically liable?
- What, if anything, would constitute an effective remedy, other than monetary damages?
- If pollution from one nation were conclusively shown to adversely affect another, could that be considered an act of aggression?
- Would developing countries be held to different legal standards than developed countries?
- What new regulations would develop as a result of successful lawsuits? How will regulated industries be monitored?
Of all these questions, the most fundamental is whether global warming is truly a manmade condition. The answer to that question will either nullify or propel forward this movement.