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

Nature Climate Changevolume 8pages829833 (2018) | Download Citation

Abstract

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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Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Environmental and Occupational Health, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA

    • Sabrina McCormick
  2. The George Washington University Law School, Washington, DC, USA

    • Robert L. Glicksman
  3. Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Milken Institute School of Public Health, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA

    • Samuel J. Simmens
  4. The George Washington University Law School, Washington, DC, USA

    • LeRoy Paddock
  5. Trachtenberg School of Public Policy & Public Administration, The George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA

    • Daniel Kim
  6. New York University School of Law, Washington, DC, USA

    • Brittany Whited

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Sabrina McCormick.

Supplementary Information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Tables 1–4

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DOI

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-018-0240-8