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Climate change and law

In the last days of 2005, leading thinkers and scholars from around the world share their fears, hopes and expectations of 2006. As Isabel Hilton asks: What does 2006 have in store? (Part one)
Caspar Henderson
22 December 2005

openDemocracy's invitation to make a prediction for 2006 came to me shortly after I read Louis Menand's report on expert political judgment by the psychologist Philip Tetlock. This shows pretty convincingly that human beings who spend their lives studying the state of the world are worse forecasters than monkeys throwing darts at a board that depicts a range of possible future outcomes.

So in my attempt to look like a wise monkey, I will go for something that looks as if it has some mathematical likelihood. Currently, there are about ten cases against major corporations and other entities for their role in causing damaging climate change (see Climate Law). With the scientific basis for attributing liability becoming increasingly robust, and what with there being so many cases in process, my prediction is that at least one judgement will find in favour of the plaintiff during 2006.

A polluter being found liable and being penalised for emissions of greenhouse gases could do more to stir up the political debate surrounding climate change than almost anything else to date (which is not hard, given that the recent talks in Montreal "will not open any negotiations leading to new commitments").

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