A plaintiff¿s next task would be to show that the defendants are meaningfully responsible. The issue will be vigorously fought, Grossman predicts. Environmentalists can estimate the quantity of greenhouse gases for which, say, a large oil producer is responsible. But calculating the fraction of warming is a far more contentious task, points out climatologist Stephen H. Schneider of Stanford University, because of the inherent uncertainty and variability of climate models. Even so, Goldberg holds that U.S. courts can solve the problem of apportioning blame: ¿It may take a few cases, but ultimately the courts will figure out a formula for assigning responsibility.¿
Shifting the cost of global warming to those who are disproportionately the perpetrators, Grossman argues, could make fossil fuels more expensive and thus force corporations to pay more attention to renewable energy. Environmental groups have been frustrated by the Bush administration¿s rejection of the Kyoto treaty and what Sohn describes as its tendency to ¿deny, deflect blame and delay¿ when it comes to issues involving global warming. So don¿t be surprised if ¿See you in court¿ becomes the environmentalist¿s new rallying cry.
Madhusree Mukerjee is based in Darien, Ill.