Courting Disaster: Climate Change and the Adjudication of Catastrophe

70 Pages Posted: 10 May 2017

See all articles by R. Henry Weaver

R. Henry Weaver

Yale Law School

Douglas A. Kysar

Yale University - Law School

Date Written: May 8, 2017


Do we court disaster by stretching the bounds of judicial authority to address problems of massive scale and complexity? Or does disaster lie in refusing to engage the jurisgenerative potential of courts in a domain of such vast significance? This Article examines global climate change adjudication to shed light on these questions, focusing particularly on cases that seek to invoke the norm articulation and enforcement functions of courts. The attempt to configure climate-related harms within such substantive frameworks as tort and constitutional law is fraught with analytical and practical difficulties. Yet the exercise, we argue, is essential. Against the backdrop of a potentially existential threat, judges redeem the very possibility of law when they forthrightly confront the merits of climate lawsuits. Conversely, when they use weak preliminary and procedural maneuvers to avoid such confrontation, judges reinforce a sense of law’s disappearance into the maw of normative rupture.

Keywords: Climate Change; Torts; Courts; Disaster; Catastrophe

Suggested Citation

Weaver, Robert and Kysar, Douglas A., Courting Disaster: Climate Change and the Adjudication of Catastrophe (May 8, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Robert Weaver

Yale Law School ( email )

127 Wall Street
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

Douglas A. Kysar (Contact Author)

Yale University - Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 208215
New Haven, CT 06520-8215
United States

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