News just in… California is suing its own governor over his Hummer… no, of course not. But California sues carmakers over global warming.

California sued six of the world’s largest automakers over global warming on Wednesday, charging that greenhouse gases from their vehicles have caused billions of dollars in damages. The lawsuit is the first of its kind to seek to hold manufacturers liable for the damages caused by their vehicles’ emissions, state Attorney General Bill Lockyer said. It also comes less than a month after California lawmakers adopted the nation’s first global warming law mandating a cut in greenhouse gas emissions. An automaker trade group called the global warming move a “nuisance suit.”

So… this seems fairly similar to a previous one, which I’ve forgotten, which got thrown out (in New York?). And anyway, why should car *makers* be responsible for the emissions? Why not the *drivers*? It isn’t as if they couldn’t chose better cars if they wanted to.

Meanwhile, in case you missed it, Royal Society tells Exxon: stop funding climate change denial. Good for them… but will they succeed?

Comments

  1. #1 Gabe
    2006/09/20

    It isn’t as if they couldn’t chose better cars if they wanted to.
    I hope there was sarcasm in that statement.

  2. #2 crandles
    2006/09/20

    I have no idea of law in the US. However….

    I suspect it is easier to sue a few with deep pockets than many.

    If the state uses vehicles and requires vehicles to be used, does the tort-festor principle prevent the state from suing because they are (similarly?) guilty of the wrongdoing that they are suing over?

    Suing over merchantable quality is different to suing in tort. If the ‘makers’ of a product are selling goods and these are being used as intended then the goods need to be of appropriate quality and avoids the tort-festor principle.

    However, the question now is why the vehicle makers and not the gas stations (=oil companies?) ?

    If the action is re CO2, I cannot see this succeeding yet. Of the increase of CO2, how much is due to emissions from those vehicles being sold by those being sued since say 1990?

    Then there is attribution of the dammage to changes in climate caused by CO2 versus other changes in climate.

    When would a balance of probabilities level be reached?

    See The blame game:

    http://www.climateprediction.net/science/pubs/Allen&Lord.pdf

  3. #3 Thomas Palm
    2006/09/22

    A few years ago those car makers sued California to protest new limits on emissions from their cars. I suspect that to some extent this is the revenge.

  4. #4 Brian S.
    2006/09/22

    The state doesn’t have to sue everyone who causes the public nuisance (it’s not a merchantability claim). Makes sense to go after a small number of important bad actors instead of millions of small bad actors, and not just political sense.

    New York sued and lost on a similar claim, IIRC. Doesn’t block California from suing – it’s a state law claim.

    I believe there’s a similar suit against power companies.

  5. #5 N. Joseph Potts
    2006/09/22

    This comment from an American NON-lawyer (occasional defendant, but torts only, no crimes). This sort of lawsuit relies on something for which the American tort system is famous: junk science. The courtroom, at least that of an American civil court, is arguably a worse environment for the development and application of science than even a blog (maligned in the Wegman report).

    Now, I will call the sort of scientific opinion reigning on this blog “mainstream climate.” The “scientific” arguments used in a case like this might or might not quite match those of “mainstream climate,” but it assuredly would arrive at very similar conclusions, since the case’s allegations rely on those conclusions.

    Mainstream climate’s conclusions may not be quite certain enough to support an award, but that will not deter plaintiff’s counsel in the least, you may be sure – they’ll add as necessary.

    Action on mainstream climate science has been urged on the basis of the “risk” that the science and its dire predictions (sea level, ecology, etc.) MIGHT be right. Whether a case like this, on the other hand, should be decided on quite the same basis as the decision to enact regulations and taxes is an interesting question.

    Prediction of the filing of cases like these was possible with much greater confidence than predictions of future temperatures and has, as we see, already been proven correct. Other behavior-based predictions, most of them adverse, have also been made, and I have great confidence in them as well. But they have not quite yet been proven.

  6. #6 Matt McIrvin
    2006/09/26

    The right thing to do, of course, would be to tax gasoline heavily, to get this at the demand end. But suing automakers is much easier politically.