Oct 052010
 

My mind is reeling from the string of news articles suggesting that developing countries could sue nations for damages incurred from global climate change.

Many nations claim harm from global climate change, including small nation islands facing rising ocean waters.  According to the Foundation for International Environmental Law and Development, developing countries claiming to be harmed by climate change could sue industrialized nations.  Theoretically the countries could sue for injective relief (forcing industrialized nations to curb emissions), financial damages, or both.

This seems unlikely for many reasons.

As Edward Cameron, former advisor to the Maldives, said in a New York Times article, there are issues relating to how the suit is brought and what political consequences bringing such a suit may have on a developing nation (i.e., the withdrawal of foreign aide, etc.).  On the flip side, Cameron speculates that threatened litigation may push countries like the US to adopt climate change reform rather than face the uncertainty of international litigation.

I do not see how such a case could ultimately succeed.  Assuming you passed all of the procedural and evidentiary hurdles, will global power players (and chief polluters), i.e. industrialized nations, allow a judgment against a nation knowing that they would likely face the same liability?

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