A libertarian response to global warming

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Part 1. Compensation.

If a person believes that he has been harmed by global warming, he should (and does) have the right to seek compensation for the damages in court. The United states have been operating civil courts for hundreds of years now, and they have a proven track record of being able to deal with complex issues, bizarre types of compensation, and litigants of all sizes, from the poor individual to the wealthy corporation.

After all, fossil fuels are not currently sold with a warning label: “Danger! Use of this product may cause coastal flooding.” Global warming is an unintended side effect of the use of fossil fuels for transportation, energy, etc, , and it is incumbent on the manufacturer of these products to pay for the damages caused. In a legal sense, carbon dioxide should be no different to thalidomide, or asbestos.

There should, however be some rules regarding these compensation claims.

a. Claims should be payable by all global fossil fuel producers, in proportion to their emissions.
b. A uniform standard should be applied to what constitutes a warming-induced event, as opposed to a natural event (e.g. greater than 3 sigma variance from the pre-industrial mean).

c. Punitive damages should be limited to cases where specific emitters have been deceptive, contemptuous, or otherwise acting in bad faith. After all, if individual judges start laying down arbitrary penalties, then the market will have a very difficult time quantifying what level of compensation it can reasonably expect to pay.

d. Since the deleterious effects of global warming will not be limited to the United States, foreign citizens should be given blanket approval to sue in our courts. Why? Because our courts are the best around, and more importantly, they are the only ones which we have any right to grant access to.

Trials should be standard jury trials, as there is no need to create a new governmental system to deal with this problem, and because this system has been proven to be fairer and more resistant to corruption that other types of tribunals.

The issue of foreign emitters who do not pay their compensation claims will be discussed in the diplomacy section.

Obviously, any compensation claims paid will be a cost of business, and will eventually be passed on to the consumer. If a company shows signs of being unable to pay these costs, then the government would be allowed to require fossil fuel producers to carry global warming insurance, which they could buy from private companies at market rates.

At any rate, the bottom line is this: Companies that produce fossil fuels should be responsible for the effects of the CO2 released by burning those fuels, from the time they enter the atmosphere to the time they are sequestered, or removed by natural causes.


At 5:18 PM, Blogger Ann Wood said...

An employee can file a work accident claims if and only if the injury sustained was caused by someone else's negligence or the failure of the employer to provide a healthy and safe workplace.


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