Climate Change and Causation: Joining Law and Climate Science on the basis of Formal Logic

Petra Minnerop, Friederike Otto

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A strict application of legal tests to find the cause of an event has always been a challenge for a coherent causal analysis. This is again the case for making causal statements in the climate change context, although we are witnessing unprecedented impacts of a changing climate at a global scale. While probabilistic event attribution provides information linking greenhouse gas emission levels to observable characteristics of extreme weather and climate related events, the conventional understanding of causation in law provides a very limited response to this scientific knowledge. We offer a new matrix for developing causal explanations based on formal logic, for a coherent analysis that is compatible with climate science and law. This matrix causally explains the relation between emissions, the increase in global mean surface temperature, the general increase in frequency and severity of climate related events and, most significantly, between emissions and individual climate related events.
Original languageEnglish
Article number49
Pages (from-to)1-22
JournalBuffalo Environmental Law Journal
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Causation
  • climate change
  • climate litigation
  • probabilistic event attribution
  • factual causation
  • legal causation


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