Hurricane Harvey was a disaster for almost everyone it touched. Yet, showing that no disaster is without profit to someone, lawyers are already thinking of ways to blame damage from the storm on governments, architects, builders and others. As Reuters reports in a recent story by Sebastien Malo, those lawyers are trying to show that certain targets, all with presumably deep pockets, should be legally responsible for the damages and injuries millions suffered in the storm. To do so they must, of course, show that the negligence or fault of one or more of those targets caused the injuries and damages they’re complaining about.
Although the federal Environmental Protection Agency, among others, rejects the notion that climate change was responsible for Hurricane Harvey, many lawyers and the experts they rely on are undeterred. On the contrary, there’s a growing group of scientists who are busy creating a new “science of event attribution” which will supposedly enable investigators to calculate the proportion of any extreme weather event, such as a hurricane, that’s attributable to man-made climate change.
“World Weather Attribution” (“WWA”) is apparently comprised of both “researchers” and a “journalism organization Climate Central”. WWA recently claimed it had established that recent torrential rains which flooded Louisiana had been made twice as likely due to man-made climate change.
Some lawyers apparently hope that with the use of such calculations, they will be able to make damage claims in court against the government agencies, businesses and others for what WWA calculates is their proportionate contribution to each extreme weather-related injury.
Without mentioning questions concerning the scientific validity of an attribution process relying on any journalism organization, it is absurd to second guess the policy decisions of governments for any reason solely in light of what are extreme, i.e., highly unusual and improbable, events. Yet negligence is defined as the failure to pay attention only to reasonably foreseeable risks of loss.