Monday, August 20, 2007

Fighting climate change, one lawsuit at a time

A spate of pending cases in the United States and Europe could set precedents for big judgments against companies that emit greenhouse gases.

Over the past two decades, tobacco companies and asbestos makers have paid billions of dollars in liabilities for harming consumers with cigarettes and insulation. Now companies responsible for emitting greenhouse gases may face similarly costly legal bills for contributing to dangerous levels of global warming.

Lawyers expect courts in the United States and Europe to rule on a spate of cases in coming months and years that could establish precedents for big payouts and force wrenching changes on businesses.

The size of damages, said William Holmes, a partner with the law firm Stoel Rives in Portland, Oregon, "could reach the same level as in the tobacco and asbestos cases, and if anything they could be even higher."...

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