US homicide law dictates that if a person or corporation contributes to or accelerates any number of deaths, they may be held liable for anything from manslaughter to murder.
Even negligence leading to lethal risks can be punished – and, the paper argues, fossil fuel companies are at the very least culpable of this. While it acknowledges that carbon emissions from fossil fuels are not solely responsible for extreme weather events, it argues that they make these events “more frequent, more damaging and more deadly”.
Air pollution, ocean level rise, and water and food insecurity are also all set to reach catastrophic levels under current fossil fuel consumption. Studies attributing a specific number of deaths to extreme weather events could potentially be used to litigate against oil and gas companies. If charged, companies could be forced to restructure their operations or phase out fossil fuel production, rather than simply paying fines. “FFCs could be restructured… reducing the production and distribution of fossil fuels at the fastest pace feasible, but not so fast as to cause harm, while protecting displaced workers and local economies and investing in the development and deployment of clean energy,” the paper reads. Sadly history shows that these events end up getting bogged down in argument and the main winners are the rich lawyers.

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