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Causality and the fate of climate litigation: The Role of the social Superstructure Narrative

Otto, Friederike EL; Minnerop, Petra; Raju, Emmanuel; Harrington, Luke J; Stuart-Smith, Rupert F; Boyd, Emily; James, Rachel; Jones, Richard; Lauta, Kristian C

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Friederike EL Otto

Emmanuel Raju

Luke J Harrington

Rupert F Stuart-Smith

Emily Boyd

Rachel James

Richard Jones

Kristian C Lauta


Climate litigation has become a strategic tool to push for climate justice, including compensation for losses caused by climate change. Many cases rely on the establishment of a causal relationship between the defendants’ emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) and the plaintiffs' losses. All decided cases seeking compensation for a concrete climate related impact have been unsuccessful (thus far). Legal scholars as well as social and natural scientists have looked at individual cases and evidence of these unsuccessful claims, aiming to identify legal and scientific hurdles. Based on previous research where we analysed specific cases, we step back from a case-specific analysis in this article and identify the social context in which law and science operate and intersect. We assert that without a general understanding of the urgency of climate change and the scientifically proven fact that climate change impacts the present, and that it is possible to attribute individual losses to human caused climate change, the fate and future of climate litigation focusing on losses and damages will continue to encounter major obstacles in courts. This is despite the increasingly sophisticated strategies of litigants; the positive outcome of some strategic litigation and improvements in the field of climate science, all of which would be expected to sway for a successful future of the fight against climate change.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 23, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 27, 2022
Publication Date 2022-11
Deposit Date Jul 5, 2022
Publicly Available Date Feb 7, 2023
Journal Global Policy
Print ISSN 1758-5880
Electronic ISSN 1758-5899
Publisher Durham University
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 13
Issue 5
Pages 736-750
Public URL


Published Journal Article (641 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2022 The Authors. Global Policy published by Durham University and John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.

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