The global warming issue has been a point of contention in America for over a decade now. More recently, beyond the pundits and media heads debating on TV, global warming is beginning to enter the court room as well. Global warming and the effort to mitigate the negative impact of greenhouse emissions has set new precedents in several cases, while providing some insight regrinding complex legal issues that may transpire down the road. Perhaps the most significant decision to date was in 2007 when the Supreme Court decreed that the EPA would regulate greenhouse gas emissions the Clean Air Act.
During the summer of 2011, the Supreme Court decided the EPA was also in charge of enforcing the Clean Air Act in Connecticut v American Electric Power Company. Cases thereafter were more likely to go before the EPA, rather than be ruled by federal common law. This was the case in early 2013 when the U.S Supreme Court denied a claim filed by Kivalani, an Alaskan Village attempting to sue over 20 energy firms as global warming has eroded their island. The judges denied the appeal for trial, deciding that the case is for the EPA and outside U.S Supreme Court jurisdiction. A lot of hard work being done by paralegals went to waste on that one.
There are several other global warming issues that legislators are currently mulling over. Some of the issues include how the Endangered Species Act may be used to mitigate climate change, how global warming and climate change should be defined under the National Environmental Policy Act, liability issues regarding carbon capturing and how the public trust doctrine may apply to the atmosphere as well. Lawmakers also have to consider the constitutional limitations on regulating land use. State officials continue to investigate what power they have in controlling their own local greenhouse emissions.
Since global warming is a relatively new issue, that society has barely reached any consensus on, there are many issues on the horizon that have yet to be solved. Because of how the USSC decided on the CCA for EPA, questions still remain about how or if plaintiffs can file claims in court and still seek monetary damages for climate change resulting from an increase in GHG emissions. Even to this day, there is still no international law or protocol that applies to global warming.
Lawmakers speculate that water shortages from climate change are bound to eventually lead to litigation over water rights as well. There really is no limit when one starts to really think about the legal ramifications that climate change can have on the individual; rising sea levels can even effect a homeowner’s property line. Ultimately, the government needs to continually draft new legislation in order to keep pace and adapt to many of the changes global warming will bring in the future.