From Smokes to Smokestacks: Lessons from Tobacco for the Future of Climate Change Liability
Georgetown Environmental Law Review, 2017
41 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2017 Last revised: 24 Feb 2018
Date Written: April 24, 2017
In this article, we imagine a future Canada (circa 2030) wherein the world has managed to avoid the worst climate change but nevertheless has begun to experience considerable warming. Governments of all levels, but especially provincial ones, are incurring unprecedented costs to mitigate the effects of climate change and to adapt to new and uncertain climatic regimes. We then consider how legislatures might respond to these challenges. In our view, the answer may lie in the unprecedented story of tobacco liability, and especially the promulgation in the late 1990s of provincial legislation specifically designed to enable provinces to recover the public healthcare costs of tobacco-related disease. Although comparisons between the tobacco industry and the fossil-fuel industry are increasingly common, this article is the first to consider the legally-relevant differences and similarities between these two contexts in detail. It also sets out the main elements of a potential Climate Change Damages and Adaptation Costs Recovery Act. As will be seen, the design of such legislation engages several complex legal issues, implicating not only tort doctrine but also questions of legislative competence and private international law. Nevertheless, our initial assessment is that such legislation is both likely and feasible. Our analysis focuses primarily on Canadian law but should also be relevant to other jurisdictions that are increasingly grappling with the costs of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Keywords: climate change, litigation, liability, legislation, tobacco, environmental law, tort law
JEL Classification: K13, K32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation