Sooner or later, the courts will be in the path of Hurricane Harvey. The flood apocalypse could become Exhibit A in the legal argument that the courts have to act to prevent future disasters. Climate scientists do not focus on individual storms but their findings have been clear for decades: climate change will make hurricanes more intense and dramatically increase the chances of “500-year” floods happening in a city like Houston three years in a row.
Harvey has struck at a moment when judges across America are grappling with lawsuits over global warming. Will the courts intervene in a political system that denies climate change and impose cuts in carbon emissions? Will they make the fossil fuel industry liable for coastal flooding? Hurricane Harvey, a landmark event, might pave the way for a landmark decision that a stable climate is a fundamental right.