Research Priorities for Climate Litigation
By Jessica Wentz, Delta Merner, Benjamin Franta, Alessandra Lehmen & Peter C. Frumhoff
This article characterizes key research gaps and opportunities for scientists across disciplines to do work that informs the rapidly growing number of climate lawsuits worldwide. It focuses on research that can be used to inform legal decisions about responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions and climate damages. Relevant lawsuits include claims filed against government and corporate defendants alleging that they have violated environmental, human rights, constitutional, tort, and consumer protection laws due to their contributions to climate change and failures to control emissions. Constructive attention has recently been given to the important role of attribution science in informing some of these cases (Burger et al., 2020, https://doi.org/10.7916/cjel.v45i1.4730; Stuart-Smith et al., 2021, https://doi.org/10.1038/s41561-021-00686-4). Here, we draw upon both the published literature and conversations with diverse legal scholars and practitioners to characterize what further climate litigation-relevant research is most needed. In addition to key gaps in litigation-relevant attribution science, we identify and characterize the need and opportunity for further social science research to address the causes of climate inaction, and for further cross-disciplinary research to inform emerging legal questions on the allocation of responsibility for emissions reductions to align with temperature limits such as those set by the Paris Climate Agreement. Our primary goal is to identify areas for researchers who are interested in contributing to climate litigation and discussions about legal responsibility for climate change. We also seek to help the research community see this as a legitimate and important domain for timely, actionable scientific research.