In the absence of government action, citizens are turning to the courts to put controls on the emissions that cause climate change.
The U.S. Supreme Court announced this week that it will hear a lawsuit that aims to hold coal-fired power plants accountable for contributing to climate change, a decision that has major implications for the public's right to fight corporate pollution.
In the lawsuit, American Electric Power Co., Inc. v. Connecticut, eight states and several environmental groups argue that Midwestern utilities' contribution to global warming make them a public nuisance. They're asking courts to cap their emissions.
Originally filed in 2005, the case pre-dates the 2007 Supreme Court ruling that the EPA can regulate greenhouse gas emissions. That process begins next year.
At trial, a New York court ruled against the plaintiffs, saying that the lawsuit raised a "political question" that was outside of judicial scope. Last year, an appeals court reversed that ruling, highlighting that the connection between greenhouse gases and global warming is a question of science, not politics. It's this ruling that the Supreme Court will review.
Proceedings will kick off in early spring 2011 and a decision will be handed down in July.