Climate advocates are increasingly raising specific climate change concerns before domestic courts, human rights tribunals, international commissions and other national and international decisionmaking bodies. Win or lose, these litigation strategies are significantly changing and enhancing the public dialogue around climate change. This article discusses the awareness-building impacts of climate litigation as well as related impacts such strategies may have on the development of climate law and policy. The article argues that litigation's focus on specific victims facing immediate threats from climate change has increased the political will to address climate change both internationally and nationally. It has also shifted the debate towards questions of compensation and adaptation, and has brought new and democratic voices to the climate policy debate. As a result, climate litigation is leaving an important imprint on climate policy regardless of whether a tort action in the United States or the Inuit human rights claims, for example, ultimately prevail - and as demonstrated by the recent US Supreme Court decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, some climate claims will prevail, setting important precedents for the future direction of climate law and policy.
Hunter, David B., The Implications of Climate Change Litigation for International Environmental Law-Making (July 15, 2007). American University, WCL Research Paper No. 2008-14. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1005345.