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Climate litigation a lasting legacy of Hansen’s historic testimony 30 years ago

Saturday marked 30 years since then NASA climate scientist James Hansen gave his historic testimony on human-induced global warming to a US Senate committee.

While not the first warning to decision-makers, it was certainly the most publicised with news media reporting his findings that “the greenhouse effect has been detected and is changing our climate now.”

Since then Hansen’s warning has been proven correct. Hansen has since called for a wave of climate lawsuits against governments and fossil fuel companies that are delaying urgent climate action.

ClientEarth CEO James Thornton said: “James Hansen was right then and he’s right now when he says one of the best ways to hold governments and companies to account is through the rule of law.

“Until decision-makers take urgent, meaningful action on climate change, we must strengthen and maintain our legal frameworks to ensure those responsible are doing all they must for affected generations today and into the future.

“I think we can be excused for feeling a deep sadness when marking 30 years since Hansen’s historic testimony to the US Senate left decision-makers in no doubt that global warming was real and already underway.

“Sadness and frustration that since then so much stalling and obfuscation has already led to a greater chance of extreme weather events, sea level rise and the loss of biodiversity.

“But we must realise that we’re now at a critical moment where no more time can be wasted. As realists, we must acknowledge the amazing progress the international community has made so far – and, as optimists, we must focus on what we need to do now to prevent further climate change.”

This week, the Uganda High Court will begin hearing the country’s first climate change case, with four young people and local NGO Greenwatch suing the country’s government for failing to protect them from climate change dangers like drought and food shortages.






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