“You don’t have to be a lawyer to know that going to court costs money, and lawsuits can end in awards of serious amounts of cash. Well, the same thing holds for climate cases. These cases are pulling in activists young and old, farmers, scientists, fossil fuel firms and even litigation investors looking to make a profit from climate damages. We wanted to follow the money behind the lawsuits and understand the effect that is having.” —Jack Graham, Climate & Nature correspondent, Context
The planet is overheating. I’m sure you didn’t need me to tell you that. The problem is governments and companies aren’t acting as quickly as scientists say they must. Frustrated by this, environmental activists are trying a new way to force them: through the law.
Climate lawsuits have more than doubled in less than a decade. And there’s a lot at stake. Some of these legal decisions could have a major impact on climate policies and could even see hundreds of millions of dollars change hands.
At Context—the media platform brought to you by the Thomson Reuters Foundation—we’re trying to understand what all this means for the climate crisis. We’ve collected some of the most interesting articles, videos, podcasts and more to help you make sense of it, too. —Jack Graham, Climate & Nature correspondent, Context
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JG: “One of the most fascinating developments is that citizens themselves are taking countries to court. They’re arguing that their human rights are being violated because of the challenges that climate change is causing for things like their health and food supplies. My colleagues in India and Indonesia tell us more.”
JG: “You may have heard of ‘loss and damage’. It refers to how poorer nations are bearing the brunt of climate impacts like storms and rising sea levels. The tiny island of Vanuatu is demanding that rich nations cover the rising costs, so they’ve got U.N. support to take the debate to the world’s highest court. This mini doc by our Context video team does a brilliant job of explaining it.”
JG: “In our reporting at Context, we want to understand exactly what climate change means for people on the ground. My colleague went to Turkey to report on communities where their lakes are drying up, partly due to climate shifts. Fishermen understandably aren’t happy and blame government policies. And—you guessed it—they’re fighting for changes through pioneering lawsuits.”
JG: “Most lawsuits related to climate have been brought in the United States, but few have resulted in as much attention as this big fight in Montana. Young people took on the state and its support for the coal industry. This episode from one of my favourite podcasts is well worth a listen.”
JG: “Six bold young people in Portugal have decided to take on 32 governments, suing them over the climate crisis at the European Court of Human Rights. In this animated video on X (formerly Twitter), they lay out their case to the public. I can’t remember what I was up to at their age, but it certainly wasn’t taking a continent to court.”
JG: “In recent years, various investigations have laid out just how much oil and gas giants knew about climate change in private—yet acted differently in public. California is arguing in court that firms deceived the public and should help to pay for the state’s future damages because of the climate crisis. This story from the NYT is a helpful analysis about the case and why it’s happening now.”
JG: “Thankfully for journalists like me, there are much smarter people at places like Columbia University who can give us the lowdown about what’s going on with climate change lawsuits. The university’s Sabin Center has lots of valuable resources, and this digestible podcast would be a great accompaniment to your morning commute or dog walk.”
JG: “As we’ve been reporting on climate lawsuits, one character who’s become central is Saúl Luciano Lliuya. A Peruvian farmer and mountain guide, he’s taking on a German company which is one of Europe’s largest polluters. Why? Well, this video from Al Jazeera takes you around the world to explain, from the heights of the Andes to Oxford University.”
Jack Graham is a London-based journalist with Context, a news platform powered by the Thomson Reuters Foundation. He covers climate change and nature, from the global biodiversity crisis to the energy transition and its impact on jobs. Previously a freelance correspondent in Toronto, Jack’s reporting has also appeared in the New York Times, the Economist and Toronto Star. You can follow his work at @jacktgraham.