A new study finds companies bracing for costly liability lawsuits for contributing to global warming
Carbon monoxide has proven one costly little emission for tobacco companies, as they've had to fork over billions of dollars in liability lawsuits over bodily harm caused by wares. The paint industry also has felt the pain of being held legally liable for the harmful effects of the lead in its products.
Well, now companies, including those in the tech industry, had best beware: Carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are increasingly being linked to global warming. As noted in the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, climate change, in turn, is being more conclusively linked to health problems, such as respiratory and coronary disease and heat stress, as well as adverse weather conditions, windstorms, droughts, heat waves, and increased lightning, which can affect an organization's business, either directly or by knocking out a utility or a supplier's operations.
According to a study titled "Limiting Liability in the Greenhouse," the growing awareness of global warming's effects and the threats they pose are a recipe for a new rash of lawsuits against companies that don't take steps to reduce CO2 emissions.
Crazy? Bloody unlikely? The tobacco industry probably felt the same way once upon a time. Some utility companies have already been slapped with lawsuits for contributing to global warming. The recent Supreme Court ruling that GHGs are pollutants that the EPA has the power to regulate just opens the door even wider.
One of the key points made up front in the report is that the authors aren't advocating liability lawsuits as a positive catalyst for positive change. Rather, "litigation reflects a market failure that can be avoided, at least in part, by adequate regulation, proactive reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, and adaptive strategies to prevent damages from climate change."