Climate Change? L'Addition, s'il vous plaît!

Francesca Leucci (Bologna/Rotterdam/Hamburg Universities)


The number of climate change lawsuits brought before domestic, regional and international courts is growing at an unprecedented pace. Most of them have been filed to claim monetary compensation for the damage caused by public and private actors in contributing to the global warming. Drawing on the economic theory of remedies for environmental liability, the amount of damages claimed by the plaintiffs is crucial to induce polluters to optimally invest in care and accident prevention. Yet, the calculation of climate damages has not been suffi-ciently investigated in the scholarship on climate change litigation. Therefore, the aim of this article is to shed a brighter light on damage calculation in climate lawsuits. Particularly, the existing practice of tort-law cases with claims for damages is analysed to see whether the assessment of climate damages in litiga-tion reflects the state of the art in climate economics. Based on a systematic and a more attentive investigation of selected cases across the world, an interesting variety of heads of damages for climate change and related methods of assess-ment emerged, ranging from costs of climate adaptation to costs to re-establish carbon sinks. However, none of these approaches seems to reflect the state of the art in climate economics. This leads the author of this article to observe that tort-based climate lawsuits might fail to provide polluters with optimal deterrence incentives if damages are not assessed in such a way that their magnitude is approximately the same as the magnitude of harm caused by climate change.

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