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Strategies in and outcomes of climate change litigation in the United States


The courts have played a central role in climate policy, including the landmark Supreme Court case that led to the mandatory regulation of greenhouse gases by the United States. A wide variety of litigants have used the courts to affect policy outcomes at all scales. Therefore, to understand how the court addresses climate change is critical. Here we constructed and analysed a database of all the United State domestic climate lawsuits 1990–2016 (873), and collected qualitative data in the form of 78 in-depth interviews with litigants, involved scientists and advocates. We find proregulation litigants tend to win renewable energy and energy efficiency cases, and more frequently lose coal-fired power plant cases. Strategies such as the use of climate science and other science as well as collaboration in specific types of coalitions affect the outcomes of cases. Efforts to affect climate policy should consider these trends and outcomes.

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Correspondence to Sabrina McCormick.

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    Supplementary Tables 1–4

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