Climate Change and Existing Law: A Survey of Legal Issues Past, Present, and Future [July 27, 2012] [open pdf - 415KB]
"This report surveys existing law for legal issues that have arisen, or may arise in the future, on account of climate change and government responses thereto. At the threshold of many climate-change-related lawsuits are two barriers--whether the plaintiff has standing to sue and whether the claim being made presents a political question. Both barriers have forced courts to apply amorphous standards in a new and complex context. Efforts to mitigate climate change--that is, reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions--have spawned a host of legal issues. The Supreme Court resolved a big one in 2007--the Clean Air Act (CAA), it said, does authorize EPA to regulate GHG emissions. Quite recently, a host of issues raised by EPA's efforts to carry out that authority were resolved in the agency's favor by the D.C. Circuit. […] Other adaptation responses to climate change raising legal issues, often property rights related, are beach armoring (seawalls, bulkheads, etc.), beach re-nourishment, and 'retreat' measures. Retreat measures seek to move existing development away from areas likely to be affected by floods and sea level rise, and to discourage new development there. Natural disasters to which climate change contributes may prompt questions as to whether response actions taken in an emergency are subject to relaxed requirements and, similarly, as to the rebuilding of structures destroyed by such disasters just as they were before. Finally, immigration and refugee law appear not to cover persons forced to relocate because of climate change impacts such as drought or sea level rise."
CRS Report for Congress, R42613