The Latest in Climate Change Attribution and the Law


The evolving field of climate change attribution science plays a critical role in shaping our understanding of how humans are affecting the global climate system, and in informing discussions about responsibility for climate change impacts.

Attribution science provides the evidence establishing that anthropogenic climate change is real, that it is here, and that scientific predictions of future change should be taken seriously. Confronted with this growing body of research, courts, policy-makers, and private actors are now grappling with critical legal questions, such as whether governments are doing enough to reduce emissions and adapt to climate risks, and whether corporations can be held liable for their contributions to the problem.

Several years ago, Sabin Center executive director Michael Burger and senior fellow Jessica Wentz teamed up with Radley Horton, a climate scientist and research professor at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, to assess the state-of-the-art in attribution science and investigate how this field is shaping discussions about legal rights and obligations pertaining to climate change. This project has culminated in a new article, “The Law and Science of Climate Change Attribution,” published by the Columbia Journal of Environmental Law. The article, weighing in at 185 law journal pages, provides a comprehensive overview of attribution research and its application in legal settings. An executive summary is available here. 

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