Health arguments bolster climate litigation

Litigation is a key component of movements for social and political change. Climate change activists have begun to ramp up their use of the courts, most notably Juliana v. U.S., a.k.a. the youth climate lawsuit. A study of climate change litigation shows that an effective strategy is for plaintiffs to raise public health implications.

The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, looked at 139 US local, state, and federal court decisions relating to climate change and coal-fired power plants in which litigants raised the health impacts of climate change. The study found that health impacts have helped litigants gain standing and argue that the evidence for government actions is insufficient.

The consequences of climate change can be overwhelming and hard to grasp. Demonstrating the dangers of climate change in the quantifiable, picturable and relatable terms of public health helps, in court and in general.