With courts seeming to trend towards raising the bar for plaintiffs seeking their day in court, a recent decision by the historically conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stands out. Hurricane Katrina victims suing an oil company and other alleged polluters were validated today, as a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit determined that they have standing to sue those who have contributed to climate change.
In its opinion, the Fifth Circuit wrote that it "accepted as plausible the link between man-made greenhouse gas emissions and global warming." The court relied on the landmark Second Circuit opinion in Connecticut v. AEP reinstating federal public nuisance claims of several states against a number of carbon dioxide emitters.
The defense argued that issues involving climate change's impact are best left "wholly and indivisibly" to the political branches. The court replied, "The defendants have failed to show how any of the issues inherent in the plaintiffs' nuisance, trespass, and negligence claims have been committed by the Constitution or federal laws 'wholly and indivisibly' to a federal political branch."