Could legal medical cases help slow down climate change?
It is well known that climate change is endangering health. Indeed damage to public health is one of the reasons we fear increased temperatures and extreme weather events. If these changes are brought about by human activity, that will be principally because of actions of government and corporations. But, I hear you say, that means governments and companies are killing people.
Where a company acts negligently as Union Carbide did in Bhopal, India, with the loss of thousands of lives, the company can be taken to court and forced to pay serious compensation. The effect of this is to hurt companies where it really hurts and to change their behaviour.
So if we all know that climate change is killing people,we know which companies are the biggest contributors, surely a legal case could be put together, on behalf of those who are currently suffering, against the actions of big polluters. In effect medical legal cases could be used to change behaviour of companies and governments. Or put in generational terms, we could use current generations’ suffering to protect the interests of future generations.
Fatalities which are most obviously a result of climate change include deaths from asthma, and diseases which become worse with warmer temperatures such as malaria, cholera and some diarrheic diseases. Such legal actions could have an enormous impact such as the class actions against the big tobacco companies or, in the context of road safety, against the motor manufacturers.