Climate Change Lawsuits are "Ineffective Political Stunts," Goldberg Argues

Shook Partner Phil Goldberg has authored an article for The Hill arguing against lawsuits filed by municipal governments alleging businesses caused various climate-change-related injuries. 

“Climate Change Lawsuits Are Ineffective Political Stunts” focuses on lawsuits filed by New York City and several California cities that seek to set limits on carbon dioxide emissions. Comparing the lawsuits to other attempts to use civil litigation to regulate emissions, Goldberg argues that the lawsuits should fail because legislatures are better able to examine all of the factors contributing to and affected by climate change regulations. 

"Progressives should not reflexively cheer these lawsuits," Goldberg explains. "For one thing, people on both sides of the aisle agree that these lawsuits have no foundation in the law and will not succeed. They are solely political stunts."

Goldberg reiterated his argument in a March 23, 2018, article for the Progressive Policy Institute commenting on a California court's "science day" devoted to climate change science as part of a climate change tort lawsuit. Goldberg praised the judge's dedication to understanding the science underlying the case but asserted that the responsibility to determine policy should instead fall to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

"The last time climate change tort suits were brought, one of the cases (American Electric Power v. Connecticut) went all the way up to the Supreme Court. During oral arguments, Justice Ginsburg rightfully expressed concern about setting up a federal judge, such as Judge Alsup here, to become a 'super EPA.' The Supreme Court dismissed the claims in American Electric Power, saying Congress and the EPA are 'better equipped to do the job than individual district judges issuing ad hoc, case-by-case decisions.' Thus, in the end, it does not matter whether Judge Alsup can acquire the skills and knowledge to make these policy decisions. Establishing America’s energy policy is not his job to do."