An "Attack on the Separation of Powers"?

The Legitimacy of Climate Change Litigation in Global Climate Governance. A Case Study of Judges’ Arguments in the United States.

  • Period: 2022-01-01 – 2025-12-31
  • Funder: Swedish Research Council
  • Type of funding: Grant for positions or stipends


Pointing to climate change related injury, citizens are increasingly turning to courts in order to take legal action against their governments. Some lawsuits, such as Juliana v. United States and State of the Netherlands v. Urgenda, have been the focus of extensive public debate. Views critical of climate change litigation are often based on the ideal of separation of powers in constitutional democracies. Yet, very little research has been done on climate litigation in respect of this ideal. The United States is a developed system of checks-and-balances that has seen a comparatively large amount of climate lawsuits. This project uses the United States as a case, investigating the extent to which such a system can avoid a conflict between climate change litigation and the ideal of separation of powers.

The project consists in three different content analyses of opinions and dissents by judges in American climate lawsuits. The aims are to find out to which extent a conflict 1) is expressed, 2) is avoided by individual judges and 3) is jointly avoided across ideological dividing lines, respectively.

Part of the work will be conducted at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at London School of Economics and Political Science.