Exploring the viability of suing oil companies for climate-related deaths
Credit: Simon J/Pixabay

Exploring the viability of suing oil companies for climate-related deaths

A new legal perspective raises the possibility of prosecuting oil companies for various types of homicide, excluding first-degree murder, due to their contributions to climate change.

Kate Yoder reports for Grist.


In short:

  • A recent Harvard Environmental Law Review article argues that fossil fuel companies could face homicide charges for knowingly contributing to lethal pollution.
  • Legal experts and advocacy groups are discussing how traditional criminal law could adapt to address significant environmental harm caused by corporate actions.
  • The concept of "climate homicide" is gaining traction, suggesting a shift from viewing harmful corporate behavior as merely costly to outright criminal.

Key quote:

"It’s supposed to be about protecting us from dangerous actors that would harm our communities. What if we actually use this system to protect us from dangerous corporate actors that are doing incomprehensible harm?"

— Aaron Regunberg, senior policy counsel at Public Citizen

Why this matters:

This approach uses legal frameworks traditionally applied to individual offenders and adapts them to corporate entities, potentially transforming how environmental damage is addressed legally and influencing corporate behavior toward greater public accountability.

What happens if the largest owner of oil and gas wells in the US goes bankrupt?

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