Environmentalists have issued hundreds more lawsuits in the United States than in any other country in the world, according to a study published Thursday.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Lawidentified more than 650 U.S. lawsuits— or three times more than the rest of the world combined. Many of the lawsuits target governments for not holding steady on existing climate-related legal commitments.
They also found that around 177 countries recognize that citizens have the right to a clean and healthy environment. Courts and judicial systems around the world, the study adds, are being asked to define how these rights effect climate change.
Michael Burger, the executive director of the Sabin Center, told reporters that the wave of lawsuits against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), among other agencies, is one of the reasons why cases have increased worldwide.
“Similar litigation all over the world will continue to push governments and corporations to address the most pressing environmental challenge of our times,” said Burger, whose group conducted research jointly with the United Nations Environment Program.
Conservatives have railed against the EPA’s “sue and settle” technique, which allows environmental groups to negotiate with regulators behind closed doors. The tactic could come screeching to an end shortly as President Donald Trump’s head to lead the agency has promised to end the litigation.
EPA administrator Scott Pruitt criticized one of his predecessors for allowing environmental groups to browbeat the agency into enacting a wave of climate policies. “We avoid litigation, we avoid the uncertainty of litigation,” Pruitt told reporters earlier this year.
Pruitt sued former President Barack Obama’s EPA at least 14 times as attorney general of Oklahoma, largely on the grounds agency regulations impinged on states’ rights and violated federal laws.
Columbia University’s research also predicts that so-called climate refugees will join in the litigation frenzy, as climate change affects their home countries. The study notes that more litigation will originate in developing countries, where researchers believe that global warming will affect people the most.
So-called climate refugees will file more human rights lawsuits, the study adds. Their litigation comes as result of climate-driven migration and resettlement because of disaster recovery.
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