Climate Change Science & Litigation

Climate Change Science & Litigation: Communities Go to Court to Recover Costs of the Climate Crisis

Date/Time: Friday, May 3, 2019, 11:30 am – 4:30 pm.
Venue: Room 325, State Capitol Building

As climate change imposes increasingly severe impacts, some communities are turning to the courts to seek redress for the enormous costs of the climate crisis. These lawsuits are part of a growing trend of climate litigation—in the United States and elsewhere around the world—seeking to hold polluters accountable for their contributions to climate change.

In the U.S., thirteen local and state public agencies and one industry trade association have sued the major fossil fuel companies, arguing that they knowingly promoted and sold dangerous products. The plaintiffs claim that the fossil fuel companies must pay their fair share of the costs to communities of recovering from current and future impacts.

Modeled on cases by public agencies over tobacco, lead paint, and MTBE contamination, these innovative climate change impact lawsuits provide a powerful tool for affected communities to recover large costs associated with recovery and adaptation measures that would otherwise be borne by taxpayers.  More info about these cases is available here.

This event featured local and mainland experts discussing the science and economics behind the impacts of the climate crisis faced by Hawaiʻi. They also explained the current wave of innovative climate impact lawsuits that can effectively shift the severe economic burden of climate change from taxpayers back to the major carbon producers who bear responsibility for the current and future impacts on our communities.

Read more about the speakers here.


Denise Antolini: Welcome and Introductions

U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono (Keynote): Time For Bold Leadership on the Climate Crisis (video). U.S. Senator Mazie Hirono joined five of her Senate colleagues in filing an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in support of the climate recovery lawsuits filed by the cities of Oakland and San Francisco. Senator Hirono is an original cosponsor of the Green New Deal, as well as the Women and Climate Change Act of 2019.

Panel One: Climate Change Impacts, Science & Economics in Hawaiʻi. This panel will discuss the local impacts and associated costs of climate change and the science that provides the basis for linking those impacts to the fossil fuel industry.

  1. Maxine Burkett: Moderator
  2. Chip Fletcher: Climate Impacts Facing Hawaiʻi (updated)
  3. Kapua Sproat: Climate Impacts on Native Hawaiian Communities
  4. Nancy Cole: Climate Science Attribution and Litigation
  5. Makena Coffman: Climate Impact Economics

Representative Nicole Lowen: Remarks on 2019 Session & Introduction of Senator Brian Schatz

U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (Keynote): Congress and Climate Action. U.S. Senator Brian Schatz is a national leader on the climate crisis. He serves on several major Senate Committees and is the Chair of Senate Democratic Special Committee on the Climate Crisis. He has introduced legislation to reduce the effects of climate change and to promote a clean energy economy. As Lieutenant Governor, Schatz led the State’s clean energy efforts including the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative.

Panel Two: Climate Impact Lawsuits: Nuts and Bolts. This panel will discuss legal strategies and the rationale for climate impact lawsuits that are being pursued across the country.

  1. David Forman: Moderator
  2. Alyssa Johl: What the Fossil Fuel Industry Knew and When They Knew It
  3. Ann Carlson: Legal Strategies and Rationale for Climate Impact Lawsuits
  4. Vic Sher: The Current Litigation Landscape
  5. Marti Townsend: Is Hawai‘i Ready for Climate Recovery Litigation?

Richard Wallsgrove: Q&A and Closing Remarks.


Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

(Note: Volume disabled 0:22 through 2:51)


Phil Goldberg Email to Denise Antolini (May 2, 2019)

Phil Goldberg NAM Blog 1 (May 3, 2019)

Phil Goldberg NAM Blog 2 (May 3, 2019)

Denise Antolini, Chip Fletcher, Alyssa Johl, Island Voices Op-Ed, Star-Advertiser (May 5, 2019)

Phil Goldberg Letter to Editor, Star-Advertiser (May 10, 2019)

On-Line Responses to Phil Goldberg Part 1 May 10, 2019 LTE

On-Line Responses to Phil Goldberg Part 2 May 10, 2019 LTE

Rick Fried Letter to Editor, Star-Advertiser (May 14, 2019)

Denise Antolini Letter to Phil Goldberg (May 21, 2019)


Truth or CO2nsequences (Sher Edling LLP)

Hiding the Truth: Facing the CO2nsequences (Sher Edling LLP)

Dungeness Crabs, Global Warming, and Accountability (Sher Edling LLP)

Brief of Amici Curiae Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Dianne Feinstein, Richard Blumenthal, Mazie K. Hirono, Edward J. Markey, and Kamala D. Harris (Mar. 20, 2019)

Fossil Fuels on Trial: Where the Major Climate Suite Lawsuits Stand Today (D. Hasemyer, Jan. 6, 2019, Inside Climate News)

Tracing Anthropogenic Carbon Dioxide and Methane Emissions to Fossil Fuel and Cement Producers, 1854-2010 (R. Heede, Nov. 22, 2013, Climatic Change)

“Drilled” Podcast – Season 1 (litigation), Season 2 (PCFFA lawsuit)

LA Times Editorial re carbon tax

The People of the State of California v. BP P.L.C. – Brief & Amicus

Opening Brief

Senators’ Amicus

National League of Cities Amicus

Law Scholars Amicus

States’ Amicus Brief

Legal Scholars Amicus

Former U.S. Govt Officials Amicus

California Association of Counties Amicus

Brulle, Center for Climate Integrity, and UCS Amicus

Scientist Amicus Brief (Kopp et al)

NRDC Amicus