How renewables can help protect energy companies from climate change lawsuits

How renewables can help protect energy companies from climate change lawsuits
Solar and other renewables, which Joshua Pearce studies, could be the solution to potential climate-related liability problems for energy companies.

Climate change lawsuits are becoming more and more likely, but adopting renewable energy could help mitigate that. A new study from Michigan Tech researchers reviewed how climate-related liability for energy companies is calculated and how it could be prevented. The results will be published in Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of electrical engineering and materials science at Michigan Tech, led the research.

"Historically, the lack of knowledge of potential liabilities from has kept from including it in decision making," Pearce says. "A review of the recent literature shows such a short-sighted approach is no longer tenable."

Climate Litigation

Pearce and his co-author Negin Heidari, a graduated master's student of Pearce's, reviewed the seven published methods of assigning for emitters. They identified the top ten emitters in the US, and explored potential liabilities, looking in-depth at a single case-study company. They then compared the results of the fractional liability from only natural disasters within the US for a single year to a sensitivity to the future costs of carbon emissions from other sources of emission-related liability.

If carbon emission lawsuits become prevalent, the potential liability is an important criterion for investors. "We were shocked to find that common shareholders of the case study company would see a reduction in their profits of 18 percent compared to emissions liability related to only natural disasters in the US from a single coal-fired power plant," Pearce says.

That profit reduction could be greatly magnified with climate change's global impacts, stemming from eroding shorelines, rising seas and other hazards. Pearce points out that the poor in developing countries are most at risk, but "realistically, it is going to be the rich who are able to fund protracted climate-related lawsuits."

The study focused on emitters in the US, but the impacts of climate liability could be felt globally. In fact, Pearce and Heidari found that organized international litigants already exist. For example, the results show that potential liability for climate change for the Alliance of Small Island States, whose members have already threatened lawsuits, could be over $570 trillion if they are forced to abandon their entire countries to rising sea levels and storm surges.

Renewable Energy

The potential litigation provides incentive for putting more in place. Solar, wind, wave energy and other renewables could mitigate the flood of lawsuits, helping energy companies prevent considerable losses.

Energy companies can radically reduce their climate change-related liability by transitioning to lower cost technologies such as solar photovoltaics, like the ones above at Michigan Tech's Keweenaw Research Center. Because of steep cost declines recently, solar panels often produce less expensive electricity than traditional fossil fuels plants. Renewable energy makes for a sunnier option than years spent in court mitigating climate change liability.


Explore further

Africa launches massive renewable energy initiative

More information: A Review of Greenhouse Gas Emission Liabilities as the Value of Renewable Energy for Mitigating Lawsuits for Climate Change Related Damages. www.academia.edu/19418589/A_Re … ange_Related_Damages
Citation: How renewables can help protect energy companies from climate change lawsuits (2015, December 8) retrieved 19 June 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2015-12-renewables-energy-companies-climate-lawsuits.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
13 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Dec 08, 2015
Pearce points out that the poor in developing countries are most at risk, but "realistically, it is going to be the rich who are able to fund protracted climate-related lawsuits."

Seems like that's where some of Mark Zuckerberg's, Bill Gates' et al. philantropic money should go. For a relatively modest investment in such a lawsuit they could reap huge payouts which they could then distribute to those poor affected most.

Wouldn't it be the height of irony if it were the legal system that brings about justice for the poor?

Dec 08, 2015
Irony and Justice.

The new names for Exxon and BP.

Dec 08, 2015
climate-related lawsuits
green tyranny

Dec 08, 2015
The real tyranny is when Big Power decides to put the cost and liability of nukes on their customers. Look at Vogtle, and what it will cost for power there. Thirteen cents/kWh is not a good price, when wind and PV are around four cents. And to pay off the immense cost of the plants, whey want to burden their customers for that high-cost power for over 40 years!!

Hinckley is another. Look them up.

Dec 08, 2015
climate-related lawsuits


green tyranny


So in your opinion the law should NOT be there in order to make people pay for the damage they cause? What exactly should the law be there for? Or should it only be there for the rich to use aginst the poor? As a protectionist mechanism?

Enlighten us as to how you see the role of the law.

Just putting out some inflammatrory rethoric ain't enough. Not by a long shot.

Dec 08, 2015
make people pay for the damage they cause
people breathe out carbon dioxide in the respiration process, then "make people pay for the damage they cause"

Dec 08, 2015
"Seems like that's where some of Mark Zuckerberg's, Bill Gates' et al. philantropic money should go. For a relatively modest investment in such a lawsuit they could reap huge payouts which they could then distribute to those poor affected most.

Wouldn't it be the height of irony if it were the legal system that brings about justice for the poor?"

Good plan Anti, cripple the economies of the western world with frivolous lawsuits and watch the poor get poorer. Yea it is always fun to blame the greedy corporations for Progressive policy failures.

Dec 08, 2015
Progressive failures? Are you one of those who got fooled, suckered by those two draft-dodging conservative cowards screaming "WMD!" and "Bring 'em on!" while cowering in their Undisclosed Locations?

Progressives brought us civilization. Conservatives bring us greed and Wars of Mass Killing and Corporate Profit.

Dec 08, 2015
frivolous lawsuits

What's frivolous about suing someone for real damages? For you too the question:

What do YOU think the purpose of law is? Justice or keeping people from being liable for dumoing stuff anywhere they please?

Dec 08, 2015
"Progressives brought us civilization. Conservatives bring us greed and Wars of Mass Killing and Corporate Profit."

Yup,,,,, that is why China is such a great place to live.

Dec 08, 2015
"What's frivolous about suing someone for real damages? " Well I guess one would have to define "Real Damages" wouldn't they. Are any and every negative effect considered real damages?

Dec 08, 2015
Well I guess one would have to define "Real Damages" wouldn't they.

Money? The taxes you and me wil have to pay to clean all that stuff up, secure entire cities and coastlines against rising sea levels, help out farmers due to failed crops, spend money on people fleeing their drought striken countries (or building walls to keep them out)*

You think those aren't 'damages' that result directly from all this? Do you think all of these things will not cost money? Why exactly is that?

And please answer the question: Whyt do you think is the purpose of laws in the first place.

* Yeah: privatize profits, socialize costs. Some capitalist you are. You're a worse commie than the Commies.

Dec 08, 2015
secure entire cities and coastlines against rising sea levels
"Sea level rise has been estimated to be on average between +2.6 mm and +2.9 mm per year ± 0.4 mm since 1993."
http://en.wikiped...vel_rise
"0.039% carbon dioxide"
http://en.wikiped...of_Earth
Oh no! All humankind will die drowned or asphyxiated, unless mankind covers all the remaining forests, natural seascapes, with windmills and solar panels.

Dec 08, 2015
I will just pick out one of your biggest fallacies. " help out farmers due to failed crops, " Without fossil fuels modern farming would be nonexistent!!!! Please stop the BS!

Dec 08, 2015
Let's take this lawsuit BS just one little step forward. Many people are allergic to penicillin, thus if they are killed by taking it their families/children should be entitled to huge compensations because penicillin is not universally beneficial.

Dec 08, 2015
Seen any lawyer advertisements lately?

Use any meds?

Dec 08, 2015
Let him, who is without carbon footprint, cast the first lawsuit.

Dec 08, 2015
"Let him, who is without carbon footprint, cast the first lawsuit."

Sorry Anti it seems that we are all on the same page. I totally agree!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dec 08, 2015
Oops it seems that I have yet again confused the the 2 "Antis". Mr. Goracle I agree with 99.99% of your posts.

Dec 08, 2015
climate-related lawsuits


green tyranny


So in your opinion the law should NOT be there in order to make people pay for the damage they cause? What exactly should the law be there for? Or should it only be there for the rich to use aginst the poor? As a protectionist mechanism?

Enlighten us as to how you see the role of the law
.


I won't hold my breath. This is the philosophy of two-year olds who want Mummy and Daddy to make sure other kids don't take their toys but to stay out of it when they're the ones doing the taking. Nothing but juvenile little boys who had everything handed to them without effort and now want to keep it.

Dec 09, 2015
Without fossil fuels modern farming would be nonexistent!!!!

To quote my favorite author
'Multiple exclamation marks,' he went on, shaking his head, 'are a sure sign of a diseased mind.'
-- Terry Pratchett (Eric)

Just because something has been done in a certain way in the past doesn't mean it cannot be done in a better way in the future (especially since these better ways are already invented)

This is the philosophy of two-year olds who want Mummy and Daddy to make sure other kids don't take their toys but to stay out of it when they're the ones doing the taking.

It's even worse than that. They don't even understand that they are arguing FOR the taking of their toys. Who do they think will pay for the solutions to all these problems? It's going to be the taxpayer. So it's not even going to be the companies that pay them to post on here. It's going to be they themselves. If defending that isn't full blown insanity then I don't know what is.

Dec 09, 2015
Let him, who is without carbon footprint, cast the first lawsuit.

Let him (or her) without a religion or political ideology that has millions upon millions of deaths on its hands decide for once who gets to live and die on planet earth. Because this whole "if anyone I don't like gets anything at all, all life must be violently butchered to extinction" philosophy of the dominant ape disqualifies humans as sentient life. You howlers don't understand that we want society to remain secular because we like it. I would have an emotional orgasm if scientific totalitarianism took off globally, and a war on stupid was officially declared with crippling social consequences for idiots, but it would be unethical and I would end up fighting against it. I would love to let nature kill the stupid, but it's wrong to. I want climate change to be fought to also save the people who would kill us all to keep any of us from living. I hate that about myself, it's called compassion, it sucks.

Dec 09, 2015
Because let's all be honest, if climate change makes large swaths of the world uninhabitable, and we all have to fight for limited space and resources, the anti-rational moon-howlers will be robbed, killed, and eaten to extinction within two months. The irrational wont survive in Mad F'n Max World. I doubt a single one of the howlers here knows how to design and build a machine, or grow a plant.
I mean, look at the staggering levels of stupid...
http://www.pewint...science/
These people wont make it.

Dec 09, 2015
You know, what I said was inartful, and came from a place of no small amount of cynicism, so let me backpedal a bit. Here's someone voicing the same concerns from a better outlook on life than I have.

https://www.youtu...cDQ4O-0Q

Dec 10, 2015
Inartful, really??
Try ignorant. In fact, so ignorant, that you don't realize, Carl Sagan was worried for the likes of you.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more