The Dangerous Slippery Slope of Activist-Driven Climate Lawsuits

Manitobans should be concerned climate activists are pushing climate change litigation – or climate change tort cases – at the U.S. state and local levels. We should all be prepared […]
Published on June 29, 2024

Manitobans should be concerned climate activists are pushing climate change litigation – or climate change tort cases – at the U.S. state and local levels.

We should all be prepared if this bizarre new legal trend introduced by climate change alarmists comes to Canada.

Canadians have noticed most extreme climate change-inspired ideas – like banning natural gas furnaces – originate from liberal parts of the United States and eventually find their way northwards to our provincial legislatures or city halls.

Lawyers – supported by climate change alarmist organizations – are inventing new legal theories to allow state governments to sue energy companies for alleged contributions to global climate change. Lawyers even attempt to link oil companies to specific extreme weather events.

American observers became alarmed when the Hawaii Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling in that state allowing oil companies to be sued in state courts for their alleged contribution to climate change.  U.S. Legal critics were concerned how this climate change litigation could turn state courts into regulators of global climate change. They argued this was improper given that inter-state and foreign energy policy and commerce is federally regulated.

Canadian judges will have to deal with similar federalism/jurisdictional issues if these nuisance lawsuits come to our courts. Green activists on both sides of the border are determined to handicap the energy sector through the courts and lower levels of government.

Lawyers are basing their legal theories on unjustified certitude regarding climate change.  The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – the most prominent so-called “authority” on climate science – actually presents a nuanced and cautious view of this topic. Politicians and journalists often blame specific weather patterns or events on climate change with little evidence.

Canadian author Joanne Marcotte, in her book Inconvenient Doubts: Climate Change Apocalypse: Really? reminds us that so-called experts miss three key points about IPCC reports: 1) They include varying degrees of confidence and probabilities, rarely mentioned by the media; 2) Some statements refer to specific regions but are often generalized globally; and 3) An extreme weather event becomes a disaster only if a region cannot respond effectively.

Lawyers pushing these anti-oil lawsuits are really saying courts can determine with certitude these oil companies are causing climate change or they can be blamed for specific weather events.

Activists are pushing their anti-energy agenda in the courts because they are losing the war of ideas in democratically elected legislatures. Canadian voters are rejecting these unnecessary and costly green policies because they are being economically crushed by spurious and environmentally pointless carbon taxes that unnecessarily inflate all basics including food and gasoline prices . Activists realize this and want unelected and unaware judges to become arbiters on an incredibly complex and nuanced issue like global climate change.

Drivers should be wary because once courts allow provinces to attack oil companies they may come after them.  Activists know transportation is the second biggest contributor to carbon emissions after the energy sector.

Canadian litigants raised climate change at the Supreme Court of Canada when several provincial premiers challenged the constitutionality of the carbon tax – a clever way to bypass democratic legislatures and impose their anti-energy policies on courts and lower levels of government.

Canadian consumers should be able to choose energy sources best for them.  We should not allow activists to use courts – as they have in the United States – to impoverish everybody through by imposing extreme and unscientific anti-energy climate policies through the backdoor.


Joseph Quesnel is a Senior Research Fellow with the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

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