This Comment examines the use of state common law tort claims to address climate change. The aim of this work is not to provide an in-depth examination of these issues, but rather to provide a contextualized and comprehensive overview of some of the most important issues in this field using modern cases actively being litigated. This Comment comes to the conclusion that the future of common law nuisance and trespass claims in the context of climate change is, for now, unclear. Given the national and global implications of climate change, courts may find that isolated states cannot set binding precedents and abate climate change alone. Yet this outcome is hardly assured, and would be a mistake, because state common law claims may potentially help states prepare for climate change in useful ways.
This Comment is divided into four Parts. Part I seeks to explain nuisance and trespass tort claims more generally before explaining their use in the context of air pollution. Part II discusses how the courts have treated state common law pollution tort claims in light of the federal environmental regulatory scheme. Part III discusses how court cases featuring common law claims against fossil fuel producers in the last few years have made their way through the courts and the current status and outcomes of these efforts. Finally, Part IV seeks to collect the lessons gleaned from the preceding Parts to discuss the utility of these actions, their downsides, their benefits, and their potential futures.
Climate Change and Modern State Common Law Nuisance and Trespass Tort Claims,
U. Colo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/lawreview/vol94/iss3/6