Climate Change and International Human Rights Litigation: A Critical Appraisal

24 Pages Posted: 28 Jan 2007

See all articles by Eric A. Posner

Eric A. Posner

University of Chicago - Law School

Date Written: January 2007


Litigation over the effects of climate change has taken various forms, of which litigation based on international human rights law is perhaps the most ambitious. Plaintiffs argue that major emitters of greenhouse gases have violated rights to life and health by contributing to environmental and health injuries associated with global warming. International human rights litigation in international tribunals is unlikely to have any effect, but conceivably American courts might be open to these arguments in Alien Tort Statute litigation. If so, this would be a mistake. Because the health of the global climate is a public good, because American courts have limited ability to control the behavior of corporations on foreign territory, and because optimal climate policy varies greatly across countries, it is unlikely that American courts can provide remedies that are economically sound and politically acceptable.

Keywords: environment, global warming, human rights, public good

Suggested Citation

Posner, Eric A., Climate Change and International Human Rights Litigation: A Critical Appraisal (January 2007). University of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 329, University of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 148, Available at SSRN: or

Eric A. Posner (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Law School ( email )

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