Tort law presents doctrinal barriers to plaintiffs seeking remedies for climate change harms in common law jurisdictions. However, litigants are likely to persist in pursuing tortious causes of action in the absence of persuasive policy and regulatory alternatives. Ongoing litigation in Smith v Fonterra Co-operative Group Ltd in New Zealand and Sharma v Minister for Environment in Australia highlights tensions between torts doctrine and climate change litigation in both countries. Regardless of its ultimate outcome, that litigation provides a valuable opportunity to integrate theoretical questions about the legitimacy of judicial lawmaking, and intersectional critical legal perspectives, into the teaching of torts.
Wendy Bonython, Tort Law and Climate Change, University of Queensland Law Journal forthcoming, published 10 November 2021.