google-plus2 blogger tumblr2 reddit delicious stumbleupon mail

Share this page:

DRI’s Center for Law and Public Policy Issues Its First Climate Hot Sheet

  • Published July 25, 2018
    Modified July 09, 2020

A Publication of the Climate Change Task Force of the Center for Law in Public Policy

As the Chair of the Climate Change Task Force, I am pleased to present the first edition of the Climate Change Hot Sheet. This column will provide updates on developing trends in the climate change arena of interest to DRI members and our industry partners. 


Over the last two months, climate change lawsuits pending in New York and California were dismissed.

On June 25, Judge William Alsup dismissed what many were calling the landmark climate change lawsuit. The lawsuit, pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, was filed by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, along with several other counties in California, against Chevron, BP, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobile and Royal Dutch Shell for allegedly downplaying the threat of climate change related to fossil fuel emissions. The municipalities were seeking the cost to fix the infrastructure needed to combat rising sea levels caused by climate change.

Several months ago, Judge Alsup conducted an unprecedented and rather unorthodox climate change tutorial to assist in understanding the science of climate change. Each side presented its version of climate change science. In what was a surprise to many, the oil company defendants did not deny the science of climate change, instead, they relied on the findings of the Fifth Assessment Report from the U.N. Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued in 2014.

Judge Alsup’s reasoning is crystalized in the final paragraph of the Opinion:

In sum, this Order accepts the science behind global warming. So do both sides. The dangers raised in the Complaints are very real. But those dangers are worldwide. Their causes are worldwide. The benefits of fossil fuels are worldwide. The problem deserves a solution on a more vast scale than can be supplied by a District Judge or jury in a public nuisance case. While it remains true that our Federal Courts have authority to fashion common law remedies for claims based on global warming, courts must also respect and defer to the other co-equal branches of government when the problem at hand clearly deserves a solution best addressed by those branches. The Court will stay its hand in favor of solutions by the legislative and executive branches.

A full copy of Judge Alsup’s Opinion can be found here:

On July 19, Judge John F. Keenan, for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, dismissed the City of New York’s lawsuit against the same five oil companies seeking the same relief sought in the California case. In dismissing the claims, Judge Kennan wrote, “The serious problems caused thereby are not for the judiciary to ameliorate. Global warming and solutions thereto must be addressed by the other two branches of government.”

Judge Keenan’s 23-page Opinion can be found here:

Sean W. Martin is a partner in the Chattanooga office of Carr Allison and is the current Chair of the Climate Change Task Force of DRI’s Center for Law and Public Policy. He can be reached at


About DRI – The Voice of the Defense Bar

For more than fifty-five years, DRI has been the voice of the defense bar, advocating for 20,000  defense attorneys, commercial trial attorneys, and corporate counsel and defending the integrity of the civil judiciary. A thought leader, DRI provides world-class legal education, deep expertise for policy-makers, legal resources, and networking opportunities to facilitate career and law firm growth. For more information, log on to