Climate Change Litigation and the Insurance Industry

Well now, we talked recently about how plaintiffs’ lawyers chasing fiduciaries appear likely to help drive changes in how fiduciaries of pension and defined contribution plans operate. Are we going to see the same with alternative energy companies and how businesses operate with regard to climate change issues? I have talked before about how climate change, in my view, will be successfully addressed if profits and losses - and those include liability exposures - drive companies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and otherwise reduce their impact on the environment; as I wrote previously, the problems can be addressed if we create a business environment in which the winners are those who target these problems, and the losers are those who do not.

This article here, from the Dallas Morning News, and this blog post on it from the WSJ Law Blog point out that the lawyers are lining up to both sue and defend companies over climate change liabilities and exposures. Liability exposures are the kinds of costs of doing business that companies can be expected to want to avoid, and thus the rise of this area of the bar may well be a harbinger - much like the proverbial canary in a coal mine - of a further impetus on the part of the manufacturing and energy industries to reduce their contribution to global warming. Beyond that, the story told in that article and blog post emphasize a point I made in my earlier post on alternative energy issues and the insurance industry - that this is a liability issue, and as such, is by definition a serious threat and risk to the insurance industry, one that it needs to anticipate and account for in advance, rather than be gobsmacked after the fact like it was by long tail environmental and asbestos exposures.