Between 1900 and 2005, sea level along the extensive California coast rose seven inches (17.8 centimeters), and sea level rise there is still accelerating. Indeed, as the U.S. Global Change Research Program reported in 2014, the California coast faces a multitude of economic and ecological challenges as a result of climate change.Small wonder, then, that the State of California and several California communities—especially those in the San Francisco Bay area—have brought a series of lawsuits against some of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, seeking both to slow the pace of climate change and to secure financial judgments that compensate for ongoing damages and help to finance adaptation measures. This short article summarizes what has been happening in the California municipalities three consolidated sea level rise-based climate change lawsuits. It concludes that, at the moment, judges in California disagree over whether these lawsuits are based on state tort law or federal common law, whether the lawsuits should be in state or federal court, and whether the lawsuits can proceed. To add to the fun, the SEC may become involved, raising questions about the plaintiffs' and defendants' relative climate change moral culpability.
Craig, Robin Kundis, "California Climate Change Lawsuits: Can the Courts Help with Sea-Level Rise, and Who Knew What When?" (2018). Utah Law Faculty Scholarship. 120.