Close this search box.

‘Climate homicide’: Could Big Oil be sued for disaster deaths? ‘Prosecuting Big Oil for Climate Death’ urges new paper in the Harvard Environmental Law Review


CLIMATEWIRE | Oil majors are facing civil lawsuits in courts from Hoboken to Honolulu that could cost the industry hundreds of billions of dollars for its role in producing planet-warming emissions.

But can petroleum producers be held criminally responsible for climate-related deaths that occurred after companies allegedly deceived the public about the dangers of burning fossil fuels? A new academic paper says they can, and authors of the research say the novel legal theory — known as “climate homicide” — is already stirring interest from prosecutors.

“We have some indication they’re at least listening and curious,” said David Arkush, director of Public Citizen’s climate program and a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute. “To someone who knows the criminal law, there’s a moment of ‘What!?’ and then, ‘It’s OK. It’s not crazy.’“

The paper, “Climate Homicide: Prosecuting Big Oil for Climate Death” — written by Arkush and Donald Braman, an associate professor at George Washington University Law School — will be published next spring in the Harvard Environmental Law Review.

“We concluded there aren’t really any legal or factual barriers to prosecution,” Arkush said.

He added: “The real potential barriers are political, cultural. Does this strike people as just too out there? Do the fossil fuel companies have too much power, culturally, politically, economically? Those are the real barriers.”

The paper tries to make a case for criminal prosecution of companies that knew but publicly dismissed the dangers of global warming. The authors argue that criminal charges are routine “for far less culpable and lethal conduct.”

They cite, for example, a Florida man who was convicted of felony murder after a security guard who tried to stop him from shoplifting died of a heart attack.

homicide charge against the oil industry, Braman said, “is a way for prosecutors who have been prosecuting low-level drug offenses for decades to better align their practice with their values.”

“Go after the folks who are really generating significant harm, rather than the folks who are simply the least powerful, least capable of defending themselves with high-priced attorneys,” Braman added.


Tony Heller of Real Climate Science Debunks:

Death rates from natural disasters including “all geophysical, meteorological and climate events” are down 95% over the past century, and academics want to sue oil companies for deaths caused by meteorological events.

POLITICO Pro | Article | ‘Climate homicide’: Could Big Oil be sued for disaster deaths?

Natural Disasters Data Explorer – Our World in Data

Fossil fuels keep billions of people alive day to day around the world. They provide our heat, light, communications and transportation. They make it possible for trucks to bring food. People who want to ban fossil fuels are advocating genocide.

On March 23, 1913 “scores” of towns were wiped out by tornadoes in six states. Omaha was largely destroyed.

24 Mar 1913, Page 13 – Arizona Republic at

23 Mar 1913, Page 9 – The Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times at

24 Mar 1913, 1 – Evening Times-Republican at

25 Mar 1913, Page 5 – Reading Times at