Will people be able to sue for climate change in the future?

Date:Dec 04, 2018

While slipping over in a supermarket and being injured as a result of a faulty product are two of the most common themes of public liability cases, it seems legal officials are hoping to enforce new personal injury rules surrounding a more surprising area: climate change.

Climate change impacts in Australia

The topic of climate change is one that features heavily in the media around the world, and in Australia it's no difference. As a result of the excess burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and farming, the country has received the highest temperatures on land and at sea for the past 10 years. Such changes have knock on effects to a range of categories, including human injury. For example, hotter and drier conditions increase the danger of bushfire and heat waves which means humans are at a greater risk of harm.

However, experts believe that victims of climate change may soon be able to sue for the injuries and impacts sustained from disasters such as floods and unseasonable bushfire.

Is suing the best form of defence?

Governments have a duty of care to protect the community, and experts believe this extends as far as protecting against the dangers of global warming. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald, Martijn Wilder, lawyer and author featured in a special issue of The Australian Law Journal devoted to climate change and the law, predicts people will soon be able to sue for the impacts of climate change and have a strong chance of success. 

"No doubt it's going to happen - it's inevitable," he says.

This comes off the back of the ACT joining a growing global effort to press for urgent action to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Officials think that suing the fossil fuel companies is a great way to enforce a reduction in emissions and protect the community from climate change impacts. 

Thankfully, this thought process continues around the world. The UK's Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics estimates that as many as 1,000 climate court cases have been tried or are under way.

They hope that such implementations will encourage larger companies in the energy sector to make health reports public so everyone is aware of the risks attached with their products/services. 

While suing for climate change is on the cusp of possibility in NSW, people affected by other forms of public liability incidents can still make a claim for compensation. If you'd like to find out more, get in touch with the team at Gerard Malouf & Partners today.

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