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The Growing Legal Risks of Climate Change

— December 20, 2023

We’re already seeing novel lawsuits that seek to attribute guilt due to negligence following a climate catastrophe.

Climate change is already changing the way we live. Data collected by NASA shows that the Earth has already warmed by nearly 2 degrees. Climate scientists predict that global warming will result in sea levels rising between 1 – 6 feet, more extreme weather events, and longer wildfire seasons. 

As well as disrupting delicate ecosystems, climate change will have a profound impact on the way we live. In response, more people are seeking damages after extreme events like wildfires, hurricanes, and oil spills. Lawyers will need to be well-versed in the intricacies of climate law to help their clients get the outcome they deserve.

Some lawyers are dedicating their careers to combating climate causes, too. Around the globe, people are getting into law to hold multinational corporations responsible for misinformation campaigns and pollution. This can make a meaningful difference in the fight against global warming, as legal sanctions can stop firms from polluting and misleading the public.   

Weather Events

Extreme weather events are becoming more intense. This is likely due to a warming world, which has caused an increase in humidity in the air. This results in more intense hurricanes and heavier downpours when a storm passes through. 

Some states are well-equipped to deal with heavy downpours. However, few areas are prepared for weather events like snowstorms, flooding, or heat waves. These perilous conditions put residents at risk and present a number of legal challenges for all involved. 

For example, drivers who get caught in a sudden extreme weather event are more likely to end up in an accident. Extreme weather is a danger to drivers as failing to adjust to snowfall or floods can result in t-bones and rear-end accidents. Those who are involved in climate-induced collisions will need the help of climate-aware lawyers who can leverage road conditions when seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages. 

Human Health 

Hurricanes and wildfires pose a serious hazard to human health. Those who are affected by climate events often experience PTSD due to their experience, too. This is entirely understandable, as climate trauma can leave folks unhoused and result in survivor’s guilt. 

Helping those who have been affected by climate change is imperative for legal experts. Folks who have lived through an extreme weather event need plenty of financial support if they are to get their lives back on track after a disaster. 

That’s why the father of a woman who died in the Maui wildfires has filed a lawsuit against landowners who allowed grasses to grow tall around the properties. If the lawsuit is successful, it may set a precedent for future cases and protect folks who live in areas that are vulnerable to wildfire. Hawaiian Electric is also being sued in an effort to raise money for victims of the wildfire that killed 97 people and caused billions of dollars of damage.

Climate Change is Tied to Poor Mental Health
Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Lawyers in this case will have to show that landowners were negligent in their upkeep of the property and surrounding grasslands which may prove tricky if there are no pre-established laws that govern the upkeep of grassland. 

As climate change hastens, we may see more lawsuits seeking damages for health conditions caused by pollution. We already know that pollutants like smoke cause respiratory conditions, aggravate asthma, and compromise people’s immune systems. Similarly, water pollution can lead to malnutrition, skin disease, and diarrhea.  

Increased awareness of pollution has led to a large lawsuit being levied against water companies in the UK. If successful, the UK public could receive millions in compensation due to raw sewage being released into the nation’s waterworks. As well as acting as a deterrent, this compensation will be used to repay consumers who have overpaid for waste mismanagement. 

Oil Lawsuits

Oil companies have been at the center of some of the world’s biggest lawsuits. The 2010 BP deepwater oil spill resulted in a payout of at least $7.8 billion for victims of the spill and penalties of $4.5 billion. The EPA also banned BP from entering new federal contracts as they were found 67 percent culpable for the spill and thus grossly negligent. 

Oil companies have been feeling the heat from the State of California for downplaying climate change. The lawsuit alleges that energy companies knew about the dangers of fossil fuels for decades and willfully misled the public in favor of higher profits. 

California is particularly well positioned to file lawsuits against oil giants, as recent climate-induced weather events have caused billions of dollars in damages and killed its residents. The companies themselves claim that climate policy should be within the purview of government, not private corporations. 

However, oil giants like Exxon may fail to keep their hands clean if prosecutors can prove that they willfully mislead the public. This may be difficult to prove without doubt, but legal experts are already compiling a strong case to show that the oil giant funded a campaign that cast doubt on human-driven climate change. 


Climate change will change the face of the law forever. We’re already seeing novel lawsuits that seek to attribute guilt due to negligence following a climate catastrophe and many multinational corporations have paid out billions in damages due to waste mismanagement and oil spills. This is good news for the public, who will need protection as the earth gets hotter and weather events become more intense. 

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