Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Down-the-line class action risks increase cost of inertia on climate and environment

Not sure whether to frame this comment as an enquiry or a proposal, but it's a thought...

Looking at a range of phenomena: 

  1. The tendency of political and corporate interests to focus on the economic costs and benefits of Environmental action/inaction
  2. The unbelievable costs sustained by BP as a consequence of litigation following their gulf oil spill disaster
  3. The intriguing mechanism used by James Morrow in his book (which I featured a couple of weeks ago) to draw attention to our present responsibility for future events
It occurs to me that at some time in the foreseeable future, the consequential damage to both individuals and social groups from CO2 - stimulated climate shifts, in the first instance, and environmentally unsustainable practices such as the deforestation of the Peruvian Amazon or the harsh exploitation via UK institutional funding of Borneo's habitats, in the second, will represents a material and measurable harm to substantial number of people (well, all of us, in effect).

It also occurs that there is therefore a quantifiable risk that corporate, or indeed governmental institutions responsible for decisions which permit the causes of these harms to occur, will be the subject of potentially vast law suits (possibly class actions) from potentially vast numbers of people whose utility will have been materially damaged.

So, it follows that, since I'm just an average Joe, at least some of the clever people who work for insurance companies, law firms, in Government and corporate social responsibility, will have already realised that at some point the s**t is going to hit the fan, and legal fingers will be pointed.

This implies that some of the institutions currently responsible for the most dramatic examples of Planet Abuse (maybe one day this will be taken as seriously as other forms of abuse) will face very big bills for the actions derived from their present decisions.

So, here is the question: is this risk (of expensive future litigation) factored in to the analysis of costs and benefits which are so popular amongst the political and corporate entities when climate/environmental indecision is 'justified'? If the answer to this is 'Yes', has anyone calculated the cost impact in real terms? If the answer is 'No', is this potentially another tool to use in the arsenal of those who wish to see action rather than words from those principally responsible for the Abuse of our Planet?

Finally, if this potential cost to Abusers is not already factored in to current analyses of envrionmental costs, isn't it about time that it was?