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‘Climate Homicide’: New paper in Harvard Env. Law Review calls for ‘prosecuting’ big U.S. oil firms for ‘climate deaths’

UK Guardian: Authors of paper accepted for publication in Harvard Environmental Law Review argue firms are ‘killing members of the public at an accelerating rate’

Oil companies have come under increasing legal scrutiny and face allegations of defrauding investorsracketeering, and a wave of other lawsuits. But a new paper argues there’s another way to hold big oil accountable for climate damage: trying companies for homicide.

The striking and seemingly radical legal theory is laid out in a paper accepted for publication in the Harvard Environmental Law Review. In it, the authors argue fossil fuel companies “have not simply been lying to the public, they have been killing members of the public at an accelerating rate, and prosecutors should bring that crime to the public’s attention”. … The paper also argues that the case for climate homicide has been bolstered by attribution science, which seeks to ascertain how much the climate crisis has worsened individual extreme weather events. Some studies have even been able to attribute a specific number of extreme weather deaths to the climate crisis. The duo argue that this growing body of science is among the most powerful tools to prove that oil companies’ actions have more than met the standard for a prosecutor to bring a homicide case. Bringing homicide charges against oil companies for deaths caused by the climate crisis would be unprecedented, but corporations have been tried for homicide before. California prosecutors charged the utility PG&E with manslaughter for its role in the deadly Camp Fire that leveled the town of Paradise in 2018. And federal prosecutors charged BP with manslaughter following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. In both cases, the companies pleaded guilty and paid billions in fines and penalties.


Climate Homicide: Prosecuting Big Oil For Climate Deaths – Harvard Environmental Law Review, Vol. 48, No. 1, 2024

70 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2023 Last revised: 24 Mar 2023

More on co-authors of paper David Arkush here and here.


‘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 – 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.