FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, December 17, 2004

Who Is Liable for Global Warming?

Representatives for the Inuit people of the Arctic are petitioning the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to rule against the US for "causing global warming and its devastating impacts." Other environmental groups are planning lawsuits against those they hold responsible for generating greenhouse-gas emissions.

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.

Source: CNSNews.com