Report: Solutions to Climate Change Cannot Overlook This One Key Factor

This Mother Jones article discusses why judicial action is absolutely crucial as a means to accelerate adaptation.

In advance of the UN Climate Summit this month, the Global Commission on Adaptation, chaired by former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and former World Bank chief (now IMF chief) Kristalina Georgieva, released its first-ever report. Chock full of recommendations, the report urges increased action to accelerate adaption to climate change impacts. The Commission calls for what it termed “three revolutions for a better future”: improved understanding of climate risk, better planning, and rapid mobilization of finance.

But one thing is missing: any mention of judicial action as a means to accelerate adaptation. Courts can act as a powerful accelerant to flame the adaptation revolutions—particularly in the United States, with its robust independent court system based on precedent. Legal judgments can sharply motivate government agencies, business leaders, and professionals to rethink how they do business. A finding of criminal or civil liability can spur laggards in adaptive behavior to move more quickly. And improvements in the science of attribution—which focuses on determining how human-caused climate change alters the probability and magnitude of weather events—will add to the body of evidence supporting liability determinations. Given the law’s power to drive adaptation, climate litigation has the potential to advance the Commission’s goal of jump-starting the necessary transitions for change.

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