Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series
Edited by Geert Van Calster, Wim Vandenberghe and Leonie Reins
Chapter 27: Climate change litigation in the United States
The United States Congress has adopted no comprehensive statute on climate change, but the Supreme Court has held that the Clean Air Act of 1970 applies to greenhouse gases. Considerable administrative activity and litigation have ensued concerning the application of that law and several others to climate change. Several states and one regional grouping have also adopted GHG controls. Attempts to apply the common law doctrine of public nuisance to GHG emissions have failed, with the courts holding that any GHG standards should be set by the Environmental Protection Agency, not by the judiciary. The United States is a hotbed of climate change litigation. Indeed, more climate change-related lawsuits have been decided in the United States than in all the other countries of the world combined. There are two major kinds of litigation about climate change in the US – administrative litigation, in which the action or inaction of a government agency is challenged; and common law litigation, in which courts are asked to formulate rules about liabilities and obligations.
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