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Climate Lawsuits Ahoy

The combination of science & liability may end up getting a lot of press in the Carbondämmerung era. The parallel of big tobacco and big carbon has always been compelling to me, but the Guardian reports that Oxford University physicists have developed a way to determine whether a climate disaster has a human causation.

The technique involves running two computer models to simulate the conditions that led to extreme weather events. One model includes human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases, the second assumes the industrial revolution never happened and that carbon levels in the atmosphere have not increased over the last century. Comparing the results pins down the impact of man-made global warming. "As the science has evolved this is now possible, it's just a question of computing power," he said.

This seems like a decent way of telling whether a given event is greenhouse gas related, but won't pin the carbon on the emitter. It's possible that a more detailed process could narrow down the likely sources, but I'm dubious. I expect that the carbon lawsuits are likely to go the same route as the tobacco suits: lots of noise, lots of outrage, but very few convictions.


But, of course, convictions aren't reeeally the goal of lawsuits like this, anyway. They'd be great gravy, but all the noise and outrage are really the point. After all, how many people smoke these days? (And in how many places is it legal to smoke?)


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