As the political fray over climate change heats up, public health science has an increasingly important role to play as disputes end up in court.
Although public health was a primary argument in the 2007 landmark Massachusetts vs. EPA case that led to the regulation of greenhouse gases, it has so far been underutilized by pro-environment plaintiffs, said Sabrina McCormick in a talk for the Climate Change and Health Initiative (CCHI) on March 3 at the Yale School of Public Health.
In an ongoing study of climate change litigation, McCormick and colleagues catalogued 581 cases filed since 1990. The majority targeted coal-fired power plants, followed by other air-quality and biodiversity issues. Biodiversity suits, such as threats to endangered species, have the highest rate of success, possibly because it is easier to frame the science with a compelling story about animals and extinction, said McCormick.